Bruno: Teacher Pay, Part 2: How High Should It Be?
I previously discussed Chad Adelman's complaint that teacher pay often rises with experience, but I'm also doubtful about another point that he raises: that teacher pay may be too high. (Alderman is definitely not the only person to be making these arguments; it just so happens he combined them into a single post very recently.) Adelman writes about Chicago teachers:
The other thing that’s worth pointing out here is that every step of the Chicago teacher salary schedule did better than inflation. Inflation increased a cumulative 18 percent from 2005 to 2012. Beginning teachers in Chicago saw their pay increase 26.5 percent. Because of those late-career raises, teachers with 14 years of experience were paid 28.3 percent more, and teachers with 25 years of experience were paid 31.6 percent more.
Debates about whether teachers are "overpaid" are pretty common, but they almost always fail to specificy the objective of paying teachers more (or less) in the first place. It's tricky to make the moral and empirical judgments about what teachers are "worth", but there are some good reasons to think that it would be worthwhile to pay teachers considerably more than we do now.
Note, for example, that by international standards teacher pay is quite low. Compared to GDP per capita, teacher salaries in the U.S. are quite low, especially for experienced teachers. And as Dick Startz points out, if you compare teachers' salaries to the salaries of other college-educated citizens, the U.S. is on the low end again. And yes, teacher salaries do seem to correlate with achievement, at least internationally.
When discussing teacher salaries, then, we should remember that teachers in the United States are probably already underpaid by international standards. This means that any argument to the effect that teachers should be paid even less (or even denied a raise) should grapple with what that might mean for the quality of our teachers and our education system generally.
Teacher compensation questions inevitably involve trade-offs, but the discussion around them is often frustratingly unclear about what we hope to gain - and what we are willing to lose - in dealing with them. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)