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How Media Outlets Misinform the Public about Teacher Pay

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The media’s narrative doesn’t tell the complete story.
by James D. Agresti           @fee.org

During recent teacher walkouts in Oklahoma that captured national attention, many major media outlets reported misleadingly small figures for teacher pay. By failing to reveal all aspects of teacher compensation, these outlets hid the true costs to taxpayers—which now amount to an annualized average of about $120,000 for every public school teacher in the United States.

How Much Do Teachers Really Make?

CNN, for example, published an article by Bill Weir claiming that in “most districts” of Oklahoma, “a teacher with a doctorate degree and 30 years’ experience will never make more than $50,000 a year.” That claim, which CNN neglected to document, is at odds with comprehensive data from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor. This information for Oklahoma and the entire nation follows.

For the 2016–17 school year, the Department of Education reports that the average salary of full-time public school teachers was $58,950 in the U.S. and $45,245 in Oklahoma. Those figures generally exclude benefits, such as health insurance, paid leave, and pensions. These are typically much higher for government employees than private sector workers.

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