The Washington Post

AEI and Heritage to teachers: You’re not underpaid

As the new school year kicked off at the beginning of September, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a group in Ann Arbor, MI that teacher salaries should be doubled--that teachers were “desperately underpaid.”

But a new joint report (“Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers”) from two conservative think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, says that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The totality of the evidence suggests that public-school teachers are not underpaid in wages by private-sector standards,” says Andrew G. Biggs, one of the report’s authors “And they may even be overpaid.”

The report’s authors, Jason Richwine from Heritage and Andrew G. Biggs from AEI, argue that while some teachers may be underpaid, most are receiving significantly higher pay than they would in the private sector.

Richwine and Biggs suggest that if teachers were underpaid, this wouldn’t happen: “Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent.”

However, what really raises teacher compensation, according to the report, is the disproportionate level of benefits paid to teachers compared to similar private sector jobs.

The report concludes that pensions, retirement health care and other factors make the total compensation to teachers 52 percent higher than fair market values.

According to the report, the higher benefits cost taxpayers $120 billion each year.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He freelances and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.


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