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Old 02-08-2014, 11:52 PM   #1
bimmerfan08
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The Teacher Salary Myth -- Are Teachers Underpaid?

This an opinion piece. Thoughts?

I haven't checked his numbers but the parts I agree with are:
-9 months work in a year
-can earn additional income teaching summer school
-several holidays per year...more than a corporate worker
-various benefits including health insurance at great prices, pension, and student loan forgiveness
-5 days/week for 7-8 hours/day...some take home work

The reason the majority of teachers aren't making six figures is because the job they are doing doesn't require much analysis and critical decision making. They are given an agenda and standards of material they need to teach students. There's not a lot of short term risk involved. Couple that with a job that can be taught by degree holders from multiple studies and suddenly the uniqueness is not there. Plus the market determines other salaries.

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It is one of the most commonly held bits of conventional wisdom in this country: *that teachers are grossly underpaid, and further that many of the bad outcomes in public education are directly attributable to low teacher compensation. *One hears this everywhere, from cocktail parties to TV talk shows - but is it true?

I first wrote on teacher compensation back in May of 2005. *That article, still lurking out there on the search engines, continues to*generate a good portion of my mail. *Given that so much of that feedback has been ad hominem speculation on my motivations, I suppose I should be explicit about these this time around.

I have zero problem with anyone and everyone getting the highest wages they can. *Power to you. *I am not even one of the many who criticize the pay of top athletes or performers, mainly because I always have a choice: *If I believe they are charging more than they are worth, for a game or a concert or a movie, I simply don't go.

But it is for this very reason that I am suddenly scrupulous about public teacher's pay - because I don't have that choice. *The government enforces a school monopoly in which I have to pay for the public schools, whether I have kids in their schools or not. *I am thus required by law to pay public school salaries.

Public school teachers consume a large portion of state and local taxes. *According to the 2010 census, public school teachers and instructors in primary and secondary schools (ie ignoring colleges) constitute 30% of the 14.8 million state and local government workers, and if you throw in public school administrators as well as higher education the total rises to over 50%. *No other category of government worker is even close to this large. *Police and fire department employment, even when combined, is only a fifth the size of public education.

The problem with salaries for government workers like teachers is that, in a monopoly (particularly one enforced by law), the usual checks and balances on compensation simply don't exist. *Let's say a private school gives its teachers a big raise, and has to raise its tuitions to pay for those higher salaries. *Parents are then left with a choice as to whether to accept the higher tuitions, or to look elsewhere. *If they accept the higher fees, then great - the teachers make more money which is justified by the fact that their customers percieve them to be offering higher value. *If they do not accept the higher tuition, the school withers and either changes its practices or goes out of business.

But what happens when the state overpays for teachers (or any government employee)? *Generally, the govenrment simply demands more taxes. *Sure, voters can push back, but seldom do they win in a game dominated by concentrated benefits but dispersed costs. *On a per capita basis, teachers always have more to fight for than taxpayers, and are so well-organized they often are one of the dominant powers in electing officials in states like California. *This leads to the financially unhealthy situation of a teachers' union negotiating across the table from officials who owe their office to the teachers' union.

We might expect this actually to lead to inflated rather than*parsimonious*wages. *To see if this is true, we have a couple of different sources of data within the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to help us. *The first is the annual compensation survey, for which the most recent data available online is 2010. *This survey looks at wages only, without benefits. *Here are a couple of selected comparisons, in dollars per hour worked:



Given that these are government jobs, this picture is obviously incomplete without looking at benefits as well. *Some of this is hard to value - for example, the fact that it is impossible to be fired no matter how*incompetent*from certain school districts is a benefit that does not show up in any table. *Nevertheless, we can look at benefits like health and retirement plans, and for that data we have to go to a second BLS database, the employer compensation cost survey. *This is a frustrating data set as it has an almost random breakdown of professions, giving great detail on teachers and nurses without any breakout of doctors, engineers, or other professionals.



So what does this tell us? *I generally dislike any discussion of prices or wages being too high or too low. *Individual prices or wages may be wrong for you and what you value, but rates in the market are determined by having people who are willing to both buy and sell at that rate. *Unfortuantely, this is not the wage-setting system that prevails for government employees, so we are forced into trying to argue determinations of "fair."

