Two views of teacher compensation

As long as there are continued education funding cuts and tight budgets, teacher salaries will be scrutinized and debated. Two new studies add fuel to both sides of the issue.

A long-term Harvard study followed 2.5 million students over 20 years to determine the effect of teacher quality. The New York Times reported the findings which concluded that “elementary and middle school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage pregnancy rates, greater college matriculation and adult earnings.”

The findings support the need to recruit the best and the brightest to become teachers. Compensation is a key factor in successful recruitment.

The other side of the debate is provided by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative policy research group. In its study, “Assessing the Compensation of Public School Teachers,” the group has decided that teachers are overpaid by 52 percent because of their benefits.  AEI also concludes that Americans get paid based on how smart they are, and teachers, as a group, are not as smart as engineers, for example.

Teachers are, however, smart enough to teach future engineers, but not smart enough to be compensated for that skill.

These two studies—despite their differences—offer evidence to those who believe we should be competitively compensating the people who are entrusted with the education of our children.