Putting Education Reform To The Test

Teachers Earn Too Much, Study Argues

Flickr / Images_of_Money

Teachers are paid 52 percent more than their market value, according to a new study.

Teachers, did you know you are overpaid by 52%?

That’s the conclusion of a new study by conservative-leaning think tanks The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Taxpayers, they conclude, are “overcharged” $120 billion each year from the difference in teacher salaries and compensation compared to similarly credentialed private sector workers. Teacher benefits are often far more generous than the private sector, the study notes.

Other conclusions from the study:

  • The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
  • Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private-school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
  • Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.

The study reveals a divide among those pushing for changes in public schools.

Raising teacher salaries is a foundation of school reformers, which includes Republicans, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Democratic President Barack Obama. Better pay is more likely to attract better teaching candidates, they argue, and better teachers mean students will learn more.

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee disagreed with the study, in a statement printed by Politico:

We can accomplish the goal of attracting and retaining the best teachers and be fiscally responsible at the same time by moving money out of bloated bureaucracies that doesn’t improve student learning and into the classroom where it can.

You can check out our interactive map of Florida teacher salaries here.

What do you make of the study? What is the market value of a teacher?


  • Are these people stupid? Teachers are responsible for ensuring we have a well-qualified workforce and infuse knowledge into children so that one day they can become great innovators, inventors, and other successful people. Really, our teachers should ALWAYS be paid more than the private sector. Especially college professors, who need to have a complete understanding of what they teach, even if the student only needs a small part of that for their day job. We expect teachers and professors to be masters in their field, yet we want them to work in a tough environment, trying to convince students they need to know this material while administrators are yelling at them to perform better and do all this extra crap, and not get a competitive pay? These “conservatives” like to think that Capitalism will fix everything, yet they forget that it will bite them in the ass when teachers decide to take the private-sector jobs and then kids grow up with shitty teachers (because the good ones will have gone off to where they are actually appreciated) and get beat out to all the jobs by foreigners who went to better schools. Of course, these same people don’t give a crap because they’ll be retired and they’ll see the protests from these students and just say “I was able to get a job, they need to stop being lazy!”

    • Tace

      Of course they’re stupid! They keep getting dumber by the day. We need to pay all the politicians merit pay based upon their achievements. Most of them would end up on welfare.

    • Sherry Brock

      Yes, they are.

  • educated

    TEACHERS ARE THE MOST UNDERPAID PEOPLE THIS SIDE OF THE UNIVERSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe those reformers should become teachers for a year or three! They’d have to deal with unruly children, rude parents, uninformed principals, rules from hell, budget cuts upon budget cuts upon budget cuts, and buildings designed about 4612478615782674681 years ago!!!! Then maybe they’d give the teachers the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ they deserve!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • They are underpaid because teaching is considered “women’s work.”  ALL “women’s work” is underpaid because of the assumption they are being supported by a man and don’t need the money.

      It has been a destructive mentality.

    • 1488 Shawn

      lol… need a tree to hug

    • Ginny

      oh GIVE me a break! teaching has to be the biggest SHAM job out there! you work-you get over 120 DAYS OFF-and still get paid for not even BEING there! where do i SIGN up?????

      • Jack

        Correction, teachers do not get paid for not working, teachers can choose to enroll in a program that will take money out of their paycheck and to have over the summer break. Besides after dealing with kids from ignoramuses like you teachers deserve that time off!

      • darthnatus

        A lot of teachers where I live will take summer jobs and most at the high school want to teach summer school because it pays extra. And even during the summer (at least in mid June and August) they have to prepare for the next school year / finish up the current one. Not to mention they have to deal with a lot of ungrateful students.

      • avery

        you idiot , my mom worked on grading exams even on the weekends when she was not there . Why should she have to work for free ?

      • avery

        Sorry , your’e actually going to have to work . Teachers bring exams home to grade . They have to actually spend time outside of the classroom to prepare for their lessons .