So here is what I see from the data - it is certainly hard to argue that teachers are grossly underpaid. * A good indicator is that government teachers are paid about 8% more than private school teachers, whose compensation packages are more likley to represent a true supply-and-demand rate. *Public school teachers seem to be paid roughly the same, perhaps even a bit more, than other white collar, non-management professionals. * As they say on TV, I'd say this myth was busted.

But I have learned over the years of writing on this topic to expect a number of rebuttals, and we might as well deal with these in advance:

You are forgetting teachers only get paid for 9 months of the year

Yes, on a total salary basis, teachers are paid less than other professionals because they don't work as much. *I can't really see the unfairness in this *(I run a seasonal business and don't pay people when the*operations*are closed). *My guess is that for many teachers this is a feature, not a bug - that as many are attracted by having the summer off as are harmed by it.

Further, this is a management choice made by schools that could be fixed instantly. *I have always thought it was crazy that we invest billions in physical and human resources for education and then let all this capacity lie dormant 25% of the year. *Even if kids only went to school for 9 months a year, their terms could be rotated through the calendar so school assets are used all year long and teachers could have a full 12 months employment.

Teachers do a lot of work at home

The BLS believes it has corrected for this in the hourly wages it publishes, but what if it has not? * Are teachers really more likely to take work home than are other professionals?

Teachers are not paid as well as other Masters degree holders

This certainly depends on the degree. *I am willing to believe they are paid less than a Masters in biochemistry, but they likely earn more than a Masters in Mayan feminism.

But my main problem with this statement is this: *If we suddenly demanded that everyone who fills potholes in roads have a masters degree in shoveling, does this suddenly make road workers underpaid, or is it just a stupid requirement?

The degree requirements for teachers are part and parcel of the whole government human resources process that puts certifications and credentials above achievement and performance. *I think there is a lot of very good real world evidence that a multi-year masters degree in teaching does little to improve or predict teacher performance, and in fact is probably a total waste in time compared to advanced education in*relevant*subject matters like math or history.

If teachers are paid so well, why is there a teacher shortage?

First, it's not entirely clear there is a shortage at all. *Certainly there seemed to be a disproportionate number of aspiring teachers in the Occupy Wall Street movement who are disaffected because they cannot land the full-time teaching position they desire.

Further, given that public school wages actually exceed private school wages, a more likely explanation for any shortages is the obtuse certification system in most public schools. *After all, many professional groups *(from lawyers and doctors to real estate agents and hair dressers) are huge supporters of government-enforced certification systems because they limit competition and artificially increase wages.

The real problem is a shortage of good teachers

This may or may not be - the teachers unions work very, very hard to prevent the public from being able to measure the performance of the teachers whose salaries we pay.

However, if one were to design a system from scratch purposefully to promote mediocrity, one could hardly do better than the human resource systems used in public schools. *Government schools hire based on certifications rather than ability, pay based on tenure rather than performance, and almost never fire a teacher for any reason other than fiscal problems *(and even then layoffs are by tenure). *Public school teachers must work in stultifying organizations that have as many as one administrator for every teacher. * Do talented people aspire to work for the Post Office or DMV? *Given the management of public schools, the real question to ask is not why we don't have enough great teachers, but why we have any at all.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/warrenme...ers-underpaid/
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Old 02-08-2014, 11:55 PM   #2
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Unfortunately, those of us that are professionals...work until job is done. Learn how to excel, or let me happily dig your grave loser
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Old 02-09-2014, 04:39 AM   #3
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Some are underpaid and some are overpaid.

Starting off they do not make much for a job that requires a college degree and has a lot of headaches. It is not an 8 hour per day job if done properly.

Problem is that it is really hard to rate them properly and salary is not significantly adjusted according to quality of work.

As far a job security, in my county, you are year to year and have no guarantees. If your principal does not want you, he does not have to fire you, he just does not rehire you the following year.

Pros and cons. You will never get rich, but most good teachers/educators do it because they want to make a difference and enjoy it.

JMO.
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Old 02-09-2014, 05:30 AM   #4
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Old 02-09-2014, 06:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GlockMan View Post
Some are underpaid and some are overpaid.

Starting off they do not make much for a job that requires a college degree and has a lot of headaches. It is not an 8 hour per day job if done properly.

Problem is that it is really hard to rate them properly and salary is not significantly adjusted according to quality of work.
Make much as compared to what job with a college degree? A college degree doesn't automatically equal higher wealth. It gives you the learnings and sometimes skills to work in a particular field/job.

