Another bite at "overpaid" teachers

Regular blog readers know that I’m a big fan of education policy analyst Rick Hess, who combines a commitment to reform with a keen understanding of the law of unintended consequences. So I thought I’d post his take on the study (written in part by one of his colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute) claiming that teachers are not underpaid. By the way, a much shorter version appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal, so this study going to attract more attention.

I’ll post a link to the full article by Rick Hess, but here’s the section that I found most persuasive:

“For what it’s worth, I’m firmly convinced that, today, some teachers are underpaid and others are overpaid. When I am asked the long-standing question about whether teachers are underpaid or overpaid, my consistent refrain is, “Yes.” I’m much more interested in the broader issue of how we can rethink the profession, make fuller use of talented teachers, and wisely spend the dollars we do have than in debating what the “right” wage level should be.

Under today’s step-and-lane pay scales, the primary way we determine how much teachers are worth is how long they’ve taught and how many graduate credits they’ve accumulated. Now, there’s nothing innately wrong with step-and-lane compensation. Indeed, when introduced in the early 20th century, it was a sensible response to reflexive, sweeping discrimination under which women were routinely paid half as much as their male counterparts. When a captive market of women had few options except to teach, the benefits of this more equitable system outweighed its defects.

Today, however, the world has changed. Whereas limited professional options meant that more than half of women graduating from college became teachers in mid-20th-century America, the figure today is closer to 15 percent. At the start of the 21st century, new college graduates–both men and women–are much less likely to stick to a job for long stretches, the competition for college-educated talent has intensified, and we are becoming better able to track educational outlays and outcomes. All this adds up to a new environment in which step-and-lane industrial-era pay is ill-suited to attracting and retaining talent. The consequence of treating different employees similarly, despite their varying work ethics and skills, has become a growing burden.”

That makes a lot of sense to me.

You can find the full article here.

And here’s a link to the Wall Street Journal op-ed.

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