Report shatters teacher pay myth

By Krista Kafer ( “Who, on average, is better paid -- public school teachers or architects? How about teachers or economists?” asks a Jan. 30 oped piece in the Wall Street Journal.

The answer isn’t one you’d expect. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earn 36% more per hour than the average white-collar worker. The authors of the article, Jay Greene and Marcus Winters, released a study “How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?” taking aim at the enduring myth that teachers are underpaid.

Highlights from the study include:

** According to the BLS, the average public school teacher in the United States earned $34.06 per hour in 2005.

** The average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.

** Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are working. By comparison, white-collar workers (excluding sales) work 39.4 hours, and professional specialty and technical workers work 39.0 hours per week. Private school teachers work 38.3 hours per week.

** Compared with public school teachers, editors and reporters earn 24% less; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less.

** Compared with public school teachers, airplane pilots earn 186% more; physicians, 80% more; lawyers, 49% more; nuclear engineers, 17% more; actuaries, 9% more; and physicists, 3% more.

** Public school teachers are paid 61% more per hour than private school teachers, on average nationwide.

The irony is that while teachers as a group are not underpaid, many teachers as individuals are underpaid. Public school teachers are generally compensated according to a standard schedule that rewards seniority and education. On such a schedule, a teacher on probation and a “Teacher of the Year” with the same education and time in service will make the same amount of money.

How fair is that? Neither the teacher nor the taxpayer is well served under such a system.