Not saying they aren't paid low but what do you compare teachers salaries against? School adminastrators? Other public service workers?

Maybe the problem lies with not enough passionate teachers who really want to teach.

Sally goes to college. Partying often and has a good time. Doesn't really know why she's in college, just that she's been told higher education is what she needs. Not sure about what she wants, she chooses elementary education. She graduates college after 4-5 years still unsure about her decision, but with a degree in hand. She lands her first job as a 3rd grade teacher. Unhappy with her career choice, she begins to have regrets. She looks at avenues that will ease her choice she is now burdened with. Higher compensation is one of them. Why? Because Sally figures since she has to be stuck in a job that she now thinks is difficult and a burden because of a choice she made, she should get a pat on the back and automatically be privileged to a higher salary.

But the problem is that unlike most other jobs, salary increases for teachers aren't tied to performance. They are tied to tenure. And until you change that, how can one effectively rate and award higher salaries to the teachers who are deserving and truly there to teach children?
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Old 02-09-2014, 08:17 AM   #6
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Work in down town Baltimore with inner city kids like my wife did.

Yeah, they are underpaid for the things they have to put up with during and after the school day. Threats, violence, broken homes, child protective services, etc -- on top of their regular duties of doing lesson plans and grading homework.

Like what was said earlier, some are over, and some are underpaid. For some the salary is commensurate with the job. I guess it depends where you are and what school you're working at.




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Old 02-09-2014, 08:29 AM   #7
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Work in down town Baltimore with inner city kids like my wife did.

Yeah, they are underpaid for the things they have to put up with during and after the school day. Threats, violence, broken homes, child protective services, etc -- on top of their regular duties of doing lesson plans and grading homework.

Like what was said earlier, some are over, and some are underpaid. For some the salary is commensurate with the job. I guess it depends where you are and what school you're working at.




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This. Not sure most people factor the everyday negatives when they decide teachers are overpaid.
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:10 AM   #8
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Wall Street Journal's and Forbes' idea of "regular folks":



"The Onion couldn't top this. Whether it's the sad faces of all these put-upon dejected rich people, or the elderly minority couple who is depressed despite not paying extra taxes (or was that the point?), or the distressed single Asian lady making $230,000 who might not be able to buy that extra designer pantsuit this year, or the "single mother" making $260,000 whose kids presumably have a deadbeat, indigent dad just like any other poor family, or that struggling family of six making $650,000 including $180,000 of pure passive income and wondering how to make ends meet, mockery is almost superfluous...

Beyond mockery, though, that the Wall Street Journal would even dare publish such a thing without irony is indicative of the reality that the wealthy don't live in the same country as the rest of us... They're people who see a single individual making $230,000 as struggling to get by, and severely put upon by the loss of a couple thousand dollars to help pay for decrepit infrastructure and basic healthcare for the indigent."
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:14 AM   #9
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2 retired teachers in NY will absolutely bring home around 180k
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:26 AM   #10
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2 retired teachers in NY will absolutely bring home around 180k
Source? Considering you used the word "absolutely", there's no doubt that you'll come back with many reputable sources that confirm this number, right?
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:30 AM   #11
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:30 AM   #12
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This week's republican propaganda worklist:

1. Beat down the gender pay gap

2. Welfare fraud

3. Teachers are overpaid

4. Single person making a quarter million a year is "average", as is a family of four making $650,000

5. Black people are racist

6. Obama is a muslim commie marxist liberal dope smoking homosexual heroin addict


Please copy/paste and spread the word to every forum and facebook.
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:40 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Source? Considering you used the word "absolutely", there's no doubt that you'll come back with many reputable sources that confirm this number, right?
Why would I need to do that, their salaries are public.

http://rocdocs.democratandchronicle....sions-new-york

http://data.newsday.com/long-island/...hool-salaries/

even someone like you could find them on their own
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:53 AM   #14
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Why would I need to do that, their salaries are public.

http://rocdocs.democratandchronicle....sions-new-york

http://data.newsday.com/long-island/...hool-salaries/

even someone like you could find them on their own
How are those sources? It's a name and a salary next to it. I see as high as half a million to as low as $1. What does that tell me?

Even someone like you should be able to figure out that this is not a source, let alone a reliable one.
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Old 02-09-2014, 10:01 AM   #15
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How are those sources? It's a name and a salary next to it. I see as high as half a million to as low as $1. What does that tell me?

