Friday, February 02, 2007

Teachers Are Not Underpaid

I wonder how much these yahoos (the authors) make, and what their education level is, and how many hours a year they work. I'm just asking.

Update, 2/5/07: Mike at EIA (see blogroll at left) has this comment about teacher pay and unionism on the February 5th Intercepts:

Union spokesmen knocked each other over to claim that teachers are woefully underpaid – you can check out this sampling from Michigan, Iowa and Ohio. I've never been able to square this with the accompanying claims of the benefits of unionism. Forty years of collective bargaining and political power and teacher salaries still stink? Time for a new direction, if you ask me.

Hard to argue with that logic.


Anonymous said...

My wife and I are teachers in Ohio, and I don't disagree with most of the article.

The biggest probelm with our salary is the $1200 each year that the unions steal from us.

Darren said...

In my district, the unions take $950 per year. Per person.

That's why I'm an agency fee payer.

Pappa said...

One of the authors is a professor at the University of Arkansas. As a U of A alumni, and a fellow college professor, I would say he probably doesn't make as much as you might expect.

However, you'll get no argument of me if you say that teachers, including college professors, are paid juuuuussst fine.

Great blog, Darren. Really enjoy it.


Mike said...

One might notice that the authors of the article do admit that when one compares yearly salaries, teachers do, in fact, seem a bit underpaid, but according to the authors, the only meaningful way to compare the salaries of teachers with other professionals is by the hour.

Well. Teachers are not hourly employees. And in order to come up with their figures, the authors must compute the absolute minimum daily hours possible and the shortest possible school year. If I figured my hourly wages based only on the daily hours between the first and last bells, and only on a school calendar of say, 170 or so days, it might appear that I was making the fabulous salary the authors cite. Reality, however, is somewhat different.

I am a bit confused about how they got their hourly figure of some $35. In a 180 day school year, 8 hours per day, and a yearly salary of $35,000, a teacher's hourly wage is only $24.31 per hour. To get their figure, one would have to make more than $50,000 per year. I don't know about the rest of the country, but not many teachers in Texas make that kind of money. With an annual salary of $40,000, which I suspect is much closer to a reasonable average, the hourly figure is only $27.78, about $8.00 per hour less than the author's "average."

So just for fun, let's assume that most overpaid teachers make $40,000 (I wish) per year, which is again, less than $28.00 per hour. If that teacher spends an additional hour (many spend much more) at school daily, that lowers their hourly salary to $24.70. If that teacher spends an additional hour per day with grading, school preparation, etc. (again, many spend many more hours), the hourly wage becomes $22.22. Hmm. Those astronomical teaching wages aren't looking so good. But as the late night commercials say: Wait! There's more!

Let's figure in, say, 40 hours per year of unpaid school related functions, such as supervising athletic contests and other events (it's down to $21.73), and 40 hours talking to parents, friends and neighbors at home, on the phone, in the supermarket and in other venues about school related issues ($21.28). Let's add another 60 hours for about 2.5 days putting the classroom to rest when school is officially out, and five days prior to school starting for resurrecting it again ($20.61)

Now, again, just for giggles, let's add in--or rather subtract from the salary total--$500 for supplies that our teacher has to buy themselves each year (many spend much more--I spend at least that much in printer ink. You doubt me? See what it costs to refill a printer these days.), and we're down to $20.36. Add in $2000 for six graduate credits--teachers have to constantly renew their certificates, usually at their own expense--and it's now $19.32 (I know, that's really cheap for 6 hours of grad. credit). We'll be nice and not add in books, travel and lodging expenses, and we won't mention that such classes kill six weeks or so of the 2.5 months or less that teachers actually have off in the summer. And we'll leave it at that, despite knowing that we could easily and legitimately add more hours and subtract more expenses.

This, not the author's manipulations, is the reality of teaching, and while we all know that not every teacher is as dedicated as the fictional teacher I've constructed here, this is certainly a conservative average. If the teacher makes only $35,000, their hourly wage is only $16.75. I can count on one hand the number of teachers in my medium sized high school who make $50,000 or more per year, but I don't have enough hands and feet to count those making less than $35,000.

But these authors couldn't have an agenda, could they? Surely their only thought is what's best for the children, right?

Be careful, folks, these are the kind of people who want to help public education by draining its funding through vouchers, privatization and other schemes. If you agree with those schemes, even in principle if not application, these folks are your bedfellows. Caveat emptor.

Darren said...

I have no problem with school choice and the like, but I didn't find the authors' arguments or calculations reflective of reality. Mike's calculations are fairly good, and his reasoning significantly better, but his numbers aren't as applicable in a high-cost state like California.

Pappa said...

Nothing brings about good debate like discussing teacher salaries.

I don't want to get booed off the stage here, but I'll continue.

First, the study/funding for the project in AR that rewards teachers for student test scores was funded by the Walton Foundation. Pretty conservative group.

Second, I'm a BIG proponent of accountability in the classroom. One of the best ways to induce accountability is to induce competition. In this case, competition for students. Vouchers et al. make schools/teachers WORK for students such that these students do not leave to a "better" school. Competition is always good except in its most extreme form. Competition for students will never reach that extreme. We have too little competition now. Not surprisingly, the teachers' unions are the strongest opponent of vouchers and accountability. Unions wouldn't want to squash competition would they (ref: UAW). Unions cannot survive in an environment characterized by high levels of competition. Unions thrive in monopolistic or oligopolistic environments.

Third, I would be more amenable to the school districts apportioning more money to teachers for supplies rather than directly paying them a greater salary.

Further, I would be amenable to the school district paying for continuing education (within reason...don't want tax dollars sending teachers to Hawaii).

As for having to work longer hours or hours outside of school, I have little sympathy. Teachers are professionals. Teachers are on salary. One thing that sucks about being a salaried professional is that you don't get paid for working overtime or outside of the office. Sorry. That's just part of the game.

In sum, our high-school education system is not working. Some of the problem is outside the teachers' control. Some of the problem falls under the purview of teachers. I believe in rewarding people based on merit, not tenure. A merit pay system will not be supported by teachers unions because they don't want to be accountable (I don't either for that matter but oh well). However, that doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do.


Mike Reno said...

Poster "Mike" references salaries for Texas.

Here are some from Michigan (based on the annual step pay schedule):

Step 0 (starting) with BA: $38K - $40K per year.

Step 10 (10 years of seniority) with MA: $80K+

Longevity bonus at 15 years: $1500 or more depending on district.

Cost of medical benefits for family: nearly $16K per year.

Retirement benefits: 17.74% of salary (expected to approach 20% next year).

And, the authors did specifically address the extra time teachers put in, and they do put in a lot, just as professionals do in other careers.

Also, they did address the hourly vs. annual compensation point.

==> Mike.

Old Math said...

The authors of the article were merely reporting results from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). If you have a gripe with the methodology take it up with the US government, not the Wall Street Journal.

I know some teacher that are greatly underpaid and some that are greatly overpaid. They all work at the same school, getting paid the same wage.

Darren said...

Pappa, I'll disagree with two things you said.

First, I'm not a proponent of the "you're salaried, get used to it" argument. People are paid to do a job; if that job cannot reasonably be done within a set time, then it is the company's responsibility to get more employees. The same works for government employers (e.g., school districts).

Additionally, money for school supplies should be entirely separate from teacher pay. There should be no expectation that teachers pay from their own pockets to educate your child, and neither should they have to choose between either having the supplies they need to teach or the money they need to live on.

Otherwise, I liked what you wrote :-)