Teacher Pay

I have written before about the need to INCREASE teacher pay, not cut it. This weekend’s NY Times published an op-ed saying the same thing.

We have a rare chance now, with many teachers near retirement, to prove we’re serious about education. The first step is to make the teaching profession more attractive to college graduates. This will take some doing.

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.

We have full time teachers who cant even afford to buy a house in many communities. In Madison Metropolitan School District, we have full time EAS (who are some of the hardest working people in the schools) who have their kids on free/reduced lunch! Now Governor Walker comes in, whose education himself is lacking, and gives school districts the “tools” of cutting teachers salary.

The authors of this op-ed are also the producers The \"American Teacher\" documentary. They point out the tremendous cost to our country by how we currently treat our teachers.

Imagine a novice teacher, thrown into an urban school, told to teach five classes a day, with up to 40 students each. At the year’s end, if test scores haven’t risen enough, he or she is called a bad teacher. For college graduates who have other options, this kind of pressure, for such low pay, doesn’t make much sense. So every year 20 percent of teachers in urban districts quit. Nationwide, 46 percent of teachers quit before their fifth year. The turnover costs the United States $7.34 billion yearly. The effect within schools — especially those in urban communities where turnover is highest — is devastating.

They then think big in offering solutions.

McKinsey polled 900 top-tier American college students and found that 68 percent would consider teaching if salaries started at $65,000 and rose to a maximum of $150,000. Could we do this? If we’re committed to “winning the future,” we should. If any administration is capable of tackling this, it’s the current one. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan understand the centrality of teachers and have said that improving our education system begins and ends with great teachers. But world-class education costs money.

For those who say, “How do we pay for this?” — well, how are we paying for three concurrent wars? How did we pay for the interstate highway system? Or the bailout of the savings and loans in 1989 and that of the investment banks in 2008? How did we pay for the equally ambitious project of sending Americans to the moon? We had the vision and we had the will and we found a way.

Bravo to them, there are actual “tools” beyond cutting teacher pay! That is true “American Exceptionalism”!


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59 thoughts on “Teacher Pay

  1. If teachers are unhappy with their pay they can always go into a different field, no one forces them to be “enslaved.”

  2. To Notalib,

    I think if you had read the above blog, you would have realized that teachers are retiring in droves. Many top notch college students would only consider teaching at considerably higher pay. Since teaching is a vocation, many other top notch college students will choose to teach despite pay. Unfortunately many of those will not continue. The reality of the