Hey, teachers: The Heritage Foundation thinks you’re overpaid

To bolster this claim, the researchers also argue that (1) average wages for public school teachers exceed those of private school teachers; (2) people who leave private-sector jobs to become teachers see an 8.8-percent wage increase, on average; and (3) teachers who leave the profession to work in the private sector experience a 3.1-percent wage reduction, on average. The latter figures come from an analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, the researchers said.

Comparing the average benefits of teachers and private-sector employees is more problematic, Richwine and Biggs acknowledge—in part because of differences in their respective retirement plans.

Using information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), among other sources, they calculated the dollar value of average vacation time as a percentage of yearly salary; the relative worth of teachers’ pensions versus 401K plans; and the value of other perks, such as health-care benefits. They concluded that public school teachers earn, on average, about 40 percent more in benefits than private-sector employees with comparable skills.

But Richwine and Biggs didn’t stop there. Noting that, according to the BLS, the average unemployment rate for public school teachers was just 2.1 percent from 2005-10, compared to 3.8 percent for other professions, they sought to quantify this higher relative job security enjoyed by teachers. They concluded that it’s worth an additional 8.6 percent of a teacher’s compensation package—bringing the total average value of teacher compensation to “52 percent above market rates.”

“Because of the large compensation premium that public school teachers enjoy, teachers are unlikely to receive better offers elsewhere,” the researchers wrote. “Policy makers should evaluate teacher compensation packages in light of this fact, particularly given the serious state and local bud­getary shortfalls across the country.”

Former teacher Jonathan Dearman is one of many people who would disagree. In the recent documentary film American Teacher, Dearman explained how he left the teaching profession for real estate when he found he no longer could support his family on his teacher’s salary alone.

“It just became a real vicious cycle … of burnout,” he said in the film.

That burnout is costing taxpayers billions of dollars each year, as 46 percent of teachers leave the profession before their fifth year—something the report does not acknowledge.

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