In New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Ohio, teachers unions have led the effort to beat back the reforms, arguing that teachers are overworked and underpaid and taking issue with even modest reforms to pension benefits as states grapple with budget deficits. But a new paper by Jason Richwine, Ph.D. and Andrew Biggs addresses the question of teacher pay head on and asks whether teachers today receive the right level of pay. They find that when benefits such as tenure, health care, and pensions are considered, the typical public-school teacher is well-paid: "We conclude that public-school-teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private-sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year."Read it all. Since the Wisconsin reforms, school districts that were formerly facing major financial challenges and deficits are now balancing their budgets or running surpluses. Even with the teachers contributing more for their pension and healthcare costs, they are still paying far less towards these benefits than private sector employees.
One last point to consider - with all of the focus on the classrooms and teachers, what about the administrative side of the ledger - in the school districts and in the unions. These areas have seen significant increases in numbers of employees. But do they add value to the educational experience?