Are Teachers Overpaid?
Are teachers underpaid or overpaid? I have absolutely no idea. And, let's face it, you don't really know either. No one can. Without a market to create information, no one can possibly know how much money a teacher is worth.
Markets create information through the process of hundreds or thousands of individuals bidding for jobs. As each individual looks for a job, she or he generates information about what salary they'd love, what they'd like, what they're willing to accept, what they'll grudgingly accept, and what they won't accept under any conditions.
Markets also create information through the process of hundreds or thousands of businesses bidding for employees. As each employer looks for employees, it generates information about what salary they'd love to pay, what they'd like to pay, what they're willing to pay to get the teacher they really want, what they'll reluctantly pay if they have to, and what they won't pay under any circumstances.
This two-way flow of information allows people to quickly see how much a particular job is worth and how much a particular employee is worth. This information can't be created any other way. Only through a market.
Education, for the most part, lacks this market. Somewhere around 85% of all students attend public schools. (10% attend private schools and 5% are homeschooled.) Public schools are a government run, monopoly provider. If you are a teacher, there aren't really a lot of options about which employer you'll work for. You can, to some extent, pick which district you'll work for, but most of the districts tend to have similar benefits and pay packages. So, there's not much (any?) competition among employers, for employees.
School districts face a similar problem. The huge, vast, overwhelming number of teachers in the U.S. are unionized. Every teacher gets the exact same employment package, working under the exact same rules. There is little competition, among teachers, for the best job.
Without competition and choce, there is no information. Without information there is no knowledge. How much is a teacher worth, in salary? No one knows. Teachers have never truly competed for the top jobs and school districts have never really competed for the top teachers.
Teachers today could be vastly overpaid and in need of severe pay cuts. Or teachers today could be vastly underpaid and in need of massive raises. Until there's true competition in the labor market, we'll never know which is true.