Even someone like you should be able to figure out that this is not a source, let alone a reliable one.
One can't make wild claims if you expect legitimate sources.


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Old 02-09-2014, 10:06 AM   #16
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Work in down town Baltimore with inner city kids like my wife did.

Yeah, they are underpaid for the things they have to put up with during and after the school day. Threats, violence, broken homes, child protective services, etc -- on top of their regular duties of doing lesson plans and grading homework.

Like what was said earlier, some are over, and some are underpaid. For some the salary is commensurate with the job. I guess it depends where you are and what school you're working at.




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This. Not sure most people factor the everyday negatives when they decide teachers are overpaid.
There's negatives to any job. Life isn't fair and dandy. However why aren't we paying teachers individually based on their performance? This would solve a lot of controversy and silence the banner wavers of 'underpaid and over utilized'.

People go into these jobs knowing what the daily work is like as well as the compensation. You can't tell me they don't know any better. It's a personal decision that should merit responsibility and being accountable for ones decisions. I've always been one that believes people are fully in charge and capable of decisions that effect them. The easy way out is complaining. The logical solution is to continue to perform, identify issues, build a case, gather support, and put more pressure on unions, administrators, and politicians to correct them in a manner that benefits all parties.
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Old 02-09-2014, 10:07 AM   #17
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Wall Street Journal's and Forbes' idea of "regular folks":



"The Onion couldn't top this. Whether it's the sad faces of all these put-upon dejected rich people, or the elderly minority couple who is depressed despite not paying extra taxes (or was that the point?), or the distressed single Asian lady making $230,000 who might not be able to buy that extra designer pantsuit this year, or the "single mother" making $260,000 whose kids presumably have a deadbeat, indigent dad just like any other poor family, or that struggling family of six making $650,000 including $180,000 of pure passive income and wondering how to make ends meet, mockery is almost superfluous...

Beyond mockery, though, that the Wall Street Journal would even dare publish such a thing without irony is indicative of the reality that the wealthy don't live in the same country as the rest of us... They're people who see a single individual making $230,000 as struggling to get by, and severely put upon by the loss of a couple thousand dollars to help pay for decrepit infrastructure and basic healthcare for the indigent."
This is stupid. Not sure what the point is as we know this isn't factual.
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Old 02-09-2014, 10:25 AM   #18
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There's negatives to any job. Life isn't fair and dandy. However why aren't we paying teachers individually based on their performance? This would solve a lot of controversy and silence the banner wavers of 'underpaid and over utilized'.

People go into these jobs knowing what the daily work is like as well as the compensation. You can't tell me they don't know any better. It's a personal decision that should merit responsibility and being accountable for ones decisions. I've always been one that believes people are fully in charge and capable of decisions that effect them. The easy way out is complaining. The logical solution is to continue to perform, identify issues, build a case, gather support, and put more pressure on unions, administrators, and politicians to correct them in a manner that benefits all parties.
You make it sound so easy which, to me, shows you don't have an idea on what it's really like - specifically in troubled schools that will throw teachers under the bus instead of blaming administrators.

Schools in these areas get measured, as a whole, for the performance of their students which is tied to funding. This creates a whole new dynamic of pressure.

You should talk to my wife and let her explain to you life as a teacher in a Baltimore public school.


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Old 02-09-2014, 10:39 AM   #19
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All teachers I know are massively underpaid and underappreciated. Not to mention you can only teach in your state, which makes job opportunities locally oversaturated to begin with. Couple that with poor school funding (see: government sucks with money), and you've got a really, really terrible job system for something so incredibly necessary for the future.

The fact that we treat school so leniently and nonchalantly and not as serious as it really needs to be is mind-boggling to me.
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Old 02-09-2014, 10:42 AM   #20
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You make it sound so easy which, to me, shows you don't have an idea on what it's really like - specifically in troubled schools that will throw teachers under the bus instead of blaming administrators.

Schools in these areas get measured, as a whole, for the performance of their students which is tied to funding. This creates a whole new dynamic of pressure.

You should talk to my wife and let her explain to you life as a teacher in a Baltimore public school.


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The point being is with some timeout, analysis of the situation, approaching others with a level head, and appealing to the right people, problems get solved. Are teachers not empowered to offer their opinions?
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