I was reading the Wall Street Journal online tonight and came across an article that makes an argument that teachers are overpaid. I was shocked with the comparisons and the idea that you can compare the work a teacher does to the work an architect or economists does. The other thing I was astonished to read was that the author was basing his premise on an hourly wage.
Who, on average, is better paid — public school teachers or architects? How about teachers or economists? You might be surprised to learn that public school teachers are better paid than these and many other professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school teachers earned $34.06 per hour in 2005, 36% more than the hourly wage of the average white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty or technical worker. [snip]…..
In the popular imagination, however, public school teachers are underpaid. “Salaries are too low. We all know that,” noted First Lady Laura Bush, expressing the consensus view. “[snip]…. time per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled; overall we now annually spend more than $500 billion on public education. [snip]….
It would be beneficial if the debate focused on the actual salaries teachers are already paid.
It would also be beneficial if the debate touched on the correlation between teacher pay and actual results. [snip]…. In fact, the urban areas with the highest teacher pay are famous for their abysmal outcomes.
Teachers have contracts and a set number of hours they are required to work each day in our school district, but as anyone who has spent any time in a k12 school knows that teachers do not work the set hours and get their job done. 7.5 hours is not enough time to prepare lessons, prepare for the requirements of the state and federal “No Child Left Behind” standards or in the case of Florida the FCAT test. If a teacher just worked their 7.5 hours they would be woefully unprepared.
The author uses a poor logic for the annual differences in salaries stating that:
But comparing earnings on an annual basis would be inappropriate when teachers work significantly fewer hours than do other workers. Teachers can use that time to be with family, to engage in activities that they enjoy, or to earn additional money from other employment. That time off is worth money and cannot simply be ignored when comparing earnings. [snip]….
Moreover, the earnings data reported here, which are taken directly from the National Compensation Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, do not include retirement and health benefits, which tend to be quite generous for public school teachers relative to other workers.
Now, nowhere in the article does the author link to his sources, he quotes them and tells us where they supposedly came from, but we have no easy way to check his facts. So, because a teacher can spend time with their family that’s compensation? Has the author tried to get a summer job? I don’t think so, especially when he is a higher education professor with the University of Arkansas and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He doesn’t explain how the time off is worth money, it’s just a statement with no facts to back it up.
As for the benefits and retirement, if the data he quotes does not include these items for teachers, then they don’t include them for the other jobs he uses in comparison. How does he know the benefit packages for k12 teachers and economist? He again shows no facts, so how are we to believe his words.
I work with the k12 teachers, I know the benefits packages for these people. K12 teachers are underpaid for what they have to do, which is teach our kids how to read, write, count, be prepared for higher education and be a productive member of society if they don’t go onto higher education.