Education

2011–Dec19 In⁠t⁠erv⁠i⁠ew: Sunsh⁠i⁠ne S⁠t⁠a⁠t⁠e News – Sanchez on Rela⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ve Teacher Compensa⁠t⁠⁠i⁠on

By: The James Madison Institute / December 19, 2011

The James Madison Institute

Education

December 19, 2011

Sunshine State News reporter Ken Ward interviews Policy Director Bob Sanchez regarding public school teacher compensation relative to other state and local government workers in response to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”Calculating teachers’ pay and concluding that they’re “overpaid” or “underpaid” as compared to other professions is too simplistic an approach. Many dedicated teachers spend countless hours “off the clock” handling duties ranging from grading papers to sponsoring extracurricular activities in addition to their classroom duties. Other merely go through the motions, trying to hang on until retirement.Moreover, in a true market-based system, the question of whether the compensation is adequate, too much, or too little would relate to whether the compensation results in an adequate supply of good teachers.If the beginning pay is too low to attract the kind of bright people who presumably could choose from among any number of other career options, then the result may be an insufficient supply of good applicants for teaching vacancies. That would mean that the schools are stuck with hiring anyone who’s alive and breathing, regardless of their qualifications. If you have 100 vacancies and only 90 applicants, you have a problem that also complicates any effort to get rid of bad teachers.Conversely, if the salaries are sufficient to attract (and retain) an adequate supply of excellent teachers, that’s a good thing. After all, if you have 100 vacancies and 500 applicants, you have an opportunity to pick and choose the best of the lot.Then again, if the total compensation – salaries plus pensions, health insurance, and other benefits — is significantly higher than the levels sufficient to attract an adequate supply of good teachers, then the schools arguably are needlessly spending taxpayers’ money that might be better used for other public purposes or else retained by the taxpayers.Unfortunately, because of teacher union pressure, teacher-compensation systems are often distorted in ways that defeat the goal of attracting the best and the brightest. That’s because most teacher union locals are dominated by veteran teachers who have played union politics to move up through the ranks.During the collective bargaining process, these union leaders push for rewarding seniority – sticking around for years, regardless of effectiveness — rather than boosting the pay of beginning teachers, the pay grade that might attract prospective teachers who are comparing a teaching career with other career options. In addition, these veteran union officials – especially those nearing retirement – often negotiate lavish pension deals to the detriment of offering more pay to beginning teachers.As a result, in comparisons of beginning salaries, potential teachers often drift off into other fields because they are dismayed when they discover that they wouldn’t be making any “real money” until they’d been teaching for 20+ years.This – plus the teachers union’s stubborn resistance to linking compensation with classroom effectiveness as measured in student achievement — is just one of the ways in which the teachers unions undermine efforts to improve the quality of instruction.”