Unexpectedly Intriguing!
March 30, 2011

Mark Perry put up the public vs private school teacher income data for 2007-08 in a table format. We took that data and put it into graphical form, then added the median income data for full-time, year-round workers from the U.S. Census just to compare. The results are below:

U.S. Public vs Private Full-Time Teachers Average Incomes, 2007-08

Feel free to use the tool below (originally featured here) to convert the "teacher pay" into its equivalent "full-time, year round" value! We've set it up with the default value for an average public school teacher with 5 to 9 years of experience:

Labor Data for Teachers
Input Data Values
Annual Pay [$USD]
Number of School Days per Year
Classroom Hours Worked per School Day
Additional Hours Worked per School Day
Labor Data for Other Occupations
Number of Work Days per Year
Hours Worked per Day


Work Hour and Equivalent Pay Comparison
Calculated Results Values
Average Daily Hours for Teachers
Annual Hours Worked for Teachers
Annual Hours Worked for Other Workers
Equivalent Annual Salary for Teachers

Now, keep in mind that doesn't take into account the average value of the benefits earned by any of these parties! Politifact reports the following for public school teachers in the state of Wisconsin:

The latest figures available are for 2009-2010, according to a state Department of Public Instruction spokesman. Public school teachers in Wisconsin earned an average of $49,816 in salary plus $25,325 in benefits for a total of $75,141.

We see in our chart above that a public school teacher with 5 to 9 years of experience made $49,120 during the 2007-08 school year, which is 98.6% of what the average Wisconsin public school teacher made in the 2009-10 school year, so the figures for benefits and total compensation for teachers nationwide should be nearly equal, assuming Wisconsin is nearly average.

By contrast, the average benefits earned by full-time, year-round employees in private industries in the United States in 2008 is $9,881 (the difference between an average total compensation of $62,899 and an average annual salary or wage of $51,187). For private sector employees in the Education Services industry, the average benefits earned is $7,271 (the difference between an average total compensation of $46,397 and an average annual salary or wage of $39,126).

Overall, these figures track very well with the data shown in the chart for teachers with 5 to 9 years of experience. As such, we can project that the total compensation for an average private school teacher will add up to roughly $45,381, while an average public school teacher receives annual compensation worth $74,445. That's 164% of what a similarly experienced private school teacher doing the same job would earn.

It would then appear that public school teaching is quite the racket, as public school teachers get paid a very large premium to teach, even though they don't perform any better than private school teachers do in educating American children.

Data Sources

U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Digest of Education Statistics. Table 75. Average salaries for full-time teachers in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected characteristics: 2007-08.

U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Survey (CPS). Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement. PINC-01. Selected Characteristics of People 15 Years Old and Over by Total Money Income in 2008, Work Experience in 2008, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Sex.

U.S. Census Bureau. Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2011. Table 642. Annual Total Compensation and Wages and Salary Accruals Per Full-Time Equivalent Employee by Industry: 2000 to 2008. Accessed 29 March 2011.

Politifact. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul Says the Average Public School Teacher in Wisconsin Makes $89,000 in Salary and Benefits. Accessed 29 March 2011.

U.S. Department of Education. National Assessment of Education Progress. The Nation's Report Card: Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling. July 2006.

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