At $84,489, California Teachers Are Highest-Paid in America

At $84,489, California Teachers Are Highest-Paid in America

Forbes Magazine recently wrote, “It is one of the most commonly held bits of conventional wisdom in this country: that teachers are grossly underpaid.” But a new survey of W-2 data from over half of the public school systems in California found that the state’s average teacher pay and compensation was $84,489 last year.  That figure is 50% higher than the national average of teacher compensation and over three times the $27,519 average annual compensation for all Americans. 

California cities and government entities have been legend for finding ways to “skirt the public records process and conceal their actual earnings by creating misleading records,” according to a report by the Los Angeles Daily News.  But a scandal and criminal prosecutions regarding secret payments to officials in the City of Bell, including payments of $787,637 a year to the city manager, caused the courts earlier this year to mandate full annual compensation and benefit disclosure for all state and local public employees under California’s Public Records Act.

The California Policy Center, a non-partisan conservative public policy think tank, has been publishing the W-2 compensation for all state and local public employees on its Transparent California website as it becomes available. The Policy Center found that last year’s average statewide teacher compensation for the 653 of 1,058 school systems that have complied with the courts so far was $84,489. 

The Policy Center listed the highest compensated education employee so far as Montclair-Ontario Unified School District Superintendent James Hammond, who collected $492,076.92. He was closely followed by Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson at $430,121. Another 121 administrators collected more than $250,000 in total compensation.

Educational pay and compensation for employees makes up a majority of the spending by California local government entities according to Policy Center Director Ed Ring, speaking to the Daily News. He added that “members of the public, as voters are being continually asked to approve tax increase and bond measures” and you “can’t make an informed decision if you don’t know how much public employees make.”

The stunningly high teacher compensation average that the Policy Center survey revealed may actually be understated because the state’s largest two school systems, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, have failed to comply with the court order mandating full disclosure

According to the Daily News, their requests for payroll information from the Los Angeles Unified School District were denied in April, because the district claimed they were uniquely exempted from disclosing any pay information and W-2 forms under the California Public Records Act. (After numerous threats of litigation from media sources, the LAUSD has indicated they may be willing to disclose the documents.)

School systems across California are also being required by the California State Controller John Chiang to send all of their W-2 information to his office as part of a complete statewide public employee pay and compensation database that is set to launch in the fall. According to Controller’s Office spokesman Jacob Roper, “We’ve had different levels of resistance,” the Daily News reports.

As the data regarding the state’s teacher and administrator pay began dribbling out last month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu struck down California’s onerous teacher tenure, seniority, and dismissal restrictions as a violation of students’ civil rights.  

It seems the conventional wisdom regarding teachers being under-paid is changing in California. 


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