NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 2, 2007

Who, on average, is better paid -- public school teachers or architects?  How about teachers or economists?  You might be surprised to learn that public school teachers are better paid than these and many other professionals, says the Wall Street Journal.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, 36 percent more than the hourly wage of the average white-collar worker and 11 percent more than the average professional specialty or technical worker.
  • Overall we now annually spend more than $500 billion on public education.

In the popular imagination, however, public school teachers are underpaid and this perception is likely to play a significant role in the debate to reauthorize No Child Left Behind.  The new Democratic majority intends to push for greater education funding, much of which would likely go toward increasing teacher compensation.  It would be beneficial if the debate focused on the actual salaries teachers are already paid, says the Journal.

It would also be beneficial if the debate touched on the correlation between teacher pay and actual results.  To wit, higher teacher pay seems to have no effect on raising student achievement.  Metropolitan areas with higher teacher pay do not graduate a higher percentage of their students than areas with lower teacher pay:

  • Metro Detroit leads the nation, paying its public school teachers, on average, $47.28 per hour; that's 61 percent more than the average white-collar worker in the Detroit area and 36 percent more than the average professional worker.
  • In metro New York, public school teachers make $45.79 per hour, 20 percent more than the average professional worker in that area.
  • And in Los Angeles teachers earn $44.03 per hour, 23 percent higher than other professionals in the area.

Source: Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, "Is $34.06 Per Hour 'Underpaid'?" Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2007.

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