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What are Wisconsin teachers really earning?

A few days ago the folks at The Daily Caller did something that the mainstream media so far has failed to do, and acquired salary and benefit information for Wisconsin teachers who have gone on the public record by complaining to the mainstream media about the impact of Gov. Walker's proposed budget cuts:

Wisconsin's 2010 Teacher of the Year, Leah Lechleiter-Luke of Mauston High School, told CNN the budget changes would force her to look for additional part-time work.

"When people say that public sector employees live high off the hog, I'd like to share that for 13 of my 19-year teaching career I have held a part-time job either in the summer or teaching night class at the local technical college," Lechleiter-Luke told CNN. "In addition to tightening the belt even more and crossing our fingers that nothing breaks, I will need to find part-time work again."

Lechleiter-Luke makes $54,928 in base salary and $32,213 in "fringe benefits," which include health insurance, life insurance and retirement pay.

Brad Lutes and his wife, Heather Lutes, told MSNBC's Ed Schultz that Walker's budget would hit them twice as hard.

"Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year old that the governor of your state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It's just really, really frustrating," Brad Lutes told Schultz.

He makes $49,412 in base salary with $27,987 in fringe benefits and his wife makes $50,240 with $9,413 in benefits. That's $137,052 annually between the two of them.
(Emphasis in original article)

So, are Wisconsin teachers overpaid?  Do they deserve the salary and benefits they receive?  To ask that question is to miss the point (or to deliberately mislead).  As far as I am concerned, teaching is a tough and demanding profession, and good teachers have a special talent, a 'God-given gift' if you will, not unlike successful musicians or athletes or business leaders.  Frankly I'm happy to see teachers earning money comparable to what other professionals are earning.  But as I said, that's not the point.

The real point is that no one is indispensable or irreplaceable.  And no one is entitled to automatic increases in salary and benefits with no regard for the overall condition of the economy.  This should be even more true for public sector employees, who are paid with our tax dollars.  When the economy shrinks and tax revenues dry up, public employees should be expected to shoulder the burden just like the rest of us.

So if your family is earning $99,000 a year plus benefits in this economy, consider yourself to be extremely fortunate.  Stop whining.  Learn to tighten your belts like the rest of us have.  We're currently in the midst of possibly the longest and deepest recession since WWII.  Welcome to reality.
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Comments (37)

While interesting, I think ... (Below threshold)

While interesting, I think it's time to put this to bed, they've already agreed to the increased contributions - they just don't want to give up the collective bargaining so they can get back what they're losing in a couple of years and the unions, naturally, would rather jump off a bridge than give up forced unionization where people actually have to write them a check every year and vote to stay unionized.

If someone wants to really ... (Below threshold)

If someone wants to really do some research on the pay scale of government union jobs vs the private sector equivalent I'd bet there would be a Pulitzer prize ... oh, wait ... that involves the LSM and the current meme is that unions are good ... "Never mind".

"Lechleiter-Luke makes $54,... (Below threshold)
Maggie Mama:

"Lechleiter-Luke makes $54,928 in base salary and $32,213 in "fringe benefits," which include health insurance, life insurance and retirement pay."


Most teachers get summer jobs to keep "busy" OR to earn more gravy.

My neighbor always took a job as a tennis instructor at a sleep-away camp (I know real hard work) ... which allowed his two kids to attend for a big discount ... and for which HE WAS PAID!

Cry me a river!

Oh, I forgot the tutoring h... (Below threshold)
Maggie Mama:

Oh, I forgot the tutoring he did after school which earned him cash OFF THE BOOKS!

So, I heard an instance yes... (Below threshold)
Pretzel Logic:

So, I heard an instance yesterday of a husband and wife, both Wisconsin teachers. She has the health plan (the ONLY one allowed by the union) and he opts out. He ...get this...gets a monthly stipend of $700 for opting out. So, he gets $700 per month for opting out of a union controlled health plan that he is IN!

Actually, the lying teacher... (Below threshold)

Actually, the lying teacher does not get that pay annually. She gets it for 9.25 months of work. She then has 2.5 months off. This is not counting the MANY holidays the school gets. Teaching used to be a noble profession. I respected my teachers. I thought of them as educators. Now they are whiners and looking out for only themselves. I do not believe their droning own about "the children". ww

I'd like to put the numbers... (Below threshold)
Pile of Pooh:

I'd like to put the numbers in perspective. My wife and I live in a right-to-work state. She is a teacher (now administrator) of 15 years, I am a sales manager for a national company, for which I have worked for the last 15 years.

Last year, she made $55,000 total -- out of which her benefit deductions were taken. She has a master's degree in educational administration.

