Teacher's Pay: Merit versus Market
September 4, 2008 by Paul McKeever
The National Post published an editorial today reporting that:
[Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) president David Clegg] and his negotiators are refusing to sit down with Ontario Education officials — despite the generous salary offer made to ETFO members — until Ontario taxpayers cough up another $900-million per year so elementary schools can put more educators on the payroll (who, not coincidentally, would be additional members of the ETFO).
Pay teachers $90,000 a year. Pay them more if that’s what it takes to recruit good candidates. But pay these top salaries only to the top teachers. The abilities of educators vary. So should their paycheques.
Yes, the employer of a teacher should consider the quality of the teaching services it is buying when deciding how much to pay for said services. However, merit per se gives one no objective means of determining the correct salary for a teacher. It does not flow, from that fact that one is the best toilet scrubber or brain surgeon in Ontario, that ones correct salary is $90,000. Nor does it follow that the correct salary for Ontario’s best teachers is $90,000.
Any person’s services are worth exactly what a consumer is willing to pay for them: not a penny less or more. The teacher salaries problem is rooted in the fact that neither the providers of government-funded education (teachers) nor its consumers (most parents) are involved in determining what services will be provided in government-funded schools, how good those services will be, or what price will be paid for them. If we want all teachers to be paid what they are worth, we must eliminate education taxes and government-funded education; make dealing with unions optional for all buyers and sellers of educational services; and give parents the power to decide which teachers and schools get some of their hard-earned money.