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Shattering the Myth of Teacher Pay

[Preface- As many of you know, Rodney, Jay Tea, and myself try to help cover the bases at Wizbang on the weekends. This weekend is a busy one for me, so I figured I'd throw out a hand-grenade I send out to my "mail blog" last summer. It touched off a lively discussion back then causing me to clarify my point. For now I'll start with the original post. .]

From CNN(AP) July 4, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average teacher salary hit almost $44,400 last year, according to a survey by the American Federation of Teachers.

That salary reflected a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year. New teachers were paid an average starting salary of $30,719, up 3.2 percent.

The figures were for the 2001-02 school year, the most recent available.

Notice that was from 2 3 years ago, teacher pay has increased since then.

OK, find for me a job where you make $45,000 a year, get 3 months paid vacation and get off at 3 in the afternoon.

It is a myth that teachers are underpaid.

That comes out to over $32/hr with full benefits and retirement.

If they worked the full year at that rate, they would make over $64,000 a year plus benefits.

Considering Bill Clinton and Al Gore defined being rich as making more than $72,000 a year, that ain't bad.


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Comments (19)

Hey Kevin,It's tru... (Below threshold)

Hey Kevin,

It's true... the tales of teachers being underpaid are largely a myth in certain areas of the country.

Now, I have no idea what a teacher makes in Arkansas, Texas or Colorado. But, what I DO know is that my best friend's wife is an elementary teacher in California. I know what my friend makes. He ain't rich. They just bought a house for nearly 1/2 a million.

Now, I know that some teachers can get great house deals through HUD and such. But, that's not the case here.

I'm pretty certain my friend's wife isn't pulling a six-figure income. But, I'm also pretty certain she's not pulling a poverty-level income, too. (I'm only being half-facetious).

Funny thing is, nearly everyone I meet is getting their teacher's credentials. You'd think there'd be a glut of talent for a dwindling number of jobs. Given that, market forces would naturally slow the growth of teacher salaries and benefits.

Hmmm.... maybe their lobbyists really ARE worth the money they're paid. :-)

Tim

Isn't everyone under-paid a... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Isn't everyone under-paid and under-appreciated??

Both of my parents are teachers and they are doing ok... I know that they both do a good amount of work at home, which any teacher who is worth anything at all does. Those hours aren't included in you $32/hr figure.

Also, consider this, my father (named along with administrators, etc.) has had more than a couple of lawsuits that he's had to deal with. There was even one lady who brought three seperate lawsuits in a three year period of time, all of which were propmtly thrown out of court by the respective judges. I don't want to take up the space to explain all of the suits, but the gist is this: "My kid is either stupid, or is in trouble all of the time and I am trying to blame everyone under the sun because God knows that I'm not a bad parent. It can't be my fault; it must be yours."

The school district/system did not provide anything towards his legal expenses. That's another story though...

How's that any different than many other professions...? The poor teacher makes as much as the good teacher. It's not fair, but it's life.

Teachers in our school dist... (Below threshold)
Teri:

Teachers in our school district (midwest suburban) reach that $45k level after nine years and a masters degree, or some combination of more education and less tiime (if you started teaching with a Ph.D you'd make $43,340 your first year).

I tried to make a mid-life career change. I'm 45, and I have an Ed degree and 10 graduate ed credits. I would start at $32,500 compared to the $43,000 that I make now as an office manager.

Yes, that is comparable if you consider the 3/4 conversion - but where am I going to get a summer job where I make exactly the same per hour as I do during school? My expenses don't stop during the summer, so an annual salary is just that - an annual salary.

And the "getting out at 3:00" is silly. Teachers work an eight hour day at school just like anyone else; you have to be there for a half an hour before and half an hour after, so the seven hour school day is an eight hour workday. I don't know any teacher of any subject who doesn't do any prep work outside school hours.

And, that summer vacation? That you think makes the teachers overpaid? That is when they are supposed to go and get the continuing ed that they need to keep their licenses, progress up the salary ladder and, oh, yeah, stay up on developments in their field and developments in education.

