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Aunt Becky and the ‘Underpaid Teachers’ Myth

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According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) — a liberal think tank affiliated with teachers’ unions — public-school teachers earn, on average, 21.4 percent less than private-sector workers in other fields who have similar educational and demographic characteristics. According to EPI, by offering higher pay, public schools could attract and retain better teachers, leading to better test scores, higher graduation rates, and better jobs for the future. It’s a compelling argument, at least to the news media, who echo it in their coverage.

But if all that is true, why do private schools, even elite ones, pay teachers so little?

There’s plenty of money out there. As we have recently seen, private-school parents will spend outrageous sums to help their kids get ahead. Consider Full House actress Lori Loughlin, whose two daughters attended Marymount, an all-girls Catholic high school in Los Angeles that charges annual tuition of $37,000. As if to cement the point that money was no object when it came to her daughters’ education, Ms. Loughlin is currently under federal indictment for paying a $500,000 bribe to University of Southern California officials to admit her daughters, based on the fiction that they were collegiate-level rowers. Now Ms. Loughlin — like fellow actress Felicity Huffman and dozens of others indicted on similar charges — faces jail time.

But one thing private schools don’t throw money at is teacher salaries. The school that Loughlin’s daughters attended pays its teachers around $53,500 per year, 33 percent less than the $80,000 median annual salary of Los Angeles public-school teachers. (The EPI study is based on weekly wages, calculated in the case of teachers over the length of the school year rather than the entire calendar year.):snip:

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