Debunking the Myth of the “Teacher Pay Gap,” Again

The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) new report, authored by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel, ignores the important work on teacher compensation that has been done since 2008. It fails to address major methodological advances in the literature in recent years that cast serious doubt on the claim that Public school teachers are underpaid.

Pension costs for teachers are worth not the 11 percent of wages reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but a remarkable 32 percent of wages. That figure reflects how much a worker with a 401(k) would need to save to receive the same retirement benefits with the same level of risk as those paid to the average public school teacher.

Roughly half of public school teachers have education degrees. Should an education degree be worth as much in the marketplace as an engineering degree? That is Allegretto and Mishel’s logic, despite strong evidence that education majors lag behind other college graduates in terms of marketable skills.

At the end of the day, in school systems where pay is almost wholly determined by educational credentials and job tenure, neither of which is strongly associated with performance, it is unclear how much raising average pay would boost teacher quality—or whether it would boost it at all.

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