I made $83,000, including commissions -- out of which my 401K, IRA and other retirement benefits were taken. I have a BS in engineering.

So we made a combined total of $138,000.

The cost of living here is nearly the lowest of any industrialized sector of the country. We live in a five year-old 2,700 sqft house which is valued right at $210K, we have two domestic cars, and a house full of electronics and such-like.

But, remember what I do for living; if we were two classroom teachers here, the combined income -- including benefits -- would be something less than $100,000. Is the cost of living higher in Wisconsin? Almost certainly. But is anyone forcing them to live there?

Unions drive up the cost of living in entire areas (and states) by disproportionately increasing wages in relation to education and skill set. If you don't believe me, simply look at the states with the worst unemployment numbers over the past two years; they are without exception big union states.

To be fair, teacher unions are probably the least greedy and mismanaged of the lot. But they are a union of workers paid by the taxpayers, and that is unacceptable. I'm sure they don't like finding themselves on the national firing line of such a hot-button issue, but this pot has been near to boiling for a very long time now; they were just unfortunate enough to be standing next to the stove when it boiled over.

Unsustainable is just that; whether it is "fair" or "equitable" is irrelevant. All that matters is whether or not it is affordable, and public sector unions are clearly a failure. The self-serving politicians -- and not just Democrats, I hasten to add -- have sold them all up the river for years. At the risk of mixing my metaphors, the chickens are back and they want to know where their roost is...

By counting just the presen... (Below threshold)
Don L:

By counting just the present value/cost of fringe benefits, you have missed the real enormous value/cost to the taxpayers - the future funds that must be raised to pay for promised retirement benefits. I suspect that that is what a passive society has finally been forced to deal with and has caused the sleeping giant to finally wake up.

The pendulum has come full swing -from decades ago, first underpaying teachers and giving them benefits in lieu of raises (save a buck?)to now where the full cost of society's folly has come home to roost. It will break because it must - sadly we chose not to watch how others spent our dollars -and now our grandchildren's dollars.

And then there's that other question of paying for a propaganda machine that working feverishly every day to undermine all that is good about constitutional based America - in its attempt to take her down.

"He ...get this...gets a... (Below threshold)

"He ...get this...gets a monthly stipend of $700 for opting out. So, he gets $700 per month for opting out of a union controlled health plan that he is IN!"

This is the kind of thing that collective bargaining brings us. They leave all manner of loopholes for gaming the system. A big one was the overtime loophole that netted some puplic employee pensioners more than what they made while working. It's the reason my dad, a CWA member, could earn double time and a half while sitting home and relaxing on holidays. There are dozens of these "perks" that are completely unheard of in the private business world, yet, union members take them for granted.

It's simply time for a reality check. That's all.

I think we're on a slippery... (Below threshold)

I think we're on a slippery slope to ever imply anyone is paid too much. Surely many actors and professional sports figures are 'paid too much' - but their salaries is defined by the free market which makes it 'fair'. Unions, by their very nature, undermine and perverse the 'free market'. And public sector unions are even worse.

At any rate, I honestly don't think so, BUT they are extremely generously benefited. And their union contracts prevent them from 'feeling the pain' the rest of us in the real world feel. I, like so many others I know, haven’t had a raise in 3 years. But most of us still have a job – and we know it could be worse.

Bottom line – those of us out here in the real world are sick and tired of paying for gov’t slackers. Get a real job, one where you have to show results or you are shown the door. And for you teachers out there – stop f*cking the students. Both literally and figuratively.

You forgot to mention that ... (Below threshold)
retired military:

You forgot to mention that they are making that much as a family for working only 9 months out of the year.

""Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year old that the governor of your state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It's just really, really frustrating,""

Gee. let me fix that for you

"Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year old that the PRESIDENT of your COUNTRY basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It's just really, really frustrating,"

My wife is a public school ... (Below threshold)

My wife is a public school teacher and my mother was a public school teacher. My problem is not with the amount of salary the Wisconsin teachers make (we would like more family income as well). The problem IS the collective bargaining. You can't fire bad teachers. Good teachers are worth every penny they are paid. Bad teachers do irreparable harm to your kids. My middle son received straight "A's" from his 7th grade English teacher, but we found out later that she taught him nothing. His freshman year English class in Catholic high school was a struggle. He was completely lost on the grammar he was supposed to learn in 7th grade. So, when the unions say that they will concede on pay but not collective bargaining, it doesn't matter. You can't get value for your tax dollars until you can fire poor teachers. You are the "shareholders" of your cities. Why should you tolerate poor employees?

