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Heritage Foundation Report Says Public School Teachers Are Overpaid

Aired November 5, 2011 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is the latest, greatest epidemic American schools, cheating, the chemistry tests, the SATs, even teachers cheating? But who is to blame? And how widespread is it really?

Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

Plus, don't cheat yourself. You need to start saving now for the holidays. I will show you five ways to save a thousand bucks in seven weeks.

From Kim Kardashian to "The Bachelor" to "The Millionaire Matchmaker," come on, is reality TV destroying the institution of marriage?

But we begin with teacher pay and a new study that has teachers fuming. A report by two conservative think tanks finds that American teachers are not under paid, as conventional wisdom holds. They may be overpaid.

The Heritage Foundation's Jason Richwine is a co-author of the report. It is called "Assessing The Compensation of Public School Teachers".

Jason, your report states total compensation for public school teachers is 52 percent above fair market levels. And when people switch from nonteaching jobs to become teachers, their wages go up 9 percent . You determined, overall, that teachers are not underpaid. Explain.

JASON RICHWINE, SR. POLICY ANALYST, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, I want to say the main motivation for the report is this widespread perception. I would actually call it a misperception that teachers are underpaid. I mean we hear it from politicians, layman, Republicans, Democrats. What we find it is just not true. As you mentioned, teachers who teach right now in public schools make about 50 percent more, as teachers, than they would in the private sector.

And specifically, we don't think salaries are excessive. They are about right. But the fringe benefits are really what push teachers over the edge.

ROMANS: Fringe benefits, like what?

RICHWINE: Pensions, for example, government pensions are highly valuable benefits. If you look at the end benefit, what people collect in retirement, ends being three or four times more than what you can get with a 401(k).

ROMANS: OK. We will Tweet a link, by the way, to the entire report. So the teachers who are fuming right now can look at the whole report, and see your methodology.

I want to bring in Randi Weingarten into the discussion. She is the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Randi, you say if teaching were such a lucrative profession, why would you have such high attrition in the first few years of teaching. You completely disagree with his analysis?

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRES., AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Well, you know, it is-this is what I thought when I read the analysis: I remember back to you know, kids these days, they have a great expression, "Are you kidding, me?"

And that is kind of what I thought about it. But because the bottom line is this, if teaching was such a great profession, people would be banging down the doors to get in there and people wouldn't be leaving. In fact, I would like Jason to spend one minute with me in one of the schools I taught in, or schools all around the country, because the bottom line is it is the only profession I know where people actually subsidize the work they do.

If you look at the statistics, the statistics of similarly situated people, we are paid 14 percent less than those with the same education. What's worse is this, we want the best teachers to come into the profession. We want people to have great working conditions. We want do all that because we want kids to get a decent education. And so we should be doing what they do in Singapore and South Korea and Finland.

ROMANS: And that is --

WEINGARTEN: And that is-

ROMANS: Paying teachers more.

WEINGARTEN: Paying teachers more.

ROMANS: Also elevating the profession.

WEINGARTEN: Elevating the profession, focus on performance, getting teachers the tools and conditions they need; and really make it into a high-status, high-performance profession. The piece about the study that I -- I just couldn't believe more than anything else, was there was this premium for job security, when right now, since 2008, almost 300,000 teachers have been laid off.

ROMANS: You know, Randi said she would like to you spend one hour with her, or one minute at a school, but your wife was a public school teacher?

RICHWINE: That is correct. And I think shifting debate to the question of whether teaching is difficult is not the appropriate way to go here.

Of course, teaching is difficult. As I said, my wife is a public school teacher. I see how hard she works. But here is the point, lots of people work hard who are not teachers. The real question is what would teachers be paid if they worked in the private sector? The answer is considerably less. This is not just some theoretical idea. We can actually watch what happens to wages of teachers when they move to a different a different profession. They get less when they move to a different profession, not more, which is completely at odds with the idea that current public school teachers are constantly tempted by the much better salaries they can get from the private sector. It is just not true.