      • Sherry Brock

        That is really rude, hateful, and unbelievably ignorant. Teachers are 10-month employees. Winter Break, Spring Break, and a day or two of Thanksgiving week are not paydays. Our pay is “equalized” over the year so we get a paycheck every two weeks – for 196 days of employment. I am also an attorney, but I choose to teach because to me and to many of my colleagues it is a calling. We work 60 hour weeks because we are invested in our students. It is hurtful to read something that calls your life’s work a SHAM. You are obviously a very angry person – please take your damaging comments to some other forum where they might be welcome – you know, people with your same level of ignorance and lack of respect spewing insults to hard-working people.

    • hard working american

      you are ridiculous, you know that? If you didn’t like the salary to begin with maybe you should have not gotten into the fucking job field!!! you have it easy compared to others sit your over paid, pilled up benefit ass down and welcome to the real world. The sooner your realize your not entilted to even more of my goddamn money, becuase you have such a hard time sitting on your fat ass yelling at kids, the sooner you’ll gain some god damn respect for the real workers of america.

      • avery

        It is unfair to insult good teachers . I know one who has worked over 40 years . Have you? They do not just sit and yell at kids . Why don’t you actually spend a day observing teachers ? They work hard . They should not have to work for free .

      • avery

        Teachers do not sit and yell at kids . Some teachers have dedicated over four decades to inspiring others . They actually do work hard for their earnings .

    • hard working american

      You need jesus if you think you should be getting paid more.

  • You should be ashamed of yourselves for acting as a megaphone for this right wing hit job.

    • Tace

      She wasn’t promoting right-wing agenda! She is making a statement about horrible teacher pay! Did you read it or are you just spouting off?

  • Liavekelsewhere

    The private sector is supposed to maximize profit without much concern about anything else.  Teachers are supposed to educate our children while working through a very flawed public education system. Private sector economics and education don’t have any business in the same conversation.  Completely misplaced values.  Are these idiots seriously suggesting we pay Florida teachers LESS when they are already on the bottom nationally?  In what way would that help Florida children.  I seriously question the validity of their map showing “changes in pay”.  I know teachers in counties identified as experiencing a 4% increase who have made LESS money each year since 2008.  What kind of a message & industry are we creating for teachers??? Would you want to keep a job where you expect to work harder & make LESS money every successive year?  You don’t need an advanced math degree to see how that will work out.  This study’s premise, methodology & conculsions: BOGUS.

  • Hmm… Not much real data given here, plus the comparisons are very vague here.  What are examples of some of these “non-teaching” jobs in Florida?  Not exactly a very good article here.  

  • Bob01

    This really is absolutely preposterous. I love the right wing, “Lets make the country stupider so we can take it over easier!”  I really try to steer away from hating people, but the definition of a fascist is someone with extreme right views.  SO by definition, this article could be fascist.  

  • Beufordwilkinson

    Teachers are too important to be treated as they are, and athletes are still being paid millions.  

  • Deniseraelene

    Seriously?  I’d love to see how this so-called “study” was put together.

    • I’m sure there was a lot of prayer.  Isn’t that how most conservative groups do studies?

    • Uripdz

      The study was EZ !!!! 
      The decided on their conclusions and then ‘massaged’ the facts to support them.
      It is their stock in trade!   Bush took 8 years to ruin the country ….. and now ‘those people’ are blaming it all on Obama for not fixing it in 2.8 years!!!! 
      What is the ole saying ….”Figure don’t LIE, but Liars Figure!!!”

  • Tired!

    As an educator who moved from the private sector to the public sector to become a teacher I took a $5000 pay cut. In addition, my benefits were no greater because my healthcare plan was significantly better when I worked for a private corporation. Also, when I worked for the private sector I did not have to purchase ANY supplies out of my own pocket. However, I spend about $2000 a year on supplies for my classroom. My family continues to ask me why I continue to teach even though I work late hours and almost every weekend and I get less money than if I went back to the private sector and I tell them that it is because someone needs to care about these kids!

