A study using Current Population Survey data shows that, from 1996 to 2012, elementary, middle, and high school teachers earned less than other college graduates, but the gap was smaller for public school teachers and smaller still if they had union representation; moreover, the mitigating effects are stronger for female than male teachers, so the within-gender pay gaps are much larger for male teachers.
The current school choice debate has many possible consequences, not just for students, but also for teachers. Broadly speaking, schools are either publicly or privately funded. Public schools are funded by the government through federal, state, and local taxes, and most are part of a larger school system. Elected school board members and education officials implement and oversee strict rules and procedures that public schools must follow. Private schools do not receive government money and thus have to raise their own funds. Private school officials may have more leeway to run schools as they see fit, but funders and others may play a significant administrative role.
Given the proliferation in school privatization, this article analyzes the fundamental differences between the two sectors with regard to teacher staffing and pay disparities. We employ the Current Population Survey (CPS) to document differences between teachers in the two sectors with regard to unionization density, gender and race or ethnicity, educational attainment, and relative pay gaps between public and private sector teachers and between both and other college graduates.
The debate about school privatization and the push toward both publicly and privately funded charter schools should include differences in teacher staffing and relative pay by school ownership. Staffing and pay differences across type of ownership may be due to or may influence factors such as teacher cohesion and student achievement. For example, teachers may trade off between pay and safer schools or smaller class sizes. (The pupil–teacher ratio in 2010 was 16.0 for public schools and 12.2 for private schools.)1 Or it could be that lower paid teachers desire to work at higher paying schools but competition prevents them from finding such employment.