Would you want me teaching your kid? I had a 3.7 GPA as an undergraduate, and a 4.0 as a graduate. I think I should be in the classroom, not ordering copy paper and toner for a bunch of business dudes. But I can't afford it.

Since it's arguable that te... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Since it's arguable that teaching, along with perhaps medicine, is one of the most important professions in terms of impact, maybe teachers should move towards a value-based system of compensation like some other professionals are considering.

http://perpetualbeta.com/woifm/archive/003296.html

hmmmm- If that was how we ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

hmmmm- If that was how we measured someone's pay than the highest paid people in the world would be the fine folks who install our Brake Pedals.

Here's a classic case of co... (Below threshold)
Jack:

Here's a classic case of confusing the importance of "average" or mean income versus median income.

This study also doesn't take into account the differing cost of living in the various areas of the United States.

Be careful when throwing around statistics; remember what Mark Twain said, "There's lies, damned lies, and statistics."

My sister is a substitute t... (Below threshold)
david:

My sister is a substitute teacher in CA. She barely makes $25K a year. And no benefits.

Heh...I love it when people... (Below threshold)
JTalley:

Heh...I love it when people use screwed statistics and studies to try and grind their own axe.

Tell you what..I'll trade you jobs for ONE week, month, year whatever suits you. Do I get paid well? Yeah, more than I was told I would in my undergraduate program. However, I must get a graduate degree to continue to move up on the salary schedule. I must continue my education beyond that to reach the top two levels to get paid as much as I can. In my district the top level requires bachelors + 75 hours (must include masters) of course work. Basically 2 1/2 30 credit hour masters degrees (that's what mine was). Now lets compare to any other industry that requires masters or better to get paid. Not even close! Did I chose education, yes I did. Should you comment on whether I make enough or not...not unless you've done my job and have any experience with what we have to do every day. I manage 150+ students every day with NO secretary, resources or other adult help of any kind. What division manager with 150 employees or clients has no secretary, has to buy his own computer to do the work, and purchase many of the supplies used on a daily basis from his PERSONAL SALARY.

My two bits...

JT

FWIW, lots of schools have ... (Below threshold)

FWIW, lots of schools have their salary structures online (they are public documents after all).

Here's what they get where I grew up (in a middle-class suburb in NJ).

Needless to say, I heard lots and lots of whining.

Next year I will be a junio... (Below threshold)
John Cross:

Next year I will be a junior in college. I have never had less than a 3.6 GPA, and it is usually higher. My major is elementary education, with endorsements in reading and early childhood development. I believe that teaching is the most important job in the world.
I am also worried. I go to a school that will cost over 30 thousand dollars next year. Even after saving money from grants and scholarships, I will be roughly 50,000 dollars in debt when I graduate. That does not include money I will owe if I decide to get my master's right away.
I am tired of hearing professors talk about how low teacher pay is, and then hear the same professors tell us that there is much for us to look forward to as future teachers.
I will tell you this- and it's nothing that hasn't been said before, but it needs to be repeated- do not expect today's students- tomorrow's teachers- to put up with the disgusting salaries that are commonplace today. I want to make a difference in the world. But if making that difference means sacrificing the best years of my life, my personal comfort, and my financial security, all for the "intrinsic rewards" of teaching, then I, and others like me, will leave that profession. And if or when I do decide to leave, the system will be losing one hell of a good teacher.

Next year I will be a junio... (Below threshold)
John Cross:

Next year I will be a junior in college. I have never had less than a 3.6 GPA, and it is usually higher. My major is elementary education, with endorsements in reading and early childhood development. I believe that teaching is the most important job in the world.
I am also worried. I go to a school that will cost over 30 thousand dollars next year. Even after saving money from grants and scholarships, I will be roughly 50,000 dollars in debt when I graduate. That does not include money I will owe if I decide to get my master's right away.
I am tired of hearing professors talk about how low teacher pay is, and then hear the same professors tell us that there is much for us to look forward to as future teachers.
I will tell you this- and it's nothing that hasn't been said before, but it needs to be repeated- do not expect today's students- tomorrow's teachers- to put up with the disgusting salaries that are commonplace today. I want to make a difference in the world. But if making that difference means sacrificing the best years of my life, my personal comfort, and my financial security, all for the "intrinsic rewards" of teaching, then I, and others like me, will leave that profession. And if or when I do decide to leave, the system will be losing one hell of a good teacher.