ROMANS: When I report on science, technology, engineering, math, the STEM fields, Jason, what I hear a lot from folks who are interested in maybe going into schools, is that, you know, it's -- it is a big hit to take-to leave a at IBM, and be a public school teacher. A hit in salary and it's hard. I mean, teaching is a hard job.

So tell me, how do we -- maybe this is where we can try to find common ground here. Should we elevate the profession of teaching? The expectations of the profession, and pay for performance profession, and raise the pay of teachers? And would that satisfy what we need in education?

Jason, you first?

RICHWINE: Believe me, I want the best teachers to be paid a lot, absolutely. But you need flexibility for that. And before we install a good flexible pay program, we have to understand the current situation, which is that most teachers are, in fact, overpaid.

Right now, we don't have any flexibility. Union contracts often will stipulate that gym teachers have to make the same as math teachers, that's the reason why you have trouble with STEM graduates. Recruiting elementary school teachers is easy. You often get 100 applicants per position. So, we need flexibility for sure.

ROMANS: Randi, that is where you come in. When you hear reformer talk about union contracts and that unions stand in the way of paying for performance and raising, you know, elevating the profession. Obviously, I know you disagree that, but you hear it a lot.

WEINGARTEN: So, this is -- let's talk about debunking myths. Number one, in this country, in this country, half the districts don't have union contracts. The states that do the best are the most unionized, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota.

In the world? The countries that do the best are the most unionized. So this notion is just trying to blame -- blame people. What really disturbs me about Jason's report, and it does actually give think tanks a bad name, is that he just said there is no premium for hard work. But yet, they figured out this bogus premium for job security of 8.6 percent . So if there should be a premium for these kinds of things, even though 300,000 teachers have been laid off since 2008, why shouldn't there be a premium for hard work? ROMANS: Thank you for coming on. I'm going to Tweet the report, so that a lot of people can read all the nuts and bolts and more about it.

Randi, as always, thank you for joining us.

WEINGARTEN: Thank you.

ROMANS: We will continue the discussion. Both of you, please come back.

On Long Island, New York a ring of students paid the same kid to take their SATs for them. And you know what, he did he pretty well. Now everyone's busted. Cheating, rampant, or is it? Who's to blame, the kids, the schools? How about you, the parents? We will take a look next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear about John Taylor? They voted him out of student council representative, because he was caught cheating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who, John Taylor? Voted out of student council?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Taylor, cheating?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, a cheat, John? John, what have you done?


ROMANS: One of our producers, Christina, stumbled on this clip from a 1952 social ethics education film. We just wanted to share it with you. Cheating, a problem back then. 60 years later, has it changed? What is it different today? Is the social stigma, or maybe the lack of it, attached to cheating? Is it a growing problem? And if it is, who is to blame in the students? Parents? Schools? The pressure we put on our kids?

Let's bring in Pedro Noguera, education professor at NYU; and Don McCabe, he heads The Center for Academic Integrity. And he has been studying academic dishonesty for 20 years.

Gentlemen, welcome to the program.

You know, first off, what comes to mind is two recent cases, one of school districts, where teachers are cheating, so they can live up to federal standards for their schools and progress. And this other case on Long Island, where you have got these kids who are hiring someone else to take their SAT scores.

Don, cheating, more rampant today than it was before?

DON McCABE, CENTER FOR ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Somewhat, and primarily due to the Internet. And also due to the fact that students just don't consider it a big deal anymore. In the older day, you know, if you go back to when I was in school, for example, if somebody cheated, they were kind of looked down on by their classmates. That is no longer the case.

ROMANS: Yes, like that film clip. It is interesting. Look at this survey, Don, out of 43,000 high school students polled, 59 percent admitted to cheating on a test last year-59 percent. And 34 percent cheated more than twice. One in three students used the Internet to plagiarize assignments.

MCCABE: Right.

ROMANS: So this survey would back up what you say?

