NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teacher Compensation Needs Restructuring

July 26, 2000

While teachers' unions continue to argue that teacher compensation is too low, a new study argues that teachers earn higher than the average income in each of the 50 states. Importantly, these salary levels do not include benefits which together with salaries consume 85 to 96 percent of a state's instructional spending. For example, for the 1995-1996 school year:

  • The average income in New York was $26,782, while teachers earned an average of $48,115.
  • California teachers averaged $43,114, with other Californians averaging $23,699.
  • Texas citizens had an average income of $20,654, while teachers averaged $32,000.
  • Consistently one of the poorer states, Mississippi's average income was $16,532, but Mississippi teachers averaged $27,692.

Teachers earn this income during a 185-day school year, rather than the average 235 work days. When teacher compensation is extrapolated to a 235 day year, their average pay skyrockets. Teachers in New York and three other states would be making over $60,000, and those in California and nine other states would be making $50,000. Texas teachers would earn over $40,000, and with a 1999 legislative pay increase, almost $49,000. Mississippi teachers would earn over $35,000 per year, more than double the average income of Mississippians.

The new study suggests the key to improving public education is not paying teachers more but redirecting the compensation system from an input-based system (years of experience, advanced degrees, etc.) to an output-based system. The new system would focus on three things:

  • Accountability based on student achievement,
  • Supply and demand considerations which pay teachers in shortage areas greater than those in areas that are saturated, and
  • Redirecting teacher training to areas that better serve students and the school districts.

Any new system should reward superior teachers with greater pay while quickly removing poorly performing teachers.

Source: John C. Bowman (senior fellow, TPPF), "Teacher Compensation in Texas: Emerging Trends for Texas," Texas Public Policy Foundation, P. O. Box 40519, San Antonio, Texas, 78229, (210) 614-0080.


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