Is there any group in America that is overpaid? Underpaid?

So then why do teachers earn what they do? If people with their skills can make big bucks elsewhere, why don’t they?

I find it fascinating that people continue to claim that teachers are underpaid, and yet teachers throughout the United states and Canada are all paid pretty much the same amount, if you account for local differences in standard of living. Nobody has thought to jack up teaching salaries to $100,000 in order to attract better teachers or make up for the teacher shortage that should always be present if they’re underpaid. Thousands and thousands of school boards have all arrived at very close estimates of what a teacher is worth. Private schools don’t pay teachers any more than the public scholls, either, on the average. (Around here, actually, they pay less.) Are they all colluding?

There’s an inherent contradiction in what you’re saying. If teachers really were worth more, they would be paid more, or else we’d have a massive shortage of teachers. I specifically asked for an objective standard by which they are underpaid. “Well, it’s an essential social service” is not an objective standard. What objective evidence shows teachers are underpaid?

I don’t think your test holds up. I think efficiency needs to be a part of the measure. Look at your second statement. Just because there is not anybody that can do your job as well at the some amount you are paid does not mean you are underpaid. If the value of your work is less than the value you are paid, you are overpaid - even if nobody else can do the job as well at your price.

I think you need to add a qualifying statement that the employment deal has to be efficient.

Also men of less-than-average height.

Lots of places do have a shortage of teachers. The typical response, from what I’ve seen, is simply to lower the standards necessary to become a teacher. I don’t know about Canada.

Although I’m not sure I agree, I think the idea is that there is a shortage of good teachers, and the good teachers that do exist are willing to teach for less because they want to make a difference.

Originally Posted by Zagadka
CEOs, movie stars (not actors).
Women, for one O_o

Also men of less-than-average height.

Oops! Didn’t mean to include that first line. I was adding to the “underpaid” list.

That’s true in California (or was, anyway). Years ago, I was able to teach with an “emergency credential” that did not require a degree in education.

It’s interesting that you think that people only consider the recognizable top earners and then you infer that CEO salaries are fair because they are the “face of the company”. This is true for Paul Allen (not so much Bill Gates who is NOT the CEO), Jack Welch and a handful of others. Most CEOs are fairly anonymous outside of their corporations, even for Fortune 500/1000 companies. Would you recognize the CEO of Unilever if you saw him walking down the street? Likely not. The top dogs are known to professional investors and mutual fund managers, but unless they are shameless self-promoters or in the news constantly (see Michael Eisner or Ken Lay) then 99.9% of the population has never heard of them. There are plenty of overcompensated CEOs out there, probably a handful that are undercompensated and a few that are just right. As pointed out by others CEOs have fixed the game, since the 1980s or so. If this weren’t true then CEOs in Japan and Europe would have similar compensation, at least for multinationals, as in the USA. Last I looked (and it’s been a few years) this wasn’t the case.

Currently HISD has 502 instructional positions open. At this point in the year most teachers are obligated by contract to the positions they currently hold. This means that these 502 positions will have to be filled with teachers that are not presently under contract with other districts. We usually start the school year with several hundred openings. These positions get filled with long term substitutes. Sometimes this works out and the instruction provided is exceptional. In many cases however people are juggled in and out of these classrooms. Some students have had more than three teachers in one subject before the school year is over. Without question, that fourth teacher showing up before winter break is underpaid. Without structure and consistency the students get understandably frustrated and this gets played out in various ways that you can imagine. Surely you would admit that substitute teachers are underpaid.

In my opinion, private schools pay less because of a couple of reasons that I can’t support with any objective data. They typically establish an achievement based culture. If students don’t meet these expectations academically and behaviorally, they get the boot. We sometimes get teachers from private schools and they usually go through a bit of a culture shock. The second reason they can pay less is because I think many of these teachers love teaching and they may not have to “bring home the bacon”. Maybe their spouse is capable of providing for the family and the teaching check is just chump change. Again, this is just based on my conversations with several teachers that have come into our school from that background. If money becomes an issue, they show up in public schools and learn eventually, that kids are kids and if you are good at what you do, you will be respected and appreciated. Of course, some know this already.

I predict a huge teacher shortage in the coming years. Fewer and fewer people are entering the profession.

I think entry level teaching positions are somewhat competitive with the private sector. Once you have become a veteran teacher and gained a few salary increases, you get a lifestyle that goes with that pay grade. Your friends in the private sector start making significantly more money but ditching your barely average pay for an entry level position in another field starts to look impossible. I guess there are some really impressive go-getters that can immediately better their pay from the start but most folks either get out of the profession during the first 3-4 years or become “lifers”.

Or the free market is being constrained by prejudices against teachers(mostly women) which artificially deflates their worth by subtracting negative social connotations from the actual value-added of their services. In textbook theory your statement is entirely correct. In the real world when you get real people with their real prejudices and motives beyond objective evaluations of value-added for cost expended it gets messier. There is no contradiction in reality, only one in theory.


Teacher are not underpaid. We lack the proper amount of respect from society in general, but we aren’t underpaid.

