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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

If we want to pay (some) teachers more ...

The teacher pay debate tends to be simplistic and unserious, writes Andrew Rotherham on Eduwonk. He calls out a tweet by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, which claims teachers earn 24 percent less than comparable college graduates and most are forced to work multiple jobs to survive.

Cardona is citing an EPI analysis, funded by the teachers unions, that estimates a 14 percent salary differential when benefits, such as pensions and health care coverage, are factored in, Rotherham writes. It includes private-school teachers, who tend to make less.

Moonlighting isn't the norm for public school teachers: Less than one in five takes a second job during the school year and one in three in the summer, he writes. "It's also not a huge source of income," and is "more common among private school teachers."

What needs discussion, and rarely gets it, he writes is that school districts are spending more for teacher compensation, yet teachers aren't seeing the money in their paycheck. That's because more and more is going to retirees. Yet, "teacher pensions don't work well for most teachers."

Rotherham doubts that elementary education graduates can be compared to graduates in science, math and computer science, and questions whether we really know how many hours the average teacher works outside of school. He's "not convinced everyone is working a ton we somehow don't know about because if that were so their unions wouldn't fight tooth and nail not to extend the contracted day. They'd do the opposite, capture the time, so we could pay teachers more."

Still, teachers in some specialties are in short supply, he concedes. Paying teachers more requires paying teachers differently by linking pay to "labor-market realities." That could mean higher pay for physics teachers than for P.E. teachers.

Educators need to be honest about trade-offs, he writes.

We've made a decision as a sector to prioritize quantity over quality with teachers and deemphasize productivity. . . . class sizes could be marginally larger and teachers would be earning a lot more. Instead, we've gone the other direction.

Overall, school finance is "a hot mess. It's inequitable, inefficient, and often misaligned with the avowed goals of the education system."

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