    • Webber0770

      I am writing a paper for school (I’m getting my BA in English Lit), may I quote you on what you have said here?  In writing about teachers salaries and how they are “over-paid” I have to show both sides of the argument.  In response to the quote from this article, I would like to put your post.  I am trying to prove the thesis that teachers are not overpaid and as a matter of fact, they are actually expected to pay for supplies out of their own pocket, as well as pay for things for the kids. 
      Just let me know!

  • Brookepenn

    Morons surely wrote this article…

  • Eyedpro

    This is total b.s especially in Florida ( and the south ) where wages are the lowest.

  • Amrotellini

    As a teacher who has taught in PA, DE, and now FL, taxpayers should be looking at the gross mismanagement of funds in education, and the ridiculous amount of money being spent on assessments, tracking progress, and teacher evaluation.  As an example, Palm Beach County Schools has now adopted a text from a Dr. Robert Marzano, whom I don’t believe has ever spent time as a classroom teacher, but a researcher for teacher evaluation.  I would like him to teach in my room for a day.  In addition to EACH teacher receiving a copy of the book, administrators received new IPad’s that tie in with the iObservation software that Mr. Marzano has sold them as well.  I cannot believe that if tax payers new the real cost of education, they would also see this as an egregious expense.  Thanks to our governor, Mr. Rick Scott, teacher evaluation will be completed by a researcher who doesn’t know the first thing about teaching, which will somehow be attached to the miniscule wages that I make.  If tax payers knew the expense, I am sure it would have been more cost effective to just give the teachers a real raise – which they have not had in 7 years.  The costs of everything have gone up – and our salaries are stagnant – do the math.  If I had expendable income, I would put it back in to the economy.  In addition, what the public does not realize is the amount of money a teacher spends in their own classroom, especially in elementary school, as schools no longer supply students with necessary accoutrements for students to be successful in the classroom. 

  • I have 2 friends whom are public school teachers. We all graduated college the same year-2010. I am a Certified Veterinary Technician, working at an emergency care center for animals. My friends are both Junior High teachers. 

    One year out of school and I am earning $45,000 a year… my friends? $30,000!!!! I only owe $15,000 in student loans… they owe almost $22,000! 

    Not to insult either profession, but how can teachers, responsible for educating our next generation, be paid LESS than a qualified veterinary medical care provider? 

    My teachers throughout my public school education (elementary to high school) where the greatest influences in my creative, constructive, and emotional development as an individual.

  • Stephreads

    Really? I make less than the police officers in my county, none of whom need a college education. I am required to have a BA or BS, and I must also earn an additional six college credits every five years to keep my certification. $37,234 a year is overpaid? Oh, but I’m sure they’re going to factor in all my “vacation” time… Time which I spend earning those college credits, creating lessons and attending training sessions and workshops. When you go home from work, do you carry stacks of tests and essays to grade with you? Do you worry that your clients aren’t getting enough to eat, or that they won’t graduate because they’ve missed too many days babysitting their siblings so their parents can work or look for jobs? Do you buy supplies for your clients out of your grocery money? Tell these cretins to lick my shoes. Let them try to do what I do for one week. They’ll go home crying with their pointed tails tucked between their cloven hooves.

    • Breebaby27


    • By the way, these idiots from this “think tank” don’t know or care you do NOT have paid vacations.  You are basically laid off every June, if you are working under a traditional contract.  Districts pay teachers year round so they don’t qualify for unemployment insurance.

    • Bob

      Police officers pit their freaking lives on the line, not teachers, so don’t complain about them getting paid more and not having to do to college.

      • avery

        That’s true , except for the students who bring weapons to campus .

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t have any merit.  These government experts and consultants don’t know the first thing about teaching.  Michelle Rhee was an elementary teacher for a short while, and it was too much for her, so she became an expert.  That’s who the politicians hire to talk trash.  American’s are so conditioned to buying trash they have yard sales every weekend to get rid of it so they have room for more.  Quite a culture to decide what education is.
    Who knows what merit is?  Teaching knowledge and attitudes that were indigenous to the 19th century?  Making everything so confusing that politicians who shovel our tax dollars to testing companies won’t even take the tests they are in collusion for?  Don’t wake up America, you’re helping the economy.