My goodness...As h... (Below threshold)
Peter:

My goodness...

As has been said above...trade me jobs for a week; I dare you.

I dare you to pull -- not an 8 hour day -- but rather a 10 to 12-hour workday, PLUS some of your weekends, all the while planning, grading papers, making copies, calling parents, having conferences with said parents who are convinced that their little *angel* would *never* make a classroom experience unmanageable, dealing with superfluous paperwork, prepping children for standardized tests, being sponsors for extracurricular activities (without financial compensation), planning and chaperoning field trips (about 20 manhours per trip, at least), keeping meticulous track of attendance for 185+ kids (my number this past year), and ALL THIS on a salary that COULD qualify me for food stamps if I didn't take on stipened activities.

And in the midst of my "summer vacation," here I am trying to google articles for teacher pay increases thru "betterment education courses" (which, of course, are available only during fall, spring, and summer breaks), along with reading books on teaching strategy, in the hopes of somehow further streamlining my teaching style so as to make it more accessible for the groups of 30-40 students crammed into my room several times a day!

And as for a "myth," here's one for you...it is a myth that ANYONE who him- or herself is not now and has never been a teacher has ANY right to tell those who ARE teaching that they are overpaid.

Yet they are the only ones who will tell you this.

Peter- I really think you s... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Peter- I really think you should quit.

Obviously, you hate the job but you still do it. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from your tirade is that you are not too smart. You are in a horrible position but you stay. That ain't too smart. If the job is that horrible, get a different one.

If you don't have the smarts to figure that out, I don't want you teaching my children.

==========

Because you probably really aren't smart enough to figure out my point, I'll spell it out....

Clearly, if the job really where as horrible as you make it out to be you would quit. So would millions of others. Basically, you are just whining. Get over it.

AND BTW I've taught too (for free!) so "daring" me to take your job for a week, really is moronic.

AND BTW 2- I'd love to trade jobs with you- You see, the problem is while I'm qualified to do your job you are not qualified to do mine. If you were qualified to do my job then you could complain you are underpaid. Learn a skill and get back to me.

Paul,Lots of teacher... (Below threshold)
Daniel:

Paul,
Lots of teachers do quit, 50% within the first five years.

And you can't really compare any public sector job with a private sector one. Private companies have much more latitude to pay good employees more, in education it is mainly based on years put in. Many teaching jobs are left unfilled every year (math, science, special ed, adminstration too!) common sense would tell you that they would raise the level of compensation to attact the employees needed, but they can't! Often state legislatures appropiate funds two years in advance, way to slow to be in a competitive job market. And for the person who said 3 paid months, thats not true, its two months. Who DO you want teaching your children, a dedicated professional or some do gooder bleeding heart? I am getting out of teaching because of the money, not because I don't think its an important job, it is very important. You can use your jobs importance to buy you children clothes.

Peter, I would be curious to know how much time you actually 'taught' for free. Guest speakers never see the types of behaviors real teachers see when they really get into teaching the students. Please don't tell me that your teaching was using powerpoint to speak to a bunch of adults either. Honestly Peter, I don't know what your job is, but I have an I.Q. in the 150's and there are not too many jobs I couldn't be trained to do in 6 weeks. I bet you couldn't last two weeks in a classroom full of emotionally disturbed kids with crackheads for parents:0) now you know why I am fed up.

Paul,Lots of teacher... (Below threshold)
Daniel:

Paul,
Lots of teachers do quit, 50% within the first five years.

