As Teachers Salaries Rise, So Do Their Benefit Costs

Health Care And Pension Payments Outpace Growth In Salaries touches on a subject rarely covered by traditional media:

While teacher salaries have risen nearly 20 percent over the last decade (outpacing inflation, barely), their health care costs rose 27.6 percent and retirement costs exploded by 126.4 percent.

Dubbed the “Pension Pac-Man” by researcher Chad Aldeman, benefit costs for teachers eat up nearly all additional salary income.

While the average civilian employee receives $1.97 in retirement benefits per hour of work, public school districts pay retirement costs of $9.35 per hour.

And it’s not because teachers make less than professionals with similar education levels.

Even if you look at it as a percentage of their total compensation package, teacher retirement benefits eat up two and a half times as much as other workers (13.6 versus 5.2 percent)

In fact, teachers have surpassed a dubious benchmark: state and local government workers, whose benefit costs have put many a state budget, like California’s, into crisis.

These benefits cost are at historic levels, in terms of real dollars and as a percentage of teacher salaries.

That trend has continued to accelerate in recent years as pension costs continue to eat up a higher and higher share of teacher compensation.

This might be all well and good if these costs were resulting in better benefits for teachers, but there’s scant evidence this is the case.

Lost amidst the national conversation about teacher union strikes and demands is a head-on wrangling with this verifiable issue impacting teacher bottom lines. One of the great promises made to teachers are strong benefits, including good healthcare and a reliable retirement.

This promise is a large part of why teachers willingly forego career and geographic mobility, swimming upstream against our evolving labor market where workers are more mobile than ever.

Where, then, is the media investigation and outcry about the dilution of teacher benefits and resulting classroom impact instead of the sensational red herrings about charter schools and tax credits?


Written by Seth Saavedra

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