MCCABE: As a matter of fact, the surveys I have done of comparable population, I get slightly higher numbers.

ROMANS: Really?

OK, So Pedro, there is a growing sentiment that maybe only the naive don't cheat. If that many people are cheating, I mean, the culture must be, well, I can do it, too.

PEDRO NOGUERA, STEINHARDT SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, I think that is the context we have to place it in. Is that it is not just students, who are cheating, as you pointed out, educators, teacher, principals, because of the pressure, the high stakes. Students want the competitive advantage when they apply to college, they want the highest test scores possible.

What they need to know is that if they caught cheating in colleges, most colleges will expel them, immediately for even the first offense. But I also think had the context is that students are seeing cheating of various kinds going on in other sectors of society. From the financial sector to the banking sector and I think it keeps raising the question of-well, who's right? Are you wrong if you get caught, or is this simply the way things are done?

ROMANS: Would you agree?

NOGUERA: So I think we have an ethical challenge here.

ROMANS: So it is a degradation of integrity across society?

NOGUERA: Absolutely.

ROMANS: And that is reflected in what students are doing and what's happening in schools? MCCABE: They see this example every place they look. Every time they pick up the newspaper, they are reading about a story, somebody in politics, or entertainment, and doing it and getting away with it.

ROMANS: OK, so smart schools should be using technology, I would think, to try to sniff this out. Because students are using technology to cheat more, but there are ways that schools can try to fight back. Do you thank you technology is a problem here-or it is exacerbating it?

NOGUERA: Well, I think it is, especially with the plagiarism issue, that Don spoke to. Which I think is really pervasive and continues to be an issue.

ROMANS: You think it is pervasive?

NOGUERA: I think it is. Because it is so easy now to download material from the Internet. It is very hard to know where it comes from. Kids are very good at cutting and pasting, so, hard to know --

ROMANS: Well, you used to do our research in books, right? Go to the library, you would have the book, and then you would condense the information and then write your paper. Now, you are cutting and pasting all of this stuff from all over the place, not sourcing it, it is very easy to cobble together a paper that way.

NOGUERA: It is. Unfortunately. I think it makes the challenge for professors to come up with ways to counter it. And I think there are ways to counter it, not completely, but things we can do. I think the more important issue, is how do we address the ethical issues? And that is where I think our whole country, but especially in education, needs to take on more of a role and really talk about the ethical responsibilities.

ROMANS: So, that is your job. You have been doing this 20 years. How do you address the ethics of it?

MCCABE: Well, I have actually been tracking what students are doing more than addressing the ethics of it. I have looked at the ethics of it. And I disagree a little bit with Pedro in the sense-or, perhaps you-technology is one answer you could use, but I don't think it is an answer students are comfortable with, in the long run. We can stop them from cheating perhaps now, but when they get out from under this surveillance if you will, they are going to cheat.

I think we now need to go back and re-instill a sense of integrity in students. It is going to take a lot longer, it will be a lot more difficult, but in the long run I think we will be much better off.

ROMANS: I want to ask you guys about that SAT issue. You know, the SATs play such a big role in the student's academic future. Are we putting so much pressure on a single test? Is that almost encouraging the cheating? The recent cheating scandal on Long Island almost seems-and some parents' mind, inevitable. This is what the College Board told us: No one despises cheat more than the College Board. The College Board and our test administration and security vendor, ETS, are committed to providing the most rigorous test security available while not discouraging a single deserving student from pursuing his or her college aspiration."

Almost have to be like cops when giving these tests, because if you are lacking the fundamental integrity in the first place, kids will try to find a way to cheat.

NOGUERA: Yes, I don't blame the SAT for that, or the College Board. I do think the problem is bigger than that. I think Don is right. We have got to really kind of address it from an ethical standpoint much more than we do right now and -- but it can't just be in education, those go well beyond education.

ROMANS: Maybe we can do PSAs of that kid John Taylor-getting, John Taylor, John Taylor, he's a cheat.

