NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Are Teachers Underpaid?

October 17, 2003

Every time a teacher's union contract comes up for negotiation, teachers complain that they are underpaid. Economist Michael Podgursky, professor of economics at the University of Missouri, found this not to be true.

According to Podgursky:

  • Teachers are paid more, on average, than workers in other occupations requiring similar or even higher levels of education.
  • The health, pension and other fringe benefits provided to teachers compare favorably to those of other common jobs.
  • Public school teachers earn an average of $30.40 per hour, says Podgursky.
  • Of other public sector professions, only lawyers earn more -- $34.64 per hour; whereas engineers, architects and surveyors earn $27.71 per hour, computer programmers earn $21.27, and accountants $20.14.

Although teachers take home less money per year, they also work significantly fewer hours. National statistics show they are rarely at their job site more than seven hours a day. Their take-home work is comparable to other professions. And they get much longer vacations than workers in other professions .

Source: Karl Zinsmeister and Eli Lehrer, "Are Teachers Underpaid?" The American Enterprise, October/November 2003.


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