Who says Oregon pays public school teachers more than other states? The National Education Association, that’s who!

By Steve Buckstein

As Oregon legislators wrestle with how much money to spend on public education, advocates claim that we spend too little compared to other states. They demand that legislators spend more, and raise taxes to do it. But, according to the nation’s largest teachers union, the reality is quite different.

As I noted recently, in its Rankings & Estimates report for 2016 and 2017, the National Education Association says that Oregon spends more per student than 33 other states: $13,320 per Average Daily Attendee versus $12,572 nationally.

Another interesting finding in the NEA report is how much Oregon pays its public school teachers. In 2015-16 it shows the average teacher salary in the country was $58,343, compared to $60,459 here in Oregon. We spend three percent more on teacher salaries than the national average.*

But, the report also shows that our per capita personal income is nine percent less than the national average: $48,783 versus $43,783.

So, while we pay our teachers three percent more, we do that out of incomes that are nine percent less than the average American. Add those two numbers together, and it’s clear that based on our ability to pay we compensate Oregon teachers very well.

All this data add weight to the argument that we don’t need new taxes to better fund public education. We fund it very well already.

*“Where applicable, ‘average teacher salary’ includes the contract amount plus 6 percent for the employer portion of retirement contributions.” Page 146 of the NEA report.

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and Founder of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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  • Sara

    This commentary assumes that since we pay more than average that teachers here are compensated “very well.” Or, 2+2= 22. Understanding that tax dollars are limited as they are, and you can’t get blood from a turnip, no teacher any where in this nation is compensated very well for the effort, energy and time they must put in to provide quality instruction. It is simply the limitation of education funding. Don’t confuse the two.

    • Oregon Engineer

      did you read the study? So the high quality of oregon teachers and instruction are the explanation for the dismal graduation rate in Oregon? and they do not rank all that high in academic placement. or is it a lack of adequate pay. not to mention a teacher has to do something really horrible like sex with minors to get fired, otherwise they are guaranteed a job for life. as far as I am concerned the taxpayer is not getting a very good return. and in the private sector poor performance or poor quality products leads to loss of sails. the public school system is protected form such.

  • Myke

    I teach at a charter school. We don’t make near that much. Maybe if you figured in the over compensated administrators.

    • April A Davis

      How much should a teacher be paid? The average teacher is getting $37.79 an hour. They get 12 weeks off every year. Then if they want they can get a job over the summer, I have known teachers to do that regularly. Then add the pension that they do not pay into and are guaranteed. Oh, and the premium health care. The Oregonian just did a story about teacher salaries in the state. Hillsboro pays their teachers at the high end including all the benefits $120,000. Everyone in the public sector gets compensated too much. And have you ever tried to get an appointment to with a public agency to do things that are require of you. The normal person needs to take time off to do it. I thought the public sector were public servants or at least the want to think so. Not so we serve them by paying them too much for too little.

  • Bob Clark

    Teachers generally do work hard I find but everybody else also generally works hard. This data confirms my own review of employee costs for the Portland Public Schools; but I also found where the real expense relative other sectors and states is in the gold plated like health care and retirement plans, Oregon public employees in general and teachers enjoy. If I recall correctly the value of pension and health care benefits adds enough to make the average total compensation for a Portland Public School teacher in excess of $100k per year. Many City, federal and Portland area government jobs have a total compensation cost in excess of six figures.
    And this is just too generous. As the real true test is if you were to freeze salaries and benefits or even reduce them significantly, I think most public employees would still stay in their positions and not jump to other sectors. And why would they given you’ve got a very high degree of job security unless you do something perverted or against cultural taboos.

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