In an era of stories about teacher layoffs and teacher unions protesting for better pay and benefits, it's assumed that this profession gets the short end of the wage stick when it comes to serving in public schools. But are they really not getting their fair share when comparing degrees received, hours worked and lucrative benefits? And is the argument that teachers receive low pay taking into account the quality of education they bring to the classroom? AEI experts assess teacher pay and where educators really stand on the pay scale.
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A California judge recently ruled that the state’s tenure, dismissal, and layoff rules for public-school teachers lead to “grossly ineffective teachers” being retained in the classroom, producing instruction so inadequate for poor and minority students as to be considered unconstitutional.
The Chicago teachers strike is no ordinary labor dispute. It's a part of a larger war between the teachers unions and a growing coalition of education reformers who have pushed for rigorous teacher evaluation and tenure reform across the country.
As an education reformer, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed to increase teacher accountability and extend the system’s school day. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has responded with a tantrum and on Monday launched a strike that’s capturing election-season headlines. The dispute has national import because its outcome will have national implications.
It is a view as ubiquitous as it is simplistic: To improve public education, pay teachers more—a lot more. Union officials, education reformers, scholars, laypeople, and politicians of all stripes endorse this principle in one form or another.
The authors of the November 2011 Heritage Foundation report “Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers” respond to questions and concerns, in the process showing that certain critical accusations—such as undercounting teachers’ work hours or overestimating retirement benefits—are simply false.
Public school teacher compensation is roughly 50 percent above private sector levels. In addition to merit pay, fundamental reforms to help schools hire, promote and fire teachers according to the best interests of students is needed.
Are teachers paid too much? It's a question that would ignite heated debate at the most mellow of cocktail parties. But it's a question that AEI took head-on this year.