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Lesson # 3: Idaho’s Teachers are NOT Underpaid or Overworked



Teachers and their unions always gripe that they are underpaid. But Idaho’s teachers are doing just fine.


Reclaim Idaho thinks Idaho underfunds it education system. “Survey after survey

tells us that the vast majority of Idahoans value strong public schools,” writes Reclaim on its website, “yet Idaho is dead last of 50 states in funding for K-12 education.” This claim is dubious, as we shall see. There are other fundamental things to think through first.


A fact about teachers. An engineer works 48 weeks a year, at least, so does a restaurant manager and an auto mechanic. Teachers are obliged to work nine months a year. They have more than a couple of months off in summer. They get two weeks off around Christmas. A week off for spring break. How much are the three months off worth? Estimates vary, but in purely economic terms they are worth 25% of the teacher’s salary.

Therefore, teachers should earn about 75% of what other professionals earn. Teachers complain about this “teacher pay gap,” but it is just. In fact, Idaho teachers earn three-quarters of what other college-educated professionals earn, according to the National Education Association (see chart), because teachers work only three-quarters of the year. Their pay is exactly where it should be. Never forget that this time off is part of the package of being a teacher.


Idaho teachers, though they only work nine-months a year, earn more than a living wage for our area. They have very generous health care packages, not included in their salary numbers. They participate in PERSI, Idaho's pension system. Idaho teachers earn nearly $52,000 per year on average, whereas the Idaho living wage is less than $50,000 (see the National Education Association chart). In addition, they often get paid stipends for summer work and seminars. A living wage and three months off from work--including every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Spring break. Nurses would die for such a schedule. Yet Idaho teachers complain about being “underpaid” and "overworked." We can appreciate our kids' teachers without believing every thing they say about their jobs.


It is not at all clear how the NEA even came up with its numbers on "per student spending," as Anna Miller has shown. It even seems that the NEA's numbers are wholly fake. The number “per student spending” does not take into account the fact that other areas are more expensive to live. A dollar still goes further in Idaho than it does in the average state. Boise may be pretty expensive, but the rest of the state is mostly very reasonable to live in. And Boise is still on average cheaper on everything except for housing.


Regular folks want to like teachers. People even have convinced themselves that teachers are the real heroes, not people who put their lives on the line for the public. Watch this comedy sketch from the late, great Norm McDonald.



Teachers are no better and no worse than other people. No better and no worse. They are sill widely flattered, perhaps since parents appreciate what teachers do. Teachers score on average well below the average on the SAT, though they have the highest average grades of any major on U.S. campuses. As one 2007 study found, education majors enjoyed a grade point average .5-.8 grade points higher than students in other majors.


Perhaps receiving a fake education prepares teachers to give a fake education. Who knows? However that is, teachers are not underpaid, and they are not underpaid relative to their merits. The funding levels for teacher salaries are just fine.


* Chart is drawn from NEA website.


See also

Reason # 1 to Oppose Reclaim Idaho’s Initiative: More Spending Does NOT Make for Better Education

Reason # 2 to Oppose Reclaim Idaho’s Initiative: School Districts are Flush with Unspent Cash


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