There you go. Pedro Noguera, Don McCabe, thanks, guys. Nice to meet you. And thanks for coming on board today.

Have you heard the one about the reality star, the NBA player around the 72-day marriage that ended in public divorce? It is not just Kim Kardashian. From "The Bachelor" to "Bridezilla" to "The Millionaire Matchmaker", come on, is reality TV destroying what is left of the institution of marriage? We are all over it, next.


ROMANS: In the past 72 days there have been five GOP debates, the start of Occupy Wall Street, and the loss of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, but the one headline everyone is talking about today, the marriage and now divorce of Kim Kardashian and Chris Humphries, yes, over 72 days.

Dr. Robbie Ludwig is a psychotherapist and married almost 20 years.

Robbie, while Kim says she married for love and not money, have the relationships of others on TV trivialized the institution of marriage, on behalf of all of us out there who have been married forever?

LUDWIG: I don't think so. I don't think we can use Kim's marriage as an example of how people are experiencing marriage. But I do think the take away here is we have somebody who married the wrong person for the wrong reasons. And it doesn't matter how beautiful your dress is, or how lovely the wedding is, or how many guests you have. Marriage doesn't -- getting married doesn't make it right, doesn't make it last, and I think that's the important take away here.

ROMANS: And I think this is an alternative reality.

LUDWIG: Right.

ROMANS: Alternative reality TV, because this isn't what it's like for most people. But that is why everyone loves to watch it. Chuck Nice is a comedian and he can be seen on TruTV's "World's Dumbest" He has been married for 14 years!

Yes, I have. ROMANS: Was it all-altogether we have like 44 years of marriage here, so, wow, we should be-

LUDWIG: We have a lot of experience.


NICE: Exactly, right.

ROMANS: Was it all for money? Was it all for cameras? Was there any love in there? What was that all about?

NICE: There was love involved. There was the love of money and cameras. That is what happened there. And quite frankly, look, every time your marriage is shorter than the life of a med fly, then you know you're full of crap, OK?

LUDWIG: Clearly, this was not well thought out. When she said, listen, I got divorced on based on intuition, everybody's reaction is, hey, listen you should have thought about this before you went into the marriage.

ROMANS: Intuition comes before you get married.

LUDWIG: Exactly.

ROMANS: Not after.

NICE: I think she has confused intuition with hindsight. I don't think she knows the difference.

ROMANS: In a way it is like we are making fun of institution of marriage. It is like the whole thing makes fun of marriage. You have fewer people marrying now than ever before. People are deciding to live together, even have kids together. No one wants to see your student debt or your credit card bills, live your separate lives, and not get married. Is this the beginning of the end?

LUDWIG: I think the truth of the matter is we don't know how to be married in this country. We have the idea it's all about feeling good, it's all about confusing pleasure with happiness, they're not one and the same. We really need to get back to this idea of how do we be married. And maybe start teaching what it's about. It's not about soap operas, it's not about the movies.

NICE: Yes!

LUDWIG: It is about something completely different. Am I right?

NICE: Let me tell you, I've been married for 14 years. What she is talking about is called commitment. You're not supposed to be happy.

ROMANS: You're supposed to be happy sometimes. You're supposed to be working on being happy other times. It's not a straight line or --

NICE: Right. LUDWIG: It's also learning how to make the right choice in a partner. Who are you choosing and why? Are you choosing somebody that you like? Are you choosing somebody where you're on the same page? You know, somebody who can grow with you? These are things that take maturity now.

NICE: Now, when I say you're not supposed to be happy. Here is what I've learned in 14 years of marriage. I am happy when she is happy. Honestly.

ROMANS: That is true.

NICE: That is what I've learned.

LUDWIG: Happy wife, happy life.

NICE: There you go.

ROMANS: And happy husband, happy wife. It all goes together.

NICE: Yes.

