There is also evidence that the overall quality of teachers has declined over time and that a significant fraction of this decline reflects teacher unions. For example, Caroline Hoxby and Andrew Leigh find that the share of teachers who are among the top aptitude individuals, as measured by SAT scores, has declined over time from about 5 percent of teachers in 1963 to only 1 percent in 2000, and that much of this decline is due to the fact that teacher unions, like most other unions, compress compensation, which means that the spread in compensation between the highest quality and lowest quality teachers is reduced.17 And it is not only the very top aptitude individuals that are entering teaching at a lower rate. Wage compression benefits lower ability teachers, but reduces compensation of the best teachers, and this decline in compensation at the top end leads to fewer top aptitude individuals pursuing a teaching career.
Hoxby and Leigh also note that there has been a large increase in the lowest aptitude individuals—those in the bottom 25 percent of SAT achievement—entering teaching, and that they now make up about 16 percent to around 36 percent of the teacher population.18 This change in the composition of teachers is negatively impacting teaching outcomes...
...if the bottom 5 to 8 percent of teachers were replaced with average quality teachers, then U.S. student test scores in math and science would be at the top of international comparisons. This means that the human capital of future U.S. workers would rise, and thus generate higher production and income in the future. Hanushek estimates that the present discounted value of higher future incomes that would result from replacing poorly performing teachers would be about $100 trillion. _LeeOhanion_American.com
The public sector union problem in the US will have to be solved on a state by state basis. Once that is done, any remaining federal level problem with public sector unions should be solvable via elected representatives. In the meantime, some states such as California, New York, and Illinois may have to descend into painful bankruptcy proceedings, before the citizens of those states understand how their governments have hornswoggled them into serfdom.
Unionization is much higher in the public sector than in the private sector, and there has been no tendency for unionization to decline in the public sector. While private sector unionization has declined from about 37 percent to about 6 percent, unionization in local government has been steady at around 45 percent.
Public sector unions have been able to thrive because of the very limited competition in state and local governments. This has allowed unions to increase wages above competitive levels. In particular, state and local government compensation has increased by about 40 percent since 1980, compared to about a 20 percent increase in the private sector. The average public sector compensation level is now $70,000, compared to an average of $60,000 in the private sector.
Moreover, the much higher rate of job security in the public sector, plus superior public pensions, suggest that state and local government workers would be willing to work for less than private sector pay. My findings indicate that accounting for just the much higher rate of public sector job security suggests that public sector employment could be competitive even with compensation that was about 10 percent lower than the private sector. The fact that average public sector worker compensation is higher than in the private sector, without taking into account pension benefits, suggests that public sector compensation levels may be significantly above competitive levels. I find that reducing the wages of state workers by 5 percent would reduce California’s 2011-2012 state budget deficit by nearly 15 percent. _Lee Ohanion