Michael Laprarie: "The real... (Below threshold)

Michael Laprarie: "The real point is that no one is indispensable or irreplaceable."

Very true.

Graveyards are chock full of "irreplaceable" people.

They are earning the contem... (Below threshold)

They are earning the contempt of the taxpayers.

Apart from making money for... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Apart from making money for working approximately 9 months of the year and getting paid additional monies if they work the summer term, we miss the whole point of the budget issue if we focus on only that.

The point is that they are being given automatic raises that far outstrip what everyone in the private sector are seeing. The question is: should government workers be immune from the vicissitudes of the economy? Should tax payers be required by force of law to protect government workers from all economic uncertainty?

THe other part we miss is that the restriction of collective bargaining rights is not even for salary issues in the first place, it is for the benefits. Government workers get benefits that are 2-3 times more expensive than those in the private sector. SO again the question is: Should government workers , who are paid in excess of the private sector norm and who in many cases are virtually unfirable, be given benefits that far exceed what are available in the private sector. Should taxpayers be required by force of law to pay for these benefits when the state is on the brink of insolvency?

The answers to these questions if you ask the unions is yes (or more like "Yes, and if you ask again I'll break your face").

Wisconsin has shown us that this nation is at a pivot point. Either we are to be a democratic republic and respect the will of the people as expressed in the ballot box or we are to become an authoritarian dictatorship governed by threat of violence. The democrats and their union thugs want choice number 2.

"Having to explain to an... (Below threshold)

"Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year old that the governor of your state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It's just really, really frustrating," Brad Lutes told Schultz.

It sure beats explaining that Mom & Dad are now unemployed enjoying Barry Soetoro's Hope & Change like millions of private sector people.

These sphincters have no clue what the rest of American has been going through for the last 2 years. They really need a taste of it, so I'm all for the layoffs to begin. Bring on the Hoax & Change for unionized public workers.

Tex,Yeah, my heart... (Below threshold)
jim m:


Yeah, my heart really bleeds for these poor teachers who are guaranteed jobs despite unemployment reaching 10% (and real unemployment being around 17-18%). I feel so badly for them that they are guaranteed minimum 4.5% raises in an economy where last year the employees at my company received nothing and this year they will get 2%.

Why should they be spared the worries of economic uncertainty? Because their union friends will break my legs and burn down my house if I protest too much? I'm sorry if I have not understood their message to be anything other than that.

If these Teachers voted for... (Below threshold)
Sarah the Impaler:

If these Teachers voted for Barry they brought this on themselves. When teaching arithmetic or economics or world politics I wonder if they use the 'WON' as a business model?

You indoctrinate instead of educate and now the chickens have come home to roost!

Two-thirds of the eighth... (Below threshold)

Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

Yes, the Wisconsin taxpayers sure are getting value for their confiscated wages....NOT


Let me recycle an argument ... (Below threshold)

Let me recycle an argument that I heard here. Originally it was applied to hedge fund managers, and other Wall Street types, not teachers. It goes something like this:

Who are you to determine that somebody else makes too much money? Taking money away from one group so that another groups taxes can be lowered is "redistribution of wealth".

Who are you to determine... (Below threshold)

Who are you to determine that somebody else makes too much money?

When I'm paying the money, I get to decide how much is too much. Public workers don't get this.

I also don't appreciate public unions who receive billions from taxpayers, who in return contribute millions to the politicians who gave them those billions.

It's time the tax payer funded gravy train stops and kicks off all its passengers.

Let me recycle an argument ... (Below threshold)

Let me recycle an argument that liberals refuse to learn. Letting people keep more of their own money is not giving them money. Taking someone's money to give it to someone else is forced "redistribution of wealth", not taking their money to give it to someone else is not.

D-, effort needs improvement. You got a few points for at least having reasonable grammar. Your logic is Wisconsin public school level, though.

Waitin' for Barry to grab a... (Below threshold)

Waitin' for Barry to grab a picket and join the 'free lunch crowd' in WI?

Rance,The answer t... (Below threshold)


The answer to your question (Who are you to determine that somebody else makes too much money? is:

"Only if I'm paying it."

"Let me recycle an argum... (Below threshold)

"Let me recycle an argument that I heard here."

Let me recycle an old adage: When you have apples to compare to the apples being discussed, and not oranges, then stop back by.

One of the most egregious a... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

One of the most egregious and outrageous aspects of the public employee unions, especially teachers' unions, is how aggressively they defend the incompetent and the evil. It is very difficult to fire teachers in union states.

In New York a few years back there was a notorious case of a teacher CONVICTED of sexual misconduct with multiple students. He was on PAID leave, and the union kept fighting to get his job back even after the conviction.


