A report by a conservative Wisconsin think tank finds that salaries for teachers vary widely from city to city across the country, but don’t seem to have much bearing on how well students perform.
The MacIver Institute primarily focuses on state issues, but decided to take a nationwide look at teacher compensation to coincide with the opening of the new school year.
The organization looked at the median teacher pay in sixty different U.S. metro areas, and then also corrected salary figures for an area’s relative cost of living. After adjustments, the highest-paid teachers turned out to be is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the median teacher takes home an adjusted $73,078 per year. The lowest-paid teachers were in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the high cost of living eats away at paychecks and leads to an adjusted median salary of only $32,312.
Cost of living is an important adjustment to make and results in some major shifts in city rankings. The most significant example is New York City, where a median salary of $73,000 evaporates to a scant $33,152 when the city’s sky-high housing prices come into play.
While teacher salaries could vary widely, MacIver found that there was no connection between teacher salaries and the performance of students on national NAEP tests, one of the only means by which students can be compared state to state. Indeed, some of the highest-paying cities had the worst test results.
“Milwaukee has some of the biggest problems with achievement in the country,” MacIver director of communications Nick Novak told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Similar situations are observable in cities such as Detroit and Cleveland, Ohio, both of which rank in the top five for adjusted teacher pay among the cities measured, and both of which consistently test very poorly.
The report had a limited scope and did not account for non-salary benefits or a host of other teacher-related factors that could influence student achievement. However, Novak said, the inability to identify any apparent connection between teacher pay and student test scores indicates that higher teacher pay is, at best, an unlikely solution to the problem of faltering schools.
“Politicians can’t say ‘Well, we’ll pay teachers more’ and hope things will get better,” Novak said.