  • Cowan78

    Then I want my private healthcare insurance subsidized as it has not been provided by the last two teaching jobs I’ve had. As I have been paid hourly in post-secondary education, I would also like my back pay for every week night and weekend morning I have spent hours lesson planning and grading papers.
    As for public school teachers, I would like to see NCLB either completely overhauled or replaced with a program that works. From the beginning it has been underfunded and over reaching. Teacher pay should not be based on student performance on standardized tests when the best indicator of students’ success is more closely linked to their socio-economic status. (Not to mention a myriad of other factors that affect student performance.) The effects have essentially been that already struggling and under -funded rural and inner city districts lose money and are eventually taken over by the government and shut down. (ex. Kansas City school district) Are the teachers over paid when they have no jobs?

  • Public school teachers SHOULD make more money than private school teachers because private school teachers don’t have to be credentialed.  More lies from a think tank whose own “workers” are overpaid.

  • I am sure the Heritage Foundation is including benefits in with those “outrageous salaries” and never mind the fact teachers in at least 14 states don’t pay into Social Security.  Few teachers work 30 years in the field to get any kind of “generous” retirement, and those who are foolish enough to teach in midlife discover their Social Security benefits are reduced thanks to the windfall elimination provision, which should be done away with by Congress.  They also cannot get their spouse’s Social Security benefits when the spouse dies, thanks to the government pension offset.

  • Additionally, I am sure these outfits are peddling the garbage that SAT and ACT scores, which only measure preparation for college, are being deliberately distorted to claim teachers have a lower “I.Q.”

    What a bunch of garbage.

  • Anonymous

    Did it ever occur to Heritage that this could simply mean private sector workers are UNDERpaid?

    • Dirhart

      The comparison of private school salaries and public is especially amusing.  Private schools pay pitiful salaries, with even more pitiful benefits, except in large cities where there are large and well funded private schools.  The differences in qualifications are vast as well, with little requirements for certification, etc. in private schools.  Several of the commenters are absolutely correct about how this “study” finds poorly paid professions and compares them with teachers to prove that they are overpaid. I never thought I would live to see the day that people could be convinced teachers are over compensated.  Amazing, and fact free.

  • Rebecca

    Teachers do not make too much money.  Using class test scores is making teachers grab the highest scoring kids and putting kids and teachers at risk in a barbaric competition.  Teachers with doctors degrees should not be teaching as they lack common sense and are in it for the money as that is why most go for doctorate and they are in the wrong field. I was an excellent teacher who was kicked out by squealy wheels and disruptive people.   Thinkers wake up schools have too many unhappy kids because of the pressures.  Parents do not know what to do because of the pressure on the IQ and the test.  Concentrate on jobs so  people can support their families and meet   the demands.

  • deanna

    I watched this report with anger yesterday.  My daughter is a 12 year teacher, she makes $1 more than 4 years ago, yet gas and milk for 2 children have more than doubled.  The man speaking kept saying his wife was a teacher and understood how hard teaching was….the hard part would be if their family tried to live on it.  Deanna

  • socialist

    Her Dur I think teachers should be paid more because I’m a teacher and I hate my job. Privatize the schools! 

  • Guest

    … kids today are dangerous and  impossible to deal with … anyone who willingly works with children needs to be paid well  … they  need to be  lavished with extravagent pay and benefit packages … I wouldn’t do it for any money … our Teachers  are TRUE heroes … 

  • Doctor

    My grandmother, mother, and husband have all been teachers (all but my husband were life long teachers) and I have many friends who are teachers. How much money do you want for summers and christmas off every year? Maybe teachers are not overpaid, but they are NOT underpaid. I understand it is a stressful job, most jobs are. There are more guarantees in the teaching profession for salary, benefits, pension,  tenure, time off, etc.. than for many other jobs. I am a doctor and I am amazed at the amount of complaining teachers go through. You act as if when summer ends, your life is slipping by you  again. For the at home work, you are not alone teachers. Many professions have to take their work home with them and do continuing training in some form. You perform a vital function for our children, but so do other people. You work less than full time with full time benefits and more. 

