Free Minds & Free Markets

What Really Drove Los Angeles Teachers To Go on Strike?

They demanded higher salaries. The real problem: A disconnect between what teachers see in their paychecks and what employers are actually paying them.

Over 30,000 public school teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians went on strike last week in Los Angeles—the first teachers' strike there in nearly 30 years.

Driving the protests were union demands for higher salaries, smaller class sizes, and more funding for school nurses and counselors. District administrators said those demands would hasten the system's descent into insolvency.

While teacher salaries haven't increased much in inflation-adjusted terms since the 1990s, total teacher compensation has soared because of ballooning health care and retirement contributions. There's a growing disconnect between what teachers see in their paychecks and what their employers are actually paying for their services.

Reason spoke with Chad Aldeman, an editor at and a senior associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, to discuss what's really driving schools to the brink of bankruptcy. The interview is based in part on Aldeman's article in Education Next, "Teachers Have the Nation's Highest Retirement Costs. But They'll Never See the Benefits."

Interview by Nick Gillespie. Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Garcia, Justin Monticello, Meredith Bragg, and Mark McDaniel.

Photo credits: Christian Monterrosa/Sipa USA/Newscom, Ronan Tivony/Sipa USA/Newscom, Jonathan Alcorn/REUTERS/Newscom, Leah Mills/REUTERS/Newscom.

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Photo Credit: Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The real problem; the products of the national Colleges of Education are semi-literate drones who have been taught to think of themselves as Professionals on a level with Doctors or Lawyers. With exceptions (who mostly duo not do well in the Public School System) they are hardly worth the Assistant Manager's salary from a McDonalds franchise. But they have a powerful Public Employee's Union that should be chased out of the country with pitchforks.

  • loveconstitution1789||


  • TJJ2000||

    The best teacher I ever had ( out of about 100+ ) had NO College Education degree at all. He worked in the field of study for 20 years and started his career in the military. I and friends in college use to avoid higher degree teachers with Ph.D.'s because from experience we never learned a darn thing and every score in their class was about guessing what Mr/Mrs Ph.D. personally wanted (learned in their books written by Ph.D.'s w/o a lick of work experience) instead of what might actually be the truth.

  • Gasman||

    Wonder what it was you studied.
    Every one of my engineering professors had worked in industry, many continued with consulting gigs on the side. But then engineers are the ultimate in doers. They study a subject deeply only because they intend to actually apply it.
    Many other fields, english, history, grievance studies, sociology, have professors that exist merely to create the next generation of professors. Outside of academia itself, there is little demand for many college majors.

  • Ragnarredbeard||

    ^ This

    My sister has a Master's in Special Education and sometimes I think she took it too literally. She apparently has no critical thinking skills and voted for Hillary specifically she was a woman. She'll post the stupidest stuff I ever seen on Facebook and when its pointed out that its bullshit she can't handle it. And she whines about the pay even though she quit being a teacher several years ago to be a paralegal. Pointing out to her that paralegals get paid less than she was making as a teacher elicits a "but the website said paralegals was the next big job thing". Geez, she's dumb.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Wait a second, LA is seeing decreased enrollment? Then there are the smaller class sizes-- with a ribbon on it.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Less money because less students, hence the teacher outrage.

  • apersonofinterest||

    Sounds like LAUSD is having the same problem that the Main Stream Media is having. Superior alternatives are draining their market share and they are bloated, controlled by special interests and they are unable to adapt their business model so they are doomed to collapse. If a guy sitting in his kitchen with a laptop can get 10x's the views as Anderson Cooper, who costs $20 million a year plus all of the overhead of producing and broadcasting a cable news show, then they are in big trouble.

    I predict that instead of trimming the fat and adapting, LAUSD is just going to have the state crack down on the competition which won't help them and will only drag the whole education system down with them.

  • JWatts||

    "The real problem: A disconnect between what teachers see in their paychecks and what employers are actually paying them."

    You can't really expect teachers to understand math or delayed gratification.

  • JoeBlow123||


  • TJJ2000||

    Teachers who complain about pay are the biggest babies in the market. I have a whole family of them. We talk about their "piss poor pay" and its always the same B.S. The Mechanic makes $32k/yr. The Engineer makes $55k/yr. The business consultant makes $60k/yr. The factory lead makes $55k/yr. The farmer makes $30k/yr.

    And those "poor" teachers only make $40k/yr and DON'T EVER bring up that its a 9-month P.T. job (8AM-3PM) with an hour lunch and every holiday imaginable off with snow days!!! They'll cry your ears to death about working after school or their "pet" projects during their summer vacations. OBVIOUSLY the Engineer never takes his work home AFTER a full 8AM-6PM job. The farmer NEVER has to work late. The factory lead never has to STAY after hours... etc...etc... etc...

    If you ACTUALLY pull the hours they work and divide it by their salary they make MORE than ALL OF US!! Plus they get TONS of benefits no one else gets and still have the nerve to complain..

    The only problem with teacher pay is teachers inability to correctly judge their own worth.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Amd there certainly isn't a shortage of ed. school graduates. So,clearly the field isn't so underpaid that they can't get new teachers.

    And if their contributions went up for their medical insurance, tough shit. A private policy for me costs almost $10k a year for mediocre coverage.

    Fuck them.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Y'all can f*ck 'em. I'm picky about where I put that part of my anatomy.

  • CE||

    Not a bad gig getting full time pay for working half the year, and a pension to boot. Such heroes.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Not half. Two-thirds with a lot of days off, but not half.

  • Davy C||

    When I was in school, students attended 180 days. Add some inservice days, and it's over half of 365, but not by much. (Of course, by that metric, an average person works maybe 2/3 of the year once you include some days for holidays.)

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    There are 260 weekdays in a 52 week year. Subtract about 20 from that number for vacation, sick days and holidays. That leaves 240, more or less. Teachers work 180 school days, plus about three weeks before and after the school year. They also get personal days. So they end up working about 3/4 as much as the typical 40 hour worker.

    So their $73k per year average pay adjusted is really almost $100k. not too bad for an easy degree and a relatively easy job with lots of benefits.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Not fair to teachers!

  • Skyhawk||

    Unfortunately, even though the public school system is obsolete, it will never go away. Just like the Mass. Turnpike Authority, the TVA, The Rural Electrification Authority, and dozens of other anachronistic government programs, the main purpose is make-work for government employees.
    Why is the public school model virtually unchanged when, basically, every person over the age of 9 has every bit of human knowledge available in their pocket?

  • avtodiagnostika||

    Auto Diagnostics from Top Diagnostics offers computer diagnostics for Sofia

  • ||

    Start working at home with Google. It's the most-financially rewarding I've ever done. On tuesday I got a gorgeous BMW after having earned $8699 this last month. I actually started five monthsago and practically Text.


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