David Harsanyi: Are teachers really underpaid?
A 2012 study conducted by The Heritage Foundation found that workers who switched from private employment to teaching most often took an hourly pay increase, whereas most of those who left teaching for the private sector took pay decreases. More specifically, a few years back, using Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Compensation Survey numbers, the Manhattan Institute looked at the hourly pay of public-school teachers in the top 66 metropolitan areas in the country. It found that teachers pulled in about $34.06 per hour. Journalists, who have the vital job of protecting American democracy, earned 24 percent less. Architects, 11 percent less. Psychologists, 9 percent less. Chemists, 5 percent less.It’s also worth asking what an average auto mechanic might be willing to give up for the security of tenure. What would a guaranteed pension and a lifetime of health care be worth to a plumber? Considering how hard unions fight to keep these things, I imagine they’re worth quite a bit.Then there is the matter of demand — or lack of it. According to Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute, since 1970 the public-school workforce has roughly doubled, from 3.3 million to 6.4 million (predominately teachers), while over the same period, the enrollment of children rose by only 8.5 percent — or a rate that was 11 times slower. Recently, the National Council on Teacher Quality found that schools are training twice as many elementary-school teachers as they need every year. With this kind of surplus, the question we really should be asking is: How are teachers’ salaries so high?
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of “The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy.” Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.