TeacherPortal is a website for people who are interested in becoming a teacher and for teachers who are eager to learn how to practice their profession more successfully. It has no ax to grind on any controversial matter of education policy. In fact, the business success of this enterprise depends upon its ability to sell its services to large numbers teachers and would-be teachers with very diverse experiences and viewpoints.
One important service offered by TeacherPortal is the Salary Comfort Index (SCI). This ranks the 50 states by first examining their “average [teacher] salaries (both starting and overall) and compar[ing] that to the cost of living.” The #1 rated state according to this metric is the “friendliest to teachers — from a salary perspective.”
A quick perusal of the SCI rankings for the 50 state suffices to show that, contrary to the frequent claims of Big Labor propagandists, there is no positive correlation whatsoever between the permissibility of forced union dues and fees in a state and higher salaries for teachers, once interstate differences for cost of living are taken into account.
The salary data cited by the SCI are for 2011. As of that year, 22 states had Right to Work laws on the books prohibiting the termination of employees for refusal to pay union dues or fees. Among the 24 top-ranking states according to the SCI, 11 have had Right to Work laws on the books for at least a decade, 11 have never had a Right to Work law, and two (Michigan and Indiana) have switched from forced-unionism to Right to Work since the beginning of last year. Because of their recent transitions, Michigan and Indiana are excluded from the rest of this analysis.
Union bigwigs often suggest that teachers shouldn’t mind losing their right to choose as individuals whether or not the union acting as their monopoly-bargaining agent deserves their financial support, because they get paid more in Big Labor-controlled states. The SCI shows this simply isn’t so. On average, teachers appear to derive no salary benefit whatsoever from losing their freedom, with regional cost-of-living differences taken into consideration.
And the “deal” offered teachers and prospective teachers turns out to be worse yet when the long-term public-education job markets of forced-unionism and Right to Work states are factored into the equation. The 11 highest-ranking forced-unionism states according to the SCI (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin) experienced an aggregate decline of nearly 850,000, or 5.2%, in their population of K-12 school-aged children (that is, five to 17-year-olds) from 2000 to 2011. Over the same period, the 11 highest-ranking Right to Work states (Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming) saw an overall increase of nearly 1.2 million, or 10.0%, in their K-12 school-aged population.
For a prospective teacher, a Right to Work state that offers a growing number of schoolchildren as well as a competitive salary is a much more attractive place to seek a job than a forced-unionism state that offers a similar cost of living-adjusted salary, but has a declining number of schoolchildren. The important factor of school-aged population trends is one TeacherPortal should consider featuring on its website.