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PolitiFact: Top hedge fund managers do make more than all kindergarten teachers combined

The statement

"The top 25 hedge fund managers (are) making more than all of America's kindergarten teachers combined."

Hillary Clinton, June 13 in a campaign rally speech

The ruling

The best data we could find on kindergarten teachers comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other statistical sources, such as the National Center for Education Statistics, don't separate out kindergarten teachers specifically.

According to a 2014 BLS report, there are about 158,000 kindergarten teachers in the United States. The figure includes teachers from both public and private schools, though it excludes special education instructors.

The average annual pay for a kindergarten teacher is $53,480 — ranging from less than $34,000 to more than $78,000. This is higher than what the average preschool teacher makes, but slightly lower than that of elementary, middle and high school teachers.

So the aggregate pay for kindergarten teachers is about $8.5 billion.

For some historical context, Susan Moore Johnson, an education professor at Harvard University, said kindergarten teachers have traditionally been paid less than teachers at higher grade levels. But the implementation of districtwide pay scales has made pay mostly uniform across all grades within a district — with exact salary varying based on experience and education, rather than the grade level. However, this is not the case in all districts.

Johnson added that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, private school elementary teachers get paid, on average, several thousand dollars less than their public school counterparts.

So how does the $8.5 billion collective salary of America's kindergarten teachers compare with the top 25 hedge fund managers' take-home pay? This number is a little bit more elusive.

In its 2015 ranking of the top-earning hedge fund managers, Institutional Investor's Alpha magazine said the group of 25 collectively earned $11.62 billion in compensation.

At the top of the list is Citadel founder and CEO Kenneth Griffin, who earned an estimated $1.3 billion off his fund.

Lest your jaw remain fully hinged, 2014 was a bad year. The magazine called the total $11.62 billion bounty "paltry" compared with what it was in 2013, when the top 25 hedge managers made about twice as much — $21.15 billion.

There are, however, some issues with measuring hedge manager salaries, though the experts we polled couldn't name a source that would necessarily be more accurate than Alpha magazine's list.

The magazine's report is just an estimate — based on the manager's capital gains in the fund, as well as his (the top 25 are all men) estimated share in the firm's management and performance fees charged to clients.

These numbers are hard to verify because no one really knows for certain a manager's stake in his or her firm, said Nicole Boyson, a finance professor at Northeastern University.

Additionally, funds charged to clients vary drastically among and within the different firms, and one would also have to account for how much of these fees go toward running the business, rather than the salary, Boyson said.

In any case, the best information we have shows 25 hedge managers making about $3 billion more than the country's 158,000 kindergarten teachers combined — and that's in a bad year for the hedge managers. The data here isn't perfect, but the gap between the two professions is so wide that it seems a safe bet that hedge fund managers make more.

We rate Clinton's claim True.

Lauren Carroll, Times staff writer

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

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