And you can't really compare any public sector job with a private sector one. Private companies have much more latitude to pay good employees more, in education it is mainly based on years put in. Many teaching jobs are left unfilled every year (math, science, special ed, adminstration too!) common sense would tell you that they would raise the level of compensation to attact the employees needed, but they can't! Often state legislatures appropiate funds two years in advance, way to slow to be in a competitive job market. And for the person who said 3 paid months, thats not true, its two months. Who DO you want teaching your children, a dedicated professional or some do gooder bleeding heart? I am getting out of teaching because of the money, not because I don't think its an important job, it is very important. You can use your jobs importance to buy you children clothes.

Paul, I would be curious to know how much time you actually 'taught' for free. Guest speakers never see the types of behaviors real teachers see when they really get into teaching the students. Please don't tell me that your teaching was using powerpoint to speak to a bunch of adults either. Honestly Peter, I don't know what your job is, but I have an I.Q. in the 150's and there are not too many jobs I couldn't be trained to do in 6 weeks. I bet you couldn't last two weeks in a classroom full of emotionally disturbed kids with crackheads for parents:0) now you know why I am fed up.

Paul,Lots of teacher... (Below threshold)
Daniel:

Paul,
Lots of teachers do quit, 50% within the first five years.

And you can't really compare any public sector job with a private sector one. Private companies have much more latitude to pay good employees more, in education it is mainly based on years put in. Many teaching jobs are left unfilled every year (math, science, special ed, adminstration too!) common sense would tell you that they would raise the level of compensation to attact the employees needed, but they can't! Often state legislatures appropiate funds two years in advance, way to slow to be in a competitive job market. And for the person who said 3 paid months, thats not true, its two months. Who DO you want teaching your children, a dedicated professional or some do gooder bleeding heart? I am getting out of teaching because of the money, not because I don't think its an important job, it is very important. You can use your jobs importance to buy you children clothes.

Paul, I would be curious to know how much time you actually 'taught' for free. Guest speakers never see the types of behaviors real teachers see when they really get into teaching the students. Please don't tell me that your teaching was using powerpoint to speak to a bunch of adults either. Honestly Paul, I don't know what your job is, but I have an I.Q. in the 150's and there are not too many jobs I couldn't be trained to do in 6 weeks. I bet you couldn't last two weeks in a classroom full of emotionally disturbed kids with crackheads for parents:0) now you know why I am fed up.

Paul,Lots of teacher... (Below threshold)
Daniel:

Paul,
Lots of teachers do quit, 50% within the first five years.

And you can't really compare any public sector job with a private sector one. Private companies have much more latitude to pay good employees more, in education it is mainly based on years put in. Many teaching jobs are left unfilled every year (math, science, special ed, adminstration too!) common sense would tell you that they would raise the level of compensation to attact the employees needed, but they can't! Often state legislatures appropiate funds two years in advance, way to slow to be in a competitive job market. And for the person who said 3 paid months, thats not true, its two months. Who DO you want teaching your children, a dedicated professional or some do gooder bleeding heart? I am getting out of teaching because of the money, not because I don't think its an important job, it is very important. You can use your jobs importance to buy you children clothes.

Paul, I would be curious to know how much time you actually 'taught' for free. Guest speakers never see the types of behaviors real teachers see when they really get into teaching the students. Please don't tell me that your teaching was using powerpoint to speak to a bunch of adults either. Honestly Paul, I don't know what your job is, but I have an I.Q. in the 150's and there are not too many jobs I couldn't be trained to do in 6 weeks. I bet you couldn't last two weeks in a classroom full of emotionally disturbed kids with crackheads for parents:0) now you know why I am fed up.

whoops, must be that damn c... (Below threshold)
Daniel:

whoops, must be that damn computer virus
sorry about posting it 4 times

I have always wondered some... (Below threshold)
kenny:

I have always wondered something. There are many people that believe teaching means decent pay, great benefits, great job security, great hours (part-time work, full time pay. These people argue that everything points to teaching as the ideal profession. Now is the question....WHY AREN'T THEY DOING IT? I have never heard this question answered. Isn't that the field most every rational person would enter?




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