Educator Droning

As I’ve noted before, an incessant, plaintive drone comes from educators at both the k-12 and college levels about chronic underfunding of education and ever-falling financial skies. It’s a drone the media, all too often, is happy to amplify, repeating it constantly and almost never muting it with contradictory evidence.

In k-12 education, the most discomfiting part of this din is the mantra that public school teachers are woefully compensated. In a report released last month I present considerable evidence that this just isn’t true. On their teaching salaries alone – in other words, not including extra money they can and often do earn with their significant time off – first-year teachers in sixteen diverse districts could afford everything they need to lead comfortable lives…and then some. And salary is just a part of teacher compensation. As RiShawn Biddle lays out in a new American Spectator piece, the non-salary compensation that public school teachers get might be the real prize, including generous – and massively taxpayer-subsidized – health and retirement benefits. Check out Biddle’s story and my analysis, and you’ll get a good sense for the reality of k-12 educators’ compensation.

In higher education, there is no bigger myth than that government support for the ivory tower has been gutted, especially when in comes to public colleges and universities. (Just yesterday, a San Antonio Express-Times article stated that public colleges and universities have had to get “used to starvation.”) If you look at inflation-adjusted state and local funding per-pupil – as I have highlighted before – the trend is essentially flat; there has been no “starvation.” Indeed, digging deeper reveals significant evidence that far from starving, higher education is actually suffering from obesity.

So what is the obesity evidence? Unfortunately, as with the mention of my teacher salary report, I am writing this post as much to plug as to inform, so I’m not going to lay out all of the evidence right now. (Though, honestly, it’s not that hard to find.) To get all the fatty details, you’ll either have to come to Cato this Wednesday for our forum “Does Public Higher Ed Funding Drive Economic Growth?” or watch the proceedings via streaming video. In other words, if you want to cut through the tedious droning of public higher educators, you’ll have to put up with some quick and insightful presentations by forum panelists. It should be worth the effort.