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Are teachers overpaid?

Are teachers overpaid?

According to contemporary culture, teachers are held up to the highest esteem universally.  They are virtually beyond criticism.  They are dedicated public servants who are overworked and underpaid.  Though they are government workers, they are not considered bureaucrats.

(I know that because I had a cousin who was a public school teacher.  When I said she was a government worker, she insisted that she was not.  Scary.  A schoolteacher who does not know that she is being paid by the taxpayers and working in government-run schools.  Ouch!)

Naturally, we all love our teachers.  They are like co-parents caring for our children – teaching them essential information and good values.  And for the most part, they deserve our respect.  But below the pedestal, there is another set of facts.

The public education system is coming under increasing attack from parents for educational practices and curriculum enhancement they find disturbing.  And well they should.  Increasing numbers of parents are protesting against two relatively new developments in the classroom – material that is age inappropriate and political indoctrination – including the elimination of positive civic education.

In many ways, teachers are caught in the middle, between the dictates of the very liberal national educational establishment – politicians, unions, education lobbyists, and activists – and the parents.  Unfortunately, too many teachers are philosophically aligned and supportive of the national education establishment.

The battleline in education is the same conflict we see throughout the American culture – whether the power to establish policies and laws rests with the people or are imposed on the people by an elitist establishment ruling-class at the top of the governmental structure.

Two trends have led to the conflict between parents and the school systems – unionization and usurpation of power by the folks in Washington.  Perhaps the greatest mistake was the creation of the Department of Education and the overseer of what were once thousands of independent school districts.

(I will digress for a disclaimer.  Before those on the left get their hair on fire.  I am not remotely suggesting that local control of schools mean going back to segregated schools.  The one and only role of the federal government in education is to intervene when there are clear issues of constitutionality.  Or that there cannot be national testing and national standards.)

Arguably the second major issue – behind what is being taught in the classrooms – is the issue of budgeting and compensation.  Virtually all school systems in America are taxing districts.  The school boards set the budget and tax accordingly.

Unfortunately, the state and federal governments have taken on an increasingly more prominent role in funding education.  There is some legitimacy in the state’s contribution, but the role of the federal government in funding local education should be extremely limited.  The money is the oppressive power of the federal government.  It is that old saw – them’s that pays the piper picks the tunes.

Then there is the issue of compensation.  Historically, government workers … public servants … bureaucrats have been relatively poorly paid.  That is why there were called “servants.”  In return for their sacrifice, we have our public servants unprecedented job security.  Unlike the private sector, it is virtually impossible to fire government – even if justified.  That is very true of teachers.  We often hear of layoffs and workforce reduction in the private sector – but when is the last time you heard that happen to government workers?

While government workers – including teachers – have maintained their job security, they have become the highest paid workers in America, with Cadillac health and benefits plans, and exorbitant pensions.  Government workers can even stack pensions and wind up earning more in retirements than at any time in their working career. (And we the people put up with this.)

Whoa!  Did I lump teachers in with the highest-paid frontline government workers?  Yes, I did.

I recently ran across one of the education lobby’s recent statistics – not that that salary in America is approximately $68,000, while the average teacher salary is around $60,000.  That does not seem to be outrageously far from the income of an average working, but there is something that rarely gets considered when evaluating teacher income. (I had to deal with it when I served as senior advisor to the Chicago and Detroit Boards of Education.)

Teachers do not work full-time compared to traditional workers.  That have three months off during the summer.  They have extended days off during the Christmas/New Year holidays, a spring break, every conceivable holiday, sick days, and, in many cases, an occasion year off with pay called a sabbatical. etc.  

They also have a shortened workday.  Yes, I have heard that theory about how teachers work in late into the night at home — correcting papers and preparing assignments.  There are teachers like that, but they are far and few between these days.  More typical are the teachers who use their free time for supplemental income – working as real estate agents, bartenders, retail employees or even carrying out online home businesses.

If you calculate teacher salary based on hours on the job in the school, teachers are among the highest paid frontline workers in government.  In fact, the number of actual in-classroom “teaching hours” has been shrinking over time.

Some teachers work more hours than others.  In Detroit, for example, we had an “assistant coach” who worked two to three hours per day for a fulltime salary.  He basically opened up the gym, the equipment room and lockers in the morning and locked them down in the afternoon.

The average American worker is on the job approximately 1768 hours per year. Teachers’ in-school hours are closer to 1300 hours per year.  That means approximately 25 percent fewer hours.  That means the private sector worker is earning about $34.50 per hour.  The average teacher is earning approximately $46.20 per hour.

These figures are vary widely from school district to school district, but the principle applies.  Teachers are well compensated for their time.

