teachers’ salaries–part 2

My previous post may have left the question that everyone is debating unanswered. That question is whether teachers should be paid more. Asking that question is kind of like asking whether the price of gas should be lower. Both are primarily based on supply and demand. So, based on current market forces, teachers’ salaries and the price of gas are both exactly where they should be.

So, when people ask whether teachers should be paid more, the best response is usually, “Based on what?” When teachers argue that they should be paid more, they often point to the importance of their contribution to society. In other words, many teachers would say, “Based on the fact that educating future generations is critical to America’s success in terms of economics, political engagement and quality of life, teachers should be paid more.” Another person might respond, “Based on a comparison between the compensation of teachers and professionals in fields with similar degree requirements, teachers are currently overpaid.”

Even though those statements yield different conclusions, both might be correct (proving the second one would require conducting a pretty major study, which I will not pretend to have conducted, but the claim is at least plausible). The critical difference between the two statements is the words that immediately follow “based on.”

However, teachers’ salaries are not based on either one of the above conceptions of fairness. They are based on supply and demand. So, the question of whether teachers should be paid more cannot be answered in any meaningful way. We can answer questions that would have secondary effects on teachers’ pay. For example, one could argue that America should significantly increase the standards for teachers to obtain licenses. A positive result of that reform, that person might argue, would be to drive up teachers’ salaries. Another person might respond that the result of that reform would be to saddle teachers with more college debt, so the reform would not be good for teachers. A third person might say that what really matters is the impact of that reform on students, not teachers. These would all be reasonable arguments that could be weighed against one another so that we, as a country, could come to the best conclusion.

The point of the original post was that asking whether teachers should be paid more has no real answer. If fairness is the standard, different people, applying different standards of fairness, can reasonably come to different conclusions. However, teachers’ salaries are not based on fairness.

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One Response to teachers’ salaries–part 2

  1. villagebear says:

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