Teachers aren’t underpaid – even though they think so!

Michellc has been carefully monitoring the teacher walkouts and demonstrations in her state, and reporting what she finds to us in the General Discussion threads each day, as well as working to inform and organize parents in her area.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9434375a)
Oklahoma Teachers Walkout, Oklahoma City, USA – 12 Feb 2018

I admit to not knowing much about teacher compensation, although it seemed to me that, considering the total compensation and education, they were doing okay. Then, I ran across this article at City Journal, a serious blog that I follow fairly regularly. Read the entire article, if you are interested in this topic, as they present facts, figures, and links about teacher training and compensation, and how they compare in the white collar job market.City Journal

Most commentary on teacher pay begins and ends with the observation that public school teachers earn lower salaries than the average college graduate. This is true, but in what other context do we assume that every occupation requiring a college degree should get paid the same? Engineers make about 25 percent more than accountants, but “underpaid” accountants are not demonstrating in the streets.

Wages are not determined by years of schooling but by the supply and demand for skills. These skills vary by field of study. About half of teachers major in education, among the least-rigorous fields at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Incoming education majors have lower SAT or GRE scores than candidates in other fields, but—thanks to grade inflation—they enjoy the highest GPAs. Data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment indicate that students majoring in social science, humanities, and STEM fields not only start college with greater skills than education majors but also learn more along the way…

It’s true that teacher salaries in several states are lagging. Teachers in Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have good reason to be dissatisfied: their salaries rank near the bottom nationally, even after controlling for cost of living. Even in these seemingly underpaying states, though, pensions can more than make up the difference. Oklahoma teachers accrue new pension benefits each year, with a present value equal to 30 percent of their annual salaries. Subtract Oklahoma teachers’ own contribution of 7 percent, and employer-paid retirement benefits are worth 23 percent of annual salaries. By contrast, the typical private-sector employer contribution to a 401k plan amounts only to about 3 percent of employee pay.

Many teachers also qualify for retiree health coverage, now practically extinct in the private sector. In some states, retiree health care is modest: Oklahoma teachers get an insurance supplement of about $100 per month. But for teachers in Illinois, future retiree health benefits are worth an additional 8 percent of annual pay, while in North Carolina, retiree health benefits are worth an additional 12.5 percent. 

This opens the possibility of a constructive reform. States could offer newly hired teachers higher pay, coupled with switching those teachers to a generous, well-designed 401(k)-type retirement plan. In Oklahoma, for instance, the state could give new teachers an 11 percent raise—costless to the taxpayer—by providing a 401(k) plan with an employer contribution, which would still be four times greater than private-sector levels. For areas with legitimate teaching shortages—such as in STEM fields or special education—districts could offer targeted salary increases. A strategic approach to filling teacher shortages is particularly important to poorer states such as West Virginia and Oklahoma, where resources are limited.

Across-the-board pay increases, by contrast, are expensive and inefficient. Arizona governor Doug Ducey’s promised 20 percent teacher salary increase will cost $400 million annually before a single new teacher is hired. Such efforts create no incentive for prospective teachers to specialize in areas where shortages exist. And if the salary boost winds up reducing teacher retirements, fewer spots will open up for better-qualified new teachers. Research has found that better pay has only a modest impact on teacher quality.

We haven’t even considered the fact that teachers don’t work as many hours per year as a person in a white collar job in the private sector. No matter how generous private sector benefits may be, I don’t know anyone who receives 2-1/2 months of paid vacation per year.

The long vacation time allows teachers to take a second job during the summer, if they choose to do so. The woman I hired to do some yard maintenance a couple of years ago started a company to do exactly that. She makes pretty good money at it, although it is hard work.

I like what one person in the comments section had to say:

If teachers are not happy with their pay, no one is prohibiting them from changing careers. We all have choices in life. Choose well, or make a change. Just stop the complaining.


The marketplace determines value, and thus wages. Not some top-down planning body with the fanciful notion that taxpayers are a bottomless pocketbook.

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10 Responses to Teachers aren’t underpaid – even though they think so!

  1. czarowniczy says:

    When theseteachers walk out they disrupt family plans and activities. I’d like to see parents start filing civil suits against striking teachers and strike organizers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TwoLaine says:

    I agree. I used to believe the farce that they were underpaid until I was in a similar job in the corporate world. Now I have ZERO TOLERANCE for their “misery”, especially in light of the fact that they are harder than heck to get rid of, like CongressCritters.

    As to AZ, that is not going to change until they stop taking in illegals and making us foot their bills. And this situation is only going to get worse if we don’t get the wall. Too bad most of them are liberals cuz that means they brought this situation on themselves, and continue to heap more on it daily.

    Choose illegals or raises, like the rest of us. It’s a pretty easy choice.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ann says:

    Why pay for a system that doesn’t work. Worse academics have worked hard to make education less useful and more a rigid indoctrination program. If you doubt ask any high schooler to name three founding fathers, when was the Civil War, to name three countries the US fought in WW2.

    You’d be surprised how clueless the snawflakes are.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “Those who can, do! Those who can’t, teach!”
    Trite but true!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. facebkwallflower says:

    I have always thought public school teachers are overpaid. Yep, overpaid. Daycare/preschool workerwages and teacher wages are far apart BUT they do the same thing. Babysit. It does NOT take a college degree or training to teach/educate children anyways.

    I know private schools that throw curriculum at a nineteen-year-old-without-credentials in a room of 35 multi-grade kids and expect the children to be taught. AND be ause these young non-teachers had for their only qualification a good education themselves, they are successful. I witnessed a twenty-year old bring Algebra to high school students where the farmer parents never saw the sense in it prior. This was done while teaching grades 3-12, which pereviously had only gone to grade 9/10. Now, these teachers I describe ARE under paid, making an average of 15,000/yr plus room and board.

    PUBLIC SCHOOL teachers are glorified babysitters who include academics as part of the day’s activities. This is a very unpopular thing to say aloud when we have been bombarded with how great and dedicated teachers are.

    I also call bs on teachers spending their own money. I have known teachers that have never spent a dime of their own money, using whatever resources they were given, and often it was not much. One teacher had no crayons for the students;just one box to show what they were to bring from home. Her students were not gonna bring (inner city) so she gave each stdent A crayon and each day passed their crayon back. Some crayons had to be broken in two for everyon to have one. The teachers attitude was coloring is a luxury and not neaded to learn to read, although makes it more fun than a slate getting passed like 150 years ago.


    • Lol. I’ve got my Great Grandmother’s slate from the 1800’s. They probably had to share chalk!


      • auscitizenmom says:

        My mother told me, I don’t remember the grade level, that she needed a notebook, couldn’t afford one, so the teacher gave her one that was used on the front side of the pages. She did her work on the back side of the pages. Of course, that was back during the Great Depression.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. auscitizenmom says:

    This has more to do with the whole idea of Liberalism and less to do with proper pay level.


  7. rheavolans says:

    I listened to local teachers complain and carry on as though they were coal miners laboring away for company scrip. It was …annoying. My boss at the station and I discussed one day that if they thought that their jobs were so hard, with steady hours and a contract, we would trade with them and they could do our jobs and we would do theirs.

    During school board meeting, I watched a school administrator explain that they had given the teachers contracts for so many years to reassure them during the recession that they wouldn’t lose their jobs – job security for them. One of the board members immediately pointed out that they worked in the private sector and no one in the private sector had job security.

    I’m not allowed to say bad things about teachers because I have a relative that works as a teacher, but given what I’ve seen, I’m not impressed with public school teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

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