Are teachers overpaid?
According to contemporary culture, teachers are held up to the highest esteem universally. They are virtually beyond criticism. They are dedicated public servants who are overworked and underpaid. Though they are government workers, they are not considered bureaucrats.
(I know that because I had a cousin who was a public school teacher. When I said she was a government worker, she insisted that she was not. Scary. A schoolteacher who does not know that she is being paid by the taxpayers and working in government-run schools. Ouch!)
Naturally, we all love our teachers. They are like co-parents caring for our children – teaching them essential information and good values. And for the most part, they deserve our respect. But below the pedestal, there is another set of facts.
The public education system is coming under increasing attack from parents for educational practices and curriculum enhancement they find disturbing. And well they should. Increasing numbers of parents are protesting against two relatively new developments in the classroom – material that is age inappropriate and political indoctrination – including the elimination of positive civic education.
In many ways, teachers are caught in the middle, between the dictates of the very liberal national educational establishment – politicians, unions, education lobbyists, and activists – and the parents. Unfortunately, too many teachers are philosophically aligned and supportive of the national education establishment.
The battleline in education is the same conflict we see throughout the American culture – whether the power to establish policies and laws rests with the people or are imposed on the people by an elitist establishment ruling-class at the top of the governmental structure.
Two trends have led to the conflict between parents and the school systems – unionization and usurpation of power by the folks in Washington. Perhaps the greatest mistake was the creation of the Department of Education and the overseer of what were once thousands of independent school districts.
(I will digress for a disclaimer. Before those on the left get their hair on fire. I am not remotely suggesting that local control of schools mean going back to segregated schools. The one and only role of the federal government in education is to intervene when there are clear issues of constitutionality. Or that there cannot be national testing and national standards.)
Arguably the second major issue – behind what is being taught in the classrooms – is the issue of budgeting and compensation. Virtually all school systems in America are taxing districts. The school boards set the budget and tax accordingly.
Unfortunately, the state and federal governments have taken on an increasingly more prominent role in funding education. There is some legitimacy in the state’s contribution, but the role of the federal government in funding local education should be extremely limited. The money is the oppressive power of the federal government. It is that old saw – them’s that pays the piper picks the tunes.
Then there is the issue of compensation. Historically, government workers … public servants … bureaucrats have been relatively poorly paid. That is why there were called “servants.” In return for their sacrifice, we have our public servants unprecedented job security. Unlike the private sector, it is virtually impossible to fire government – even if justified. That is very true of teachers. We often hear of layoffs and workforce reduction in the private sector – but when is the last time you heard that happen to government workers?
While government workers – including teachers – have maintained their job security, they have become the highest paid workers in America, with Cadillac health and benefits plans, and exorbitant pensions. Government workers can even stack pensions and wind up earning more in retirements than at any time in their working career. (And we the people put up with this.)
Whoa! Did I lump teachers in with the highest-paid frontline government workers? Yes, I did.
I recently ran across one of the education lobby’s recent statistics – not that that salary in America is approximately $68,000, while the average teacher salary is around $60,000. That does not seem to be outrageously far from the income of an average working, but there is something that rarely gets considered when evaluating teacher income. (I had to deal with it when I served as senior advisor to the Chicago and Detroit Boards of Education.)
Teachers do not work full-time compared to traditional workers. That have three months off during the summer. They have extended days off during the Christmas/New Year holidays, a spring break, every conceivable holiday, sick days, and, in many cases, an occasion year off with pay called a sabbatical. etc.
They also have a shortened workday. Yes, I have heard that theory about how teachers work in late into the night at home — correcting papers and preparing assignments. There are teachers like that, but they are far and few between these days. More typical are the teachers who use their free time for supplemental income – working as real estate agents, bartenders, retail employees or even carrying out online home businesses.
If you calculate teacher salary based on hours on the job in the school, teachers are among the highest paid frontline workers in government. In fact, the number of actual in-classroom “teaching hours” has been shrinking over time.
Some teachers work more hours than others. In Detroit, for example, we had an “assistant coach” who worked two to three hours per day for a fulltime salary. He basically opened up the gym, the equipment room and lockers in the morning and locked them down in the afternoon.
The average American worker is on the job approximately 1768 hours per year. Teachers’ in-school hours are closer to 1300 hours per year. That means approximately 25 percent fewer hours. That means the private sector worker is earning about $34.50 per hour. The average teacher is earning approximately $46.20 per hour.
These figures are vary widely from school district to school district, but the principle applies. Teachers are well compensated for their time.
While we have addressed curriculum in terms of appropriateness and political indoctrination, there is also the baseline quality of education. Study-after-study has shown that public school children are not getting the education they need and deserve. America is falling behind. Our test scores for math are now below the world average – ranking the United States 30th in the world. In science, the United States is 11th.
The most obscene and immoral failures are in schools in segregated communities in our major cities when Democrat political machines have run the school systems for generations. (I say that because it is true – and it ignites the hair of the progressives.) Even with the high pay and extraordinary benefits, American parents and children are not getting their money’s worth.
I attribute to progressive trendiness and wokeness in the white majority schools – that and institutional racism in the separate-but-unequal ghetto schools.
There is a simple and effective first… school choice. Let parents take our taxpayer commitment to education to the school of their choosing – public, private, or parochial. Our focus should be on the education of the children – not brick and mortar, union benefits, and Washington social engineers. But more about that in a future commentary.
So, there ’tis,