We Act Like We Don't Want Any Talented People to Be Teachers
As parents across America deposit their kids back in school with a sigh of relief, think about this: We disrespect teachers every single day, using money. It’s a fact!
You know what is a legitimately bizarre-to-the-point-of-being-funny choice for a political platform? “The job of teachers is too easy.” Yet this, in essence, has become a standard right wing talking point, in the guise of “teachers’ unions are bad.” After you spend some time thinking about these villainous teachers unions and all the work they have presumably been doing to make the lives of teachers unforgivably cushy, please take a look at this Economic Policy Institute report about teachers’ wages, which finds a yawning gap between what teachers are paid what comparable workers—that is, workers with similar credentials to teachers—are paid. Even when benefits are factored in, teachers are still making more than 11% less than their peers. In other words, we strongly incentivize talented and well-educated people not to be teachers. Because we do not pay them. This is a political choice.
When you isolate only the wages of public school teachers, the gap is even more striking: “For all public-sector teachers, the relative wage gap (regression adjusted for education, experience, and other factors) has grown substantially since the mid-1990s: It was ‑1.8 percent in 1994 and grew to a record ‑17.0 percent in 2015.”
And why is it that teachers tend to have strong unions? “In 2015, teachers not represented by a union had a ‑25.5 percent wage gap—and the gap was 6 percentage points smaller for unionized teachers.”
Over the past 20 years, the real wages of teachers have decreased. The average public school teacher in America is now paid less than $1,100 a week. Last year, the hedge fund manager Ken Griffin made $1.7 billion, himself.
Is Ken Griffin’s work as valuable as 30,000 public school teachers? If you believe “yes,” everything is fine.