ROMANS: I want to ask, you know, young couples getting out there, getting married, Robbie, they face different things now. Record student loan debt, they have credit card debt, they have a housing market that's terrible, a job market that's terrible. For real people, in the real reality, not the alternate reality, what's the most important thing about money for people to bring this into a marriage?

LUDWIG: I think the honest about money and have a realistic plan and educate yourself. And bring in financial planners and people who can help you out with it. Money is confusing and it brings a lot of psychological issues.

ROMANS: Do you think these shows are a bad influence for young couples?

NICE: Not really. If you're taking your cues from life from the Kardashian reality show, you've got bigger problems in life and-you shouldn't be getting married period, ever.

LUDWIG: That is probably true, but you know what, here if they are idealizing these people and modeling themselves after the people, they see, like celebrities, then that's a problem.

NICE: Yes, absolutely. Yes that is a problem, personally.

LUDWIG: And if it makes it OK, somehow.

ROMANS: Robbie Ludwig, Chuck Nice, really nice meet you. First time on the show.

NICE: Yes, a pleasure.

ROMANS: Come back. That was fun. NICE: I will.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Robbie.

Only seven weeks until Christmas and all that big credit card debt that comes with it. You can start to control your spending now. I'm going to give you five ways to save $1,000 by the holidays. Not kidding. That's next.


ROMANS: You have seven weeks until the holidays. How are you going to pay for it? It's time to start planning so you don't begin the new year with a debt hangover.

What if I told you, you could be on the way to save $1,000 by the holidays. You can, and I'm not going to tell you the old standard make your own gifts. No, no, no, this is real money.

The biggest savings comes from your house, it comes from your mortgage. Refinance if you can. Lower a 6 percent mortgage on a $200,000 home, lower it to, say, 4.2 percent , you could save $221 a month. If you can't refinance, try to repeal your property taxes. That is real money, too. So that gets you some $400, assuming you can get it done.

Ditch the gym membership. That is a big savings, too. Throw on a pair of running shoes instead. You could be saving yourself up to $120 if you cancel, or you put your gym membership on hold, until after the holidays. And some gyms let you do that.

Here is another one in how you shop for food. Don't by your groceries at the drugstore ever, no matter how convenient it is. A recent study of the basics purchased at some Boston drug stores found they cost as much as 50 percent more than at your grocery store. You could save an average of $25 a week, if you avoid buying any grocery items in a pitch at the pharmacy. Don't forget, buy in bulk, shop smart, use a discounters, you can save money on food that way.

Never use an out of network ATM, never. If you do this twice a week, you're spending more on bank fees than you do on fresh vegetables. Walk the extra block, drive the extra mile. You're going to save $50 easy by the time the holidays roll around. Look at me, it comes to almost $8 a week, on those out of network ATMs.

Are you using your technology in a smart way? Bundle your Internet, your phone and your cable. There's savings here. You could save up to $60 a month if you switch from paying for Internet, phone, cable separately and you go to a bundle plan. Shop around.

And finally, coffee addicts, make your coffee at home. You could be spending as little as $15 a month instead of $2 a day on your cup of Joe. Add it all up, you've got $1,000 in savings and a few pieces of change.

National Retail Federation says the average person is going to shell out about $700 on presents this year. So you could pocket that extra money, you know, for your savings, or to build for the future. And maybe you can't do all of these, right? Maybe you need to spend all that money at Starbucks to be efficient at work. There you go.

Let's keep this conversation going online. How are you trying to save money for the holidays? I want to know your tips. Do you think teachers make too much or too little? And who is to blame when students cheat?

We want to hear your thoughts and ideas. You can find us on Facebook, or Twitter, @CNNBottomLine. And please find me @ChristineRomans. You'll find the money questions we cover every week. You're also going to find my new book. It's called "How to Speak Money." I've written it with my friend, Ali Velshi. It's available in bookstores on Tuesday and you can order it right now on There is a Kindle version.

Back now to CNN SATURDAY MORNING for the very latest stories making news. Have a great weekend, everybody.