Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Of Course I'd Like To Make More Money

But let's be honest, I'm not destitute:
Well, it’s a new school year and there is much tumult in the world of public education. Common Core battles, testing opt-outs, and litigation about school choice and teacher work rules dot the landscape. But with all the uncertainty, it’s comforting to know that there is one thing we can count on in late summer: a new bogus study showing that public school teachers are woefully underpaid...

But like most similar studies, EPI’s doesn’t do an apples-to-apples comparison. It omits a few things like the simple fact that teachers work 6-7 hour days and 180 days a year, whereas the study’s “comparable workers” put in an 8-9 hour a day and work 240-250 days a year. (Yes, yes, I know teachers take work home, but so do many other professionals who don’t get summers off.) Also, unlike private-sector workers, most teachers have extensive health benefits for which they typically pay very little, if anything. Furthermore, as University of Missouri professor Michael Podgursky points out, the pension benefits for teachers, which they only pay a tiny portion of – the taxpayer getting hosed for the rest – add greatly to a teacher’s total compensation. (The EPI report actually alludes to this, but buries it on page 14; more on this in a bit.)

Perhaps the most honest and well-researched study done on teacher pay, including the time-on-the-job and benefits factors, was done in 2011 by Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. In their report, they destroy the teacher union-perpetuated myth of the under-compensated teacher. Their study, in fact, found that teachers are actually paid more than private-sector workers.  (link)
AEI and the Heritage Foundation aren't exactly unbiased outfits, either.  Where could we go to get a neutral accounting on this topic?  Is there such a thing as "truth" here?


Anonymous said...

Do you really only work 6-7 hours a day? Most teachers I know put in 10-12 hours a day.

Darren said...

Lots of salaried workers do. But if I *chose* to work only my contractually-obligated time, I can't and won't be fired for it. I'm not the majority of salaried workers can say that.

BB-Idaho said...

I'm a bit curious as to what private sector jobs were included in the study as equivalent to teaching. From my experience in that sector there are grades of accountants, engineers, office managers,
supervisors, HR types etc; along with a range of compensation. I'm
confused as well by the value assigned a kindergarten teacher, wrestling coach, math teacher and audiovisual person.

PeggyU said...

Our neighbor is a retired teacher. He raised seven kids on a teacher's salary, and his wife was a stay-at-home mom. I know they were frugal and budget conscious, but the mere fact that he could support a family of that size without resorting to welfare indicates that his salary was not that paltry.

About five years ago his wife fell ill, ended up spending several months in the hospital, and ultimately passed away. This sort of medical care would likely devastate most families, but he told me that he was relieved that because of his health benefits the majority of the expense was covered.

He has since remarried. His new wife is also a retired teacher. They have done a tremendous overhaul of his house and yard. They frequently take vacations to far off places. My observation is that they live pretty well! As far as I know, it is mostly due to their retirement savings, though he does have a small business that supplements their income.

I don't know if teachers who have entered the workforce more recently have the same perks. In observing teacher friends who are my age, most of them are not suffering financially, but they don't seem to be quite as well situated as our older friend.

Most of the teachers I know have bachelor's degrees, though the trend in our school district in recent years has been toward hiring those with master's degrees. It seems as though the requirements have gone up while the pay and benefits have not. That is my perception of the circumstances where we live.

I imagine it may vary widely and depends on where you live.