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The author finds no evidence to support the argument that paying teachers more is associated with better student performance.

September 1, 2015 – There is no clear relationship between province-wide student assessment results and relative teacher pay in Canada’s six largest provinces, according to a new C.D. Howe Institute report. In “Value for Money? Teacher Compensation and Student Outcomes in Canada’s Six Largest Provinces,” author David R. Johnson explores whether those provinces that pay their teachers more achieve better results.

“Teacher salaries must be attractive enough to draw talented people into the profession,” remarked Johnson. “But is there evidence on how much is enough?”

The author compares teacher salaries in elementary and secondary publicly funded schools across Canada’s six largest provinces to wages of other similar employees. Manitoba and Ontario pay the most relative to other similar employees in the province, while British Columbia teacher wages are usually the lowest. Relative salaries in Alberta and Saskatchewan are closer to those in British Columbia than those in Ontario or Manitoba. Pension benefits are most generous in Manitoba and least generous in British Columbia.

The author finds no evidence to support the argument that paying teachers more is associated with better student performance. For example, British Columbia, which tends to have the lowest-paid teachers, tends to have somewhat better standardized test results than other provinces. On the other hand, Manitoba, while paying some of the highest salaries, has the lowest mathematics, reading and science scores.

According to the author, provinces that desire to limit growth in overall public expenditures, and that are home to relatively well-compensated teachers, would appear to have negotiating room to limit the growth of teacher compensation relative to other occupations without impacting student results. It is unrealistic to expect that such a compensation change could occur quickly. Relative salaries could be reduced gradually by having a series of wage settlements where increases are less than the rate of inflation. To emulate the pension rules in British Columbia, pension generosity in other provinces could also be adjusted gradually.

Johnson concludes: “With education costs being the second-largest spending item in provincial budgets behind healthcare, other provincial policymakers could pay close attention to the British Columbia example where BC taxpayers seem to be getting better value for money from the salaries earned by BC teachers.”

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. It is Canada’s trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review. It is considered by many to be Canada’s most influential think tank.

Click here for the full report.

For more information contact: David R. Johnson, Professor of Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University: 416-865-1904 or email: kmurphy@cdhowe.org