Thursday, February 26, 2009

Teacher Pay and Envy

When my wife and I got serious, I eventually learned how much she made. Because my mother was a teacher, I knew they didn't make the "big bucks." Nevertheless, it seemed smaller than I expected. I know my old employer paid more to recent graduates for entry level positions than experienced teachers seemed to make.

Years later, teacher pay is a big issue in her school district. It is semi-rural and many of the residents are opposed to spending much on education. Indeed, her district spends less per pupil per year than similar districts and the town has a very low tax rate. Nevertheless, the economic crisis has given anti-education zealots the excuse to try to break open the union contract. Simply put, unless the teachers agree to reduce their pay (despite a contract), the district will lay off a number of teachers. Furthermore, they are making comments that it is criminal for teachers to allow the layoffs to occur.

Watching this drama unfold, I have been struck by the venom of people who want teachers to make as little as possible. If you read their comments in the papers, you would think teachers make CEO salaries with enormous bonuses. While I do not know the exact number, I would guestimate the average teacher in the district makes $50K per year + benefits.


poor boomer said...

I have a college degree and earn minimum wage, so I can unabashedly say that I can't afford to pay teachers big bucks.

I'm paying more than half my income to rent a room in a house with eight people, and have never had a job-related fringe benefit.

So I'm having difficulty conjuring up a lot of sympathy for 'underpaid' teachers.

Finance Guy said...

Mr. Boomer,

Instead of envying what other people earn, I find it is more productive to focus on what I want to achieve and to develop a plan to achieve that goal.

When I finished school, I could not find full-time employment for 12 months and ended up living with my parents. Needless to say, the life of a 24 year old, unemployed, single man living with my parents was not what I expected after graduation. Nevertheless, I never spent a moment angry at someone else for what they earned for honest work.

Indeed, if you think teachers are overpaid, I would think you would want to become one.

Finally, if you really do earn minimum wage and share a house with six adults, your tax contribution towards school funding is likely to be miniscule.

Flexo said...

For the amount of work many teachers do, they are grossly underpaid. Then again, there are some ineffecive teachers with longevity and tenure that get paid much more than their contribution to society. Teaching children is one of the most important jobs in the world, and being an effective teacher is not as easy as many people think it is. A society that values education should value effective teachers.

Meg said...

Wow, $50k?! Around here that's what you get if you're teaching in a public K-12 with a Ph.D. and you've been there so long that you're about to retire!

Starting pay is under $30k and doesn't move much.

I have actually heard people say, "Well, they have their husbands to support them!" Of course, I can't help but think of all the single moms I've known who are teachers, not to mention the fact that not all teachers are women, or that it's just plainly unfair and sexist.

Considering how poorly teachers are treated around here, and that all first and second year teachers in the area were recently laid off, I'm really happy I decided not to go into teaching.

Anonymous said...

50k for 9 months of teaching doesn't seem horribly underpaid. teachers i know make less than 30k, which i think is underpaid.

One problem is, there are good teachers and bad ones, and it seems they all get paid roughly the same. In the business world, good employees rise up and can demand more wages. Good teachers seem stuck.

DogAteMyFinances said...

What do you think is fair for teachers? I'm serious.

Try to find another job that pays 50K and gives you three months off every year. Good luck.