Let’s set aside the goofy math of this AEI/Heritage paper touting that teachers are “overpaid.”
The real problem here is the comparison. Teachers are overpaid compared… with whom? The paper suggests that because non-teachers shifting to the teaching field make more money, and teachers shifting to the non-teaching field would make less money, the position must be “overpaid.”
But that’s patently ridiculous! Consider every employee of the SEC that has ever worked in finance (read: everyone). Shifting from finance to almost any other profession would mean a loss in pay. Does that mean that all finance jobs are overpaid? Maybe, but maybe not. (I certainly doubt the authors of this paper think so.)
Another reason for the paper’s assertion that teachers are overpaid comes from disparity between public school teachers and private school teachers. The paper notes that public school teachers tend to be paid more than private school teachers. My guess is that this comes from two things — 1) unionization of public school teachers and relative bargaining power as a result (see differences between union and nonunion employees generally) and 2) private schools tend to have selective admissions and fewer hazards than public schools.
Again, this strikes me as remarkably silly. Police officers are generally paid more than security guards. Does this mean that police officers are “overpaid”? Or does this mean that society has measured the value of police officers as arms of the state as higher than the value of security guards hired by private employers?
Furthermore, even assuming this paper is true and teachers are over-compensated relative to the good they bring to society, what policy prescription does this create? If, as Eric Hanushek argues, teachers are extremely important to the education of children, and we must increase teacher quality to bring about changes in the education system, how will reducing pay and benefits help to accomplish that?
I understand the argument that money alone does not fix schools or secure better teachers. But if teachers are “overpaid,” then the policy prescription would seem to be paying them less. And I fail to see how lowering teacher compensation will improve education at all.