    • Uripdz

      AND you are an IDIOT! ! !   Tell me DOCTOR – do you decide how much you charge for your services?  Do you charge high fees to try and get more paid by Insurance??? 

  • Suessro

    Did this same study form a conclusion regarding the compensation for corporate CEOs?

  • Suessro

    Don’t you just love when conservative non-think tanks supported by corporations and wealth present opinion as science in order to advance the argument that public sector workers take a pay cut as opposed to an increase in taxes levied against the privileged elite?  Time to occupy corporate offices?

  • GAC

    Please remember that many teachers are teachers because they really like to teach but also because they really like the three months off in the summer and they like the other long vacations that others with non-teacher year around jobs do not get with only two or three weeks off. 

    So, should teachers be paid for nine months? The teachers I know spend their summer doing other jobs they also like to do. This yearly variety is another benefit of being a teacher that the rest of us do not have: short term, different, invigorating summer jobs. Should tax payers pay a full year salary for a job that is a very important job, but that is not a full year job?

    Sure seems clear to me.

    • Educating Youth

      Teachers don’t get paid over the summer. Once school is done, so is the pay.

    • Uripdz

      YOU are clearly not a teacher!  Please get a job as a teacher, and THEN make the comparison!

    • Tace

      Teacher pay for 196 days is divided over 12 months. We do not get paid for an entire year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Empathy, please.

      This absolutely makes my blood boil. Why on Earth do people think that we get paid during the summer? Sure guys! I teach 7.5 hours, 10 months a year, and spend my summers sipping cocktails in the Caribbean. Oh the life of a teacher. I hope you’re jealous.
      Seriously though… due to the fact that I do not get paid during the summer, I wait tables. I go from teaching young minds, to waiting on selfish assholes. One rewarding; the other infuriating. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my students. Due to them, I am more appreciative of  life and often have less patience for the adults I encounter; whom very often KNOW BETTER.

  • Bookin Weasel

    Teaching is SOOO tough…not..190 days a year…yeah, they are underpaid….underpaid their a$$…..

    • Tace

      You are a total dumb a$$. Teachers only get paid for the 196 days. Teacher pay for the 196 days is divided over 12 months. Bet you didn’t know that pinhead.

  • LindaNBCT

    In 2016 when the teacher shortage is back…. the tone will change.

  • Meltorrente

    I doubt that teachers are the most unpaid people in the universe, but I must state that in order of importance, teachers are more important than stars. Therefore, a teacher should be more than Justin, Kim and Ashton. I believe that the role of the teacher is far more important than athletes and politicians. Yet somehow all these people, who moan about the easy life of a teacher and the rich salary they get, make more in one year than any teacher will hope to make in his/her lifetime. I don’t think teachers are under paid but everyone else is over paid!

  • Phaedra Donnovan

    Teachers are overpaid?  And this study says their pay should be cut by a little more than half?  The average teacher in our state makes a little less than $30k.  So this study believes that teachers should only be paid about $15k per year?  You mean to tell me that a 4-year degree that probably put you about $80k in debt is only worth about $15k per year?  They expect someone to go to college for 4 years to earn about $12 an hour?  I have a buddy only has his high school diploma who has a 3rd shift factory job and makes more money than that.  This study shows that our primary educators deserve to make less than a factory worker?  Are you kidding me?  75% of the people in this country don’t know the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’, and can’t locate Iraq on a globe and they want to cut the pay of teachers by half?  But the answer to the quality of education problem is, “Hey, you can always put your kid in private school”.  Sorry kids.  Unless mommy and daddy can shell out $60k a year to send you to school (on top of “donations” required to get the kid in), you’re going to end up at McDonalds with the rest of us (or at least getting paid like you are).  Higher education discriminates against the poor enough as it is; unless you win the genetic lottery, you’ll lose at life.  So let’s fill the world with more people that think apostrophes are used to make plural nouns, and think that ‘your’ is the contraction of ‘you are’, because goodness knows we don’t have enough idiots in this country.