In my district, salaries cap at better than $75K for 23+ years experience and 15 credits past the Master’s. That is for working 185 days a year, indoors, with no heavy lifting, and you are generally home by 3:30pm. And the health plan and retirement can’t be beat. Add in the intangibles, and it pays very well.

Is it CEO pay? No. Is it pro athlete pay? No. Does it beat using a shovel? You bet. I’d rather have the time off and the knowledge that I am doing my part to stave off the Collapse of Civilization As We Know It.

YMMV. :smiley:

Can you objectively support this or is it just blather? I mean, no offense, but where is your evidence teachers’ worth is “deflated by subtracting negative social connotations from the actual value-added of their services” How much is this deflation worth? Can you show it using a control group of some kind? How is it manifested?

What negative social connotations? Teachers are generally quite positively regarded. There are exceptions, but I see zero evidence they’re negatively viewed overall.

It’s in THE REAL WORLD that teachers are paid what they are paid. I am challenging someone to explain why what they’re paid IN THE REAL WORLD isn’t the market rate. So far, no takers.

What is the market rate for someone with a masters degree in history, anyway? One reason the pay rates are so low (not counting seniority benefits) is because many don’t have very many career options.

For instance, I set out to get degrees specifically TO teach, knowing that outside of teaching, there isn’t much I can do with them. As such, I’ll take whatever they’ll pay me - I don’t have much choice. Teachers in the Bay Area don’t make enough money to live in the city - San Francisco had to scrounge some land up to build affordable housing for them O_o

Same thing goes for firefighters and the like - they are specialized career fields that don’t give the employees many options, because there is no market competition for them.

Zagadka, part of the problem is that nursing doesn’t pay well enough to get people to want to do it as a career. Those that are nurses with experience, however, can get paid very well crossing picket lines and travelling to places with shortages. You would think the market would realize there aren’t enough people to work and would adjust. It is just very slow.
IMO, ARod, no matter how many butts he put in the Ranger’s seats, was not worth that immense salary. If the people can pay those salaries, why do they have to ask for taxpayers to pay for stadiums. Why not just make an IPO and have stockholders in the team. Would help the fan base, and not make people who don’t care pay for the stadium.

Zag, you’re making a very strong argument that teachers are in fact paid what they’re worth. I mean, what you seem to be saying is that teachers DON’T have skills that are enormously valuable on the open market - which contradicts alison ashley’s claims.

As to living in SF, hey, I couldn’t live there, either. Christ, I don’t know how people live anywhere NEAR SF. I couldn’t live in Sunnyvale, from what I’ve seen, and I make good money.

No, I’m saying they aren’t being paid what they are worth because modern capitalism doesn’t have a place for them, and I wouldn’t in my worst nightmares propose a liberterian marketplace for education.

Okay RickJay, I’ll take it.

In the REAL WORLD public school teachers are public employees. Their salaries are set by an elected school board. The board’s budget is set not by supply or demand, but by the amount of revenue that comes from taxes. The board can not raise taxes to raise more revenue.

In a market economy, consumer and producers would eventually settle on a cost/revenue structure that balances supply, demand and cost in some sort of equilibrium. In a tax-supported system, non-consumers (i.e., taxpayers without children) can and do act to fix costs, allowing supply and demand to go out of balance.

In the REAL WORLD, one would expect employers in a given area who compete for the same pool of applicants to pay roughly the same salary. In public education, differences in tax structures between school districts results in differences in salaries which can be offered, despite the demand for the same credentials.

In the REAL WORLD a shortage of any skilled position would result in an increase in costs to pay higher wages, to attract enough applicants. In public education, the employer does not have automatic approval to raise salaries. As a result, attrition occurs, either by employees leaving for a better-paying job in another district (no net increase in supply) or by leaving the field entirely (a net loss in supply.)

Of course, education isn’t unique in this phenomenon. You’ll see the same effects in health care, law enforcement, sanitation and other tax-supported occupations.

What about tip-based service jobs in Las Vegas, such as bellhops, valets and showroom ushers?

In urban plannng, salaries vary a lot depending on what state you’re in. Louisiana and Pennsylvania cities have a hard time recruiting planners, because they often offer salaries in the mid-$20s for positions that pay $50K elsewhere. You usually need a postgraduate degree to become a planner, too.

Supposedly, longshoremen on the west coast make six digit salaries, because thier union has the upper hand in bargaining; a strike would close all the posts in California, Oregon and Washington.

Teachers in the Buffalo area have some of the highest salaries in the United States, approaching six digits. Again, it’s due to strong union representation. I remember delivering pizza to some of my high school teachers when I was in college, and their houses and lifestyle could be considered solidly upper middle class. Unfortunately, Buffalo-area residents pay the highest property taxes in the United States, partly so teachers can live in 4,000 square foot houses in Amherst and Orchard Park.

Objective evidence of teachers being underpaid in the United States:

As soon as I finish my degree in Secondary Education: English, I could move to South Korea or Japan and make double or triple what I’ll make here in Michigan.