In the real world, results matter. Even they are no guarantee, though - many is the man who "worked himself out of a job" by implementing efficiencies. But to public employee unions, results mean nothing, performance means nothing, ethics mean nothing.

"He ...get this...gets a... (Below threshold)
just me:

"He ...get this...gets a monthly stipend of $700 for opting out. So, he gets $700 per month for opting out of a union controlled health plan that he is IN!"

Are you sure this is a monthly opt out? Our school district has an opt out check of about $1,000, but it is a once a year check given at the end of the fiscal year.

I personally am not a fan of public unions-teachers, fire fighters or police officers or other city employees.

Well, teachers if they get ... (Below threshold)

Well, teachers if they get a reasonable salary, this should find and personally I think they should get. Afterall they are taking care of the next generation and preparing them to face the future challenges...

Re # 27:No, she's ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Re # 27:

No, she's not sure. And neither is Jim M sure about his apocryphal NY teacher story. If he was he would have had a cite.

These people either make these stories up, exaggerate some horror story someone told them at the water cooler, or repeat blatant lies like Reagan's "welfare queen" myth. It's pathetic, really.

Ooops, sorry, it was Mr Gra... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Ooops, sorry, it was Mr Gravitas Emeritus Addison who repeated the apocryphal NY teacher story, not Jim M. My apologies, Mr M.

Public Sector Unions to the... (Below threshold)

Public Sector Unions to the American Taxpayers:

"Sorry you have to pay out of your own wages each week for your own retirement (401k), but brother, could you dig a little deeper in your wallet and keep funding my pension also. I have a second home that needs some work done on it before I retire at 55 years of age!" Keep up the good fight and support your local Public Union Worker.....and his benefits!

How can a Union member get his Union dues refund?


Right to Work states statistics:


Re: 27; well here in Cali, ... (Below threshold)
M in Cali:

Re: 27; well here in Cali, my ex is a county social worker and so is spouse - one takes the health plan the other opts out and gets several hundred back for opting out...I think that is rather typical. Dropping that practice would go a long way to helping out county/state budgets...

To expand on #3... <p... (Below threshold)

To expand on #3...

The average annual Wisconsin wage is $44,000.

As mentioned in the post, Wisconsin's 2010 Teacher of the Year, Leah Lechleiter-Luke makes $55,000 base salary.

The 2010-11 school year consists of 210 days, start to finish, but there were 21 totals days off in that range, not including the Coffee&Donuts socializing days on which no classes are held, "Teacher Conference" and "Teacher Development".

Given the number of work days she will actually work (189), her base pay works out to $36.38 per hour. But to really compare, one needs to extrapolate that wage under the normal full-time hours (2080 hrs).

So, using that norm - and subtracting the same 21 days off - Ms. Lechleiter-Luke's annual base pay would be $69,558.

In short, the "annual wage" is..
Average Wisconsin wage: $44,000,12 months. Average Wisconsin teacher: $52,644, 9 months.

And don't get me started on benefits...

Does the average Wisconsin ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Does the average Wisconsin wage earner have a bachelor's or master's degree, or maybe a PHd? Because all teachers do, unless I'm misinformed.

.... I'm happy to see teach... (Below threshold)

.... I'm happy to see teachers earning money comparable to what other professionals are earning ....

I'm happy that you're happy but if teachers want their salaries to be comparable to other professionals' salaries, they should become "other professionals."

Teachers (and "reporters")are not "other professionals" because "other professionals" are of necessity and almost invariably considerably more intelligent, way better educated and better qualified than are teachers.

The idea that the only criterion for a taxpayer-provided salary is that it provide a comfortable "middle-class" life-style is ludicrous and is why municipalities and states and the ferals are all bankrupt!

Teachers don't do much -- and don't earn much.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Mr. Henry,You may ... (Below threshold)

Mr. Henry,

You may not want to take the debate in that direction. My mother was a public school teacher and when she was teaching, there were very few opportunities for women. Usually, "academically oriented" women became teachers or nurses. My wife is a public school teacher, with a Masters degree. However, her degrees were not in education. She obtained alternative certification after raising our four children. Many people without "Education School" credentials may be better academically than Wisconsin teachers.
If you look at the statistics, the current generation of education school graduates is not of the same academic caliber as non-education school graduates.
This is a "gov" website, so it is probably in error. If your argument is that the "credentials deserve the pay," we may ask for better credentials.

You are missing the primary... (Below threshold)

You are missing the primary point, as far as I am concerned.....what are the retirement benefits? Therein will be told many of these stories....The horror stories of California public-employee retirements of gross amounts are a good part of this....Not just wages/benes while working!






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