NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Critical Issues in Assessing Teacher Compensation

January 18, 2012

A recent report by the Heritage Foundation concluded that, on average, public school teachers receive total compensation that is roughly 50 percent higher than what they would receive in private-sector employment.  Critics have since attacked the study, making numerous charges of bias and analytical flaws.  The Heritage Foundation has recognized these accusations and others, and addresses each one in turn:

  • Researchers failed to account for hours of work completed outside of the school day: the authors point out that they did not make assumptions, but instead based their hour figures on reliable, self-reporting among teachers which suggested that the median work week for teachers is 40 hours.
  • The study does not take into account how hard teachers work at their jobs: the study did not include quantifiable data for how hard teachers work at their jobs beyond the hours of their work week; however, private school teachers receive 10 percent less in compensation despite working equally as hard, lending credence to the belief that public school teachers receive inflated compensation packages.
  • Teachers pay for many supplies out of their own pocket: teachers do in fact pay for some classroom materials with their own money.  Nevertheless, many private sector workers pay for business-related items out of their own pockets as well.  Furthermore, the government provides a $250 deductible for classroom materials.
  • Researchers should not have included a benefit of job security, as many teachers have been laid off recently: despite tighter budgets, public school teachers were still only half as likely as other white-collar workers to be laid off in the last five years.
  • Teachers should be paid more so that we can attract better teachers: studies show that it is not below-market salaries that ostracize high-quality teachers, but hiring practices that ignore important qualifications such as college grade point averages and specialized degrees.

Source: Jason Richwine and Andrew Biggs, "Critical Issues in Assessing Teacher Compensation," Heritage Foundation, January 10, 2012.

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