The following are responses to a Jan. 11, 2012, online-only Commentary by Jason Richwine and Andrew G. Biggs about their study concluding that teachers are overpaid.
If we had a society where thousands of people wanted to become teachers and stay teachers, saying teachers are overpaid would have a scintilla of credibility. However, in the teaching profession, attrition nationwide is through the roof. In New York City, for example, 66,000 teachers have left their jobs since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office. With these losses, our children lose experienced, high-quality teachers.
The authors believe teacher salaries should be market-based, while we believe teacher salaries should be based on the value our society places on children and their education, and our need to recruit and retain excellent teachers. Indeed, the 2010 report on closing the talent gap by McKinsey & Company found that improving compensation and working conditions could dramatically increase the recruitment and retention of top college students in high-needs schools and school districts.
The debate over whether teachers are overpaid is another example of blaming and demeaning teachers, which doesn’t help move us toward improving teaching and learning for all students.
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
... I agree that teachers—and others as well!—should receive no more and no less than fair-market compensation for their skills. So I look forward to Richwine and Biggs’ analysis of Fortune 500 ceo pay, member-of-Congress pay, lobbyist pay, investment banker pay, movie star pay, sports star pay, etc. I’m sure all of their sat and gre scores will be as astronomical as their salaries. ...
The real problem with this study is that it treats people as commodities. It assumes that money is the only coinage by which we can measure a person’s worth ...
... Few people are as underpaid asthe best teachers, and few people are as overpaid as the worst teachers.
The real message of your study, plain and simple, is that you do not value the teaching profession.
... As far as the top third, an engineer joined my daughter’s middle school this year. He was so excited to teach science at the beginning of the year. He knew he could make a huge difference with his past experience. He didn’t make it to the semester break. The kids were too much for him to handle. My bet is that he wished he had [had] some more “education” classes to help him through.
A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2012 edition of Education Week