Are teachers overpaid? A defense of teacher salaries

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Image: Pixabay/Steve Riot

There are many people who claim teachers are overpaid and enjoy too much vacation time. But what many people don't know is that Canada has one of the strongest education systems in the world. 

The OECD published a report in 2018 placing Canada in eighth place in the world in math, science and reading. We beat 76 other wealthy, industrialized countries, including Germany, Finland, Taiwan, Sweden and the United States. In reading skills, Canada came sixth place, beating Japan and South Korea. Compared to their provincial peers, 15 year-olds in Ontario scored the Canadian average or above average in reading, math and science in 2018.  

One reason why Canada scores high grades in global rankings is because good teacher salaries have attracted intelligent, hard-working professionals who fiercely compete to enter teacher's college to attain a good position in the public education sector. If you pay teachers less, you will attract less qualified and committed candidates to the profession. Free market thinkers like the Fraser Institute defend million-dollar incomes, claiming they attract highly-skilled, hard-working applicants. If that's the case, why don't they use the same line of reasoning with teachers?

Despite Canada's strong academic performance, conservatives always seem to believe teachers are overpaid, regardless of their job performance. But what is the right salary for a teacher? Where do you draw the line?

Teacher salaries in several U.S. states have fallen over the last 20 years. Teacher pay dropped by 11.7 per cent in Arizona, 11.3 per cent in Florida and 11 per cent in West Virginia from 1999 to 2018. Anyone watching their salaries get slashed by 10 per cent over 20 years is going to suffer a drop in morale. To make things worse, teachers have to spend an average of US$500 a year on classroom supplies like chalk, crayons and markers. Some teachers reported spending up to US$2,000 on supplies. US$2,000 on supplies is nearly 6 per cent of a US$35,000 per year income -- a huge expense. A survey last year found 50 per cent of American teachers are seriously considering leaving their profession, citing pay as the number one reason.

States that spend little on teacher salaries also tend to spend little on students. If you look at the 10 U.S. states with the lowest teacher pay in the country, it correlates with low spending per student. Those low-paying states spent an average of US$9,215 per pupil in 2018. Compare that to the 10 U.S. states with the highest teacher salaries, which spent an average of US$17,792 per pupil -- almost double. High teacher salaries are an investment in children's education and future.

Why then does Ontario Premier Doug Ford want to increase class sizes, introduce mandatory online learning, cut optional courses and force other changes that appear to do little to improve student academic performance? Many experts believe Ford's agenda will worsen Ontario's academic performance. This is quite the contrast from the man who promised to make sure the students "get the best education they can." Make no mistake about it, Ford's goals are not to improve student grades, but to simply cut costs and weaken public education.

This strategy could be a part of an unwritten, long-term goal to financially starve the public education sector, forcing parents to spend thousands of dollars per year enrolling their children in expensive private schools. Both Education Minister Stephen Lecce and his parliamentary assistant Sam Oosterhoff have little-to-no experience in the public-school system. Lecce attended a private Catholic school and Oosterhoff was home-schooled.

Companies invest in Canada to access a highly educated workforce. Ford's education cuts will only hinder our competitive advantage in the global economy. Ford's education system will prepare students to work in low-skill occupations. But if we continue to focus on developing a highly educated workforce, we will attract engineering, IT, scientific and other high-salary occupations. Let's hope the teachers' unions can convince the public to go with the second option.

Greg Dwulit works in the non-profit sector in the Toronto area. He has an MBA from the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics.

Image: Pixabay/Steve Riot​

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.