Are Public School Teachers Overpaid or Are Private School Teachers Underpaid?


There's no question that it's difficult (though not impossible) to do straight-up apples-to-apples compensation comparisons between the 9 percent or so of public-sector workers and the 91 percent of private-sector drones.

But when it comes to paying K-12 teachers, the issue at the heart of Wisconsin's recent protests and a bunch about to erupt all over the country, that comparison is relatively straightforward because there are private- and public-sector teachers who do the same basic task.

So what gives when you look at public-school and private-school teachers? The National Center for Education Statistics puts it this way: Using 2007-2008 data (the latest available), the average "total school-year and summer earned income" for public school teachers was $53,230 . The equivalent for private-school teachers was $39,690.

That's a whopping $13,540 differential on salary alone. And in virtually every subset (highest degree earned, years of experience, you name it), the public-school teachers do far better than the private-school ones. I've yet to come up with good comparative figures for health and retirement benefits, but there's little doubt that it will widen the gap between public and private (if you've got the datasets, please send 'em my way!).

Question: Do you think that private-school teachers are underpaid or that public-school teachers are overpaid?

Bonus questions: Would reducing the average public-school teacher salary (not to mention compensation) decrease the budget deficits facing somewhere around 48 or 49 states? And would reducing those salaries drive out all the decent people so that only the sorts of dregs teaching in private schools would remain?