One of the more enduring education-policy myths is that public-school teachers are “underpaid” on average, and therefore that raising teacher pay across the board would improve student achievement. The latest exercise in mythmaking is a Time article titled, “Teachers Make Less Than Peers in Almost Any Other Job,” which draws on an international survey of teacher pay published by the OECD. The main point of the article is that teachers receive lower salaries than other workers with the same level of education. Therefore, teachers must be underpaid.
There are several problems with that reasoning. First, two people do not have the same skills just because they spend the same number of years in college or graduate school. Consider that architects earn more money than other workers with the same level of education. Does that mean architects are “overpaid”? Fields of study matter, and the education degree — held by roughly half of teachers — is considered one of the least rigorous. Equating it to a degree in, say, computer science makes for a misleading comparison.