    • Peggy

      It is just anti-worker stuff from the Heritage Foundation and their billionaire backers. They have already destroyed our government using the “Starve the Beast” tactics and continuing propaganda, not to leave out, so confused people with their “studies” on greenhouse warming (it doesn’t exist/well, it’s good you/us), etc..

      By the way – I liked the way you wrote your reply.

  • I’ve been in both realms, moving from the private school with 9 years of technical, engineering experience to be a public school math teacher.  I took a 51% pay cut to do so, possibly more if you consider that I had better benefits as an engineer.  I actually had practical experience, unlike many of my colleagues.  Then I went back into the private sector, made 85% more than what I did as a teacher.

    Good teachers are way underpaid.  Bad teachers are way overpaid.  Administrators on average are overpaid.

  • School Board Director

    You all are missing the point. Up North (Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, etc), teachers with a BA degree and only 101 credits to graduate start out making $36-40k for 10 months of work teaching 4.5 hours a day.  After 16 years or step raises and cost of living raises, they are making $80-100k for ten months of work teaching 4.5 hours a day.  Of course they have full pension, paid sick days, full health and very low if any deductibles.  No other jobs pay as well as this.  I am talking Engineers, CPAs, Business majors.  These unions up North have driven out the employers which are heading south for lower property taxes.   I know this because I am school board director and engineer of 25 years making $75k and working 45 hours a week 12 months of the year.

    • mortified.

      I assume that you are not actually a school board director, due my interpretation of your disheartening and uninformative thoughts. If you are actually a part of the school board, however, I would not be surprised. Have you actually set foot in a classroom and worked one on one with the future adults of our country? Those whom will one day make decisions, just as we do today? I sincerely apologize if at some point you have worked as a teacher. I apologize not to you, but to the students whom you have encountered. You contribute to what is wrong with our education system. Please focus on you engineering skills and keep your rigid and ignorant thoughts where they belong. You make me want to vomit.

    • Judlyn

      Do you really believe teachers only work 4.5 hours a day? If you do, you are dumber than the chair you are sitting in!

  • Robin Reads

    Teachers get no paid vacation or holidays. In my district we work 185 days a year and are paid for 185 days. No xmas, no summer, no Easter, no New Years, those are all days off without pay.

  • Kt3453

    Voting for anyone but rick scott.

  • I wanted to be a licensed teacher for years. Now that I have achieved this, I’m overwhelmed with the work load. I have no free time. I’m up at 4 AM either planning or grading. When the children leave I’m still there grading, making phone calls to parents, and writing reports. Since Florida’s passage of the Tenure Laws the teachers are leaving in droves, retiring early or quitting outright. All the most qualified teachers with years of experience are leaving,. Who ever the dumb _ss was from this think tank was cannot foresee the disaster that awaits public education in the few years. The shortage of teachers, increase of students and the closing of charter schools will drive education into the swamp.

  • CS

    what the…?!

    as a public school teacher, I am SHOCKED and APPALLED by the suggestions and findings of this study by…the…

    Heritage Foundation?!? oh, ok – now I get it.

    it’s soooo weird that a group committed to eviscerating public employee unions would come out with a “study” criticizing members of one of the most successful public employee unions in America.

  • Jon

    My brother is a high school Art Teacher who makes over $90,000 a year. Mind you that is 185 days worked. That equals more than $490.00 a day and about $64.00 per hour. That’s a lot of money.

  • sdfsdfsdfsdfsd

    teacher are over paid horrible people

  • alexxifo

    The average teacher in California makes $68,000 a year, or should we say for 9 months. Yes, they are overpaid. Admit the truth. So many of them don’t care. Maybe more people wouldn’t be anti-teacher if they appeared to be reasonable. Instead of saying, “OK, maybe we’re not perfect. What can we do to improve?”, they come off as arrogant and elitist. “How dare you question teachers?”

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »