Are teachers underpaid?
Teacher pay has no relationship to effectiveness, nor do teachers earn more for expertise in math, science, special ed and other high-demand specialties. Salaries are tied to college credits past the BA and seniority, neither of which correlates well with teachers’ ability to teach. Two Education Next writers look at whether teachers are underpaid.
In addition, economist Michael Podgursky analyzes union data on what teachers earn: $43,250 for the average teacher in 2000-01, according to the American Federation of Teachers. Including staff training and planning days, most public school teachers work less than 190 days per year, compared to 240 days for other professionals. Teachers report an average of 38 hours a week of on-site work. Like other professionals, teachers do a lot of work at home. The flexibility to work at home is an attractive feature, especially for women with children at home, writes Podgursky.
The combination of a shorter workday and work year means that the annual hours on the job for teachers are much shorter than in comparable professions. . . . By (Bureau of Labor Statistics) calculations, only engineers, architects, and surveyors in private practice and attorneys earn more than teachers on an hourly basis.
The median pay for new teachers — about $29,000 — is only about 10 percent less than the $32,000 median for other college graduates entering the workforce, Podgursky writes. Teachers’ work year is 30 percent shorter and benefits are more generous.
Private school teachers earn less. Of course, the job is considerably easier because private school students come from more advantaged, education-focused families. Podgursky compared private school pay with salaries of public school teachers at low-poverty suburban schools.
Private school teachers now start at salaries that are 76 percent of their public school counterparts. This increases to 87 percent by their 12th year and declines thereafter. These results suggest that compared with the private sector, public schools overreward high levels of experience.
A majority of physical science and history teachers didn’t major or minor in the subjects they’re teaching.