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Report finds Oregon teachers are underpaid

News Release
September 18, 2018

Teachers in Oregon earn significantly less than similar workers in the private sector, even after taking into account benefits such as retirement and health care, according to a report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

“Oregon teachers deserve a raise,” said OCPP policy analyst Daniel Hauser. “Few professions are more vital to the well-being of children and communities than teachers, and yet Oregon is not compensating them adequately.”

Public-school teachers in Oregon earn 22 percent less than workers in the private sector with similar levels of education and experience, according to the Center. To account for the fact that teachers generally are not paid to work during the summers, the report compared how much teachers and private-sector workers earn in an average week’s worth of work, not annually.

The compensation of teachers still lagged behind that of comparable workers by about 9 percent after factoring in benefits, which tend to be more generous for public-sector workers, the report found.

This figure, Hauser explained, is conservative. Due to data constraints, the Center’s analysis allocated to current teachers the full cost of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) and all other benefits for both past and current teachers, to produce an average per-teacher cost to the school district.

“Newer teachers likely suffer from a larger compensation gap,” said Hauser. “That does not bode well for Oregon’s ability to continue attracting and retaining talented teachers.”

The report noted that high-quality teachers are one of the most important factors in student achievement. Adequate compensation, the Center said, is crucial to recruit and retain the very best teachers.

Cutting PERS, as some policymakers have proposed, could make the compensation of teachers fall even further behind, according to the report. The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that cuts to PERS can only be made on a going forward basis, so cuts to retirement benefits would fall entirely on current teachers.

The under-compensation of Oregon teachers is consistent with findings in national studies and, to some extent, continued discrimination on the basis of gender, the report said. “Teachers are overwhelmingly women, and the research has shown that female-dominated professions pay less,” Hauser said.

“Oregon children deserve a quality education, and getting there requires increasing the compensation of teachers,” said Hauser.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a non-partisan, non-profit institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.