While we have addressed curriculum in terms of appropriateness and political indoctrination, there is also the baseline quality of education.   Study-after-study has shown that public school children are not getting the education they need and deserve.  America is falling behind.  Our test scores for math are now below the world average – ranking the United States 30th in the world.  In science, the United States is 11th.

The most obscene and immoral failures are in schools in segregated communities in our major cities when Democrat political machines have run the school systems for generations.  (I say that because it is true – and it ignites the hair of the progressives.)  Even with the high pay and extraordinary benefits, American parents and children are not getting their money’s worth.

I attribute to progressive trendiness and wokeness in the white majority schools – that and institutional racism in the separate-but-unequal ghetto schools.

There is a simple and effective first… school choice.  Let parents take our taxpayer commitment to education to the school of their choosing – public, private, or parochial.  Our focus should be on the education of the children – not brick and mortar, union benefits, and Washington social engineers.  But more about that in a future commentary.

So, there ’tis,  

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Frank stetson

    All those numbers and not a source to be found.


    • Bruce

      Teacher unions should be abolished. They hinder education and do nothing but protect bad teachers. Teachers make plenty and get the summer off. What a gig!!!! They also support CRT and other leftist shit

      • Mack ewing

        The teacher’s unions wanted the schools to be shut down by Covid so that they could get paid and not have to deal with the children.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      Well golly gee, Frank, why don’t you do your own research.

      • Frank stetson

        So you can summarily dismissed me even when I’m right? Think I’ll pass this time

  2. Rat Wrangler

    Salaried positions should be eliminated. If every job paid hourly, including government jobs, We the People would know in relatively short order how many hours Congress actually works, and whether or not multimillionaire CEOs earn their exorbitant paychecks. Such a move might lead to radically different ideas as to gender pay gaps and exactly how well our famous sports and movie stars are paid.

  3. john fudacz

    teachers unions dont want to teach children about being a american or what american went through to have the rights we have, they want to brainwash chidrens minds , to be stupid and follow the woke bullshit ,and be groomed to be led by a comunist ass hole in the white house! they want kidds to be no mind robots follow their woke rules! no law no history ,no independant thinking , follow their rules !

  4. art

    Jill Biden is a perfect example why schools need to be replaced . Doctor Jill Biden of education must I say any more

  5. Jay Fitch

    Fun fact, teachers don’t get paid for their time off. They are paid for the days they are contracted. They are salaried, so they do not get overtime. A typical teacher is required to be at school at least 8 hours a day. Most teachers spend between 10 and twelve hours. Oh, and the required training in the summers or on weekends is “voluntary”.
    To lump every teacher under the hatred of teacher unions is disingenuous. Unions are supposed to look out for their members. Most are more interested in financial gain for the leaders and for political power. The majority of the teachers (at least the ones I know) are in it for the student.
    The thought that teachers are government workers is laughable. By strict definition, yes. In my state, however, the teachers do not have access to the same insurance as bureaucrats. The amount that teachers pay in insurance is exorbitant. The copays and deductibles are outrageous. But, because we are “government workers” we can’t shop our insurance.
    Do teachers complain too much about pay? Probably. Are they underpaid? Yes
    One last thing…you give away your disconnect from real life when you say there is a three month summer. that hasn’t been true in 20 years.
    I am conservative. But you are a far right idiot. No better than someone who is far left when it comes to actually. Solving problems. All talk, no substance.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      They are salaried the equivalent of the whole year, even though they take the summer off.

      And as Larry said, the 10-12 hour teacher day is largely a myth.

      • frank stetson

        It’s not that teachers make too much money, or get the summers off (many would rather be salaried and working for the year, many have difficulties finding summer jobs for adults); it’s that private sector workers, especially the ones lower on educational attainment, are content with less money, less benefits, and the teachers have finally caught up. I watched in awe during my career as salaried workers promoted 401’s as replacements to pensions; accepted continual 10% cuts in health and other benefits, and basically got down on their knees to say: “please sirs, can we have some more?” And more they got taken away every year.

        I think Larry is wrong and that the numbers he showed are normalized to 12 months. That’s how they usually do these things. I would check, but Larry and Joe don’t like to list sources. Just spew facts and tell us to accept, they are experts after all.

        But let’s say Larry is right, and teachers live in the salaried world of milk and honey, vastly overpaid with gold Cadillac benefit packages worth millions. Then why is there a huge teacher shortage in the US? People too proud to take this money? Places are even accepting work experience in lieu of credentials, the shortage is that bad. Why doesn’t anyone want the free ride? BECAUSE IT AIN’T FREE, IT AIN;T EASY. Larry and Joe are wrong. They are comparable, still slightly lower salaries, but better benefits. So, great if you live long, you prosper, but if you die young — private is still the better outcome — financially speaking

        Low pay, stress and burnout: U.S. schools face severe teacher shortage: