Most people have heard the saying, “Not on a teacher’s salary…” Educators most often mutter it to sway others into believing they’re underpaid, but is that a fallacy? Can someone in such a vital professional position as education actually be overpaid? A few professionals within the educational sector are debating in The New York Times, that many teachers are being overpaid.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data has consistently shown that on a per-hour basis, teacher income is very respectable. Research has also indicated that public school teachers are near even with private school teachers in terms of salary, but those statistics have not accounted for the fringe benefits the public sector workers are being rewarded – magnanimous vacation time, respectable pensions and retiree health plans being the most common. Do the math and you’ll find that these benefits accumulate roughly 50 percent more total compensation for public teachers over private sector levels.
It’s no secret public school teachers are compensated well above fair market rates. One point of concern though within the debate is that schools need to pay more for recruiting purposes. However, Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute and Jason Richwine, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, believe the extra money is currently there, the quality of educators is what’s lacking. This belief presents a fundamental problem with the way teachers are hired. The allocation of funds within the institution should hold more consequence than simply rewarding each teacher with a higher salary. Warranting pay to reward the best teachers could yield positive results.
Perhaps the bigger issue is in the numbers. 3.6 million to be exact, which accounts for all elementary and secondary school teachers as of Fall 2010. That number has risen 8 percent since 2000. And with the rate of pupils per teacher dropping to 15.6 in 2010 from 16.0 in 2000, there is only one conclusion: schools are hiring more teachers than they are admitting students. Our tax dollars are paying far too many teachers without any differentiation of pay based on quality.
Competition is a great conductor for efficient production and it’s time our schools implement that common business tactic. Our best private institutions have always recognized that salaries matter. Just as they reward their student body for the distribution of talent found within, so then are teachers rewarded for advanced training and credentials. Quantity over quality is the name of this debate and until our educational institutions find a solution to demand the best performances from their staff, teachers will continue to be overpaid and students under taught.