Are Public School Teachers Underpaid?

Last year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated that America’s public school teachers are “desperately underpaid” and called for a doubling of teachers’ wages. A similar theme is touted frequently by politicians, media, and education unions.

But teacher compensation is much more than salary. The plush benefits given to public school employees are a large part of teacher compensation, especially pension benefits that are several times more valuable than typical private-sector retirement plans.

Teachers also benefit from retiree health coverage—rare in the private sector—and strong job security. Taking benefits into account, public school teachers often end up with a more desirable compensation package than those with similar skill levels in the private sector.

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