Saturday, February 28, 2009

Teacher Salary Envy – Part II

Much to my surprise, my post on teacher salaries attracted a large number of viewers and comments. Rather than respond to the comments and questions individually, I have drafted this follow up post.

  • How much should teachers be paid? In my opinion, teachers should be paid a wage similar to the private sector wage for professionals with similar education, experience, and expertise. If we do not pay a reasonably competitive wage to our teachers, we will be unable to attract good people into the field.


    Entry-level salaries should be similar to entry- level salaries for college graduates. In my town, starting teachers fresh out of school are paid $33,000 per year. In our state, the average entry-level finance positions pays $40-50K per year.

    Until I see evidence people are rushing into the teaching field for the big paychecks, I will not consider them "overpaid."

  • In our state, teacher salaries increase based upon service length and educational advancement. Although teachers can get a provisional certificate after college and student teaching, they must complete a Masters Degree to keep their job. (In the business sector, employees reimbursed for some or all educational expenses. Teachers are not.) The maximum teaching salary in our town is $66,000. To get that salary, a teacher must have 14 years experience, a Masters Degree and enough hours for a PhD.

    In judging the salaries our teachers are paid, one should consider the cost of living in our state. When I lived in Texas, I rented a nice apartment for $600 per month. A similar (but not as nice) apartment in my area would have been $1,000+ per month.

    Note – I understand many college graduates get stuck in "McJobs" after graduation. These (hopefully) temporary positions involve low pay and no benefits. Nevertheless, these jobs are not meant to be careers and should not be considered comparable (for salary comparison purposes) to a fulltime professional job. When I finished college, I had a "McJob" until I found a permanent position. My first real job (a long time ago) paid $28,000 + benefits.


  • Pay for Performance: While it would be nice to pay "good" teachers more than "bad" teachers, nobody has developed an effective means of identifying top, individual performers. With respect to group performance, our state is consistently ranked in the top five in the United States.


  • "They only work 9 months per year": (In our state, it is 10 months per year).


    Frankly, the 2 months "off" is an unpaid furlough. With only 8 weeks available to work a summer job, getting a summer job making decent money is difficult. Almost every teacher I know would love to give up the vacation for 2 months of additional pay.


    By any measure, the teachers I know work hard. Each day, my wife gets to school around 7am and leaves after 5pm (often close to 6pm). Most nights, she spends time grading papers and/or working on lesson plans. Growing up, I distinctly remember my mom working almost every Sunday. Years later, my wife does the same thing. Week in week out, my wife spends significantly more time working than just about anyone I know (including me).


  • Envy of what Teachers make: If you think they are overpaid, I suggest you do what is necessary to become a teacher. Invest the money in a degree. Invest the money in a Masters degree. Go after that starting salary. If they are truly overpaid, you will feel like you have won the lottery.



DogAteMyFinances said...

I get it when parents complain about low paid teachers because they care about the quality of people teaching their kids. I totally understand those complaints, but not teachers.

Teachers can leave, like any job. If your wife wants to trade her vacation-heavy and maternity-leave friendly career for finance, she can. Good luck with that! Good luck with any entry-level position in finance, actually.

She could teach at a private school, which is what happens in my area. There IS a way to pay good teachers more; they work at the private school which pays a whole lot more.

Finance Guy said...

1. My wife is happy with her work. Like everyone, she would like to be paid more; however, you take the good with the bad.

2. I was offended by people who act as if teachers are making CEO money. In general, when I think of people who may be overpaid, I rarely think of people who make under $50K per year.

3. The private school think won't work for us. While the private high schools pay well (we have some elite private schools in the area), the private elementary/middle schools do not. She is certified for middle and elementary school.

Finance Guy said...

Oops, typo - should have been "private school thing."