The Money Is There — So Why Aren’t Teachers Getting More Of It?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news for the last couple of days, you probably noticed some education statistics that have been making the news. It seems that the US spends more per pupil than anyone else, but we’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to scores.

That’s no big surprise to conservatives who’ve been pointing out that our schools are not under funded, they’re under performing. I’ve also pointed out that I don’t think our teachers are underpaid. This study also seems to bear that out when you look deeper into the numbers. Only one country significantly outspends us (and the rest of the world) on teacher salaries and that’s South Korea.

Let me show you how things break down with a chart. Unfortunately, they don’t have a median teacher salary breakdown, so I had to use the “Primary education at the top of the scale with minimal training” numbers. While of course, they’re not exactly the same thing as median salary numbers, they do give us a pretty good way to compare teacher salaries across multiple nations.

Now you’ll notice that Switzerland, Poland, Japan & South Korea outspend us on teacher salaries. But, as I alluded to earlier, only South Korea significantly outspends us on teacher salaries.

Which brings up an interesting point; how is it that we’re spending more per pupil than any other nation, far more than most of them in fact, and yet our teacher’s salaries don’t seem to reflect that spending?

For example, how is it that we can outspend South Korea by almost $6000 per pupil and yet they can pay out an extra $18,000 per teacher? How can Japan be spending $3500 less per pupil than us and be paying their teachers more? What about Poland? We outspend them by more than $8000 per pupil and they still pay their teachers more than we do. I also find it fascinating that countries like Japan, South Korea, Finland, & Britain, who we outspend by anywhere from $3000 to almost $6000 per pupil, can consistently put up higher test scores than our students do in math, science, & reading.

Where is all this money that we’re spending actually going to? Why aren’t we getting the bang for our bucks that other countries are? What changes are we going to make to get our scores up? These are the questions we should be asking instead of, “How much more are we going to spend on education?” We’re spending plenty of money on education, we’re just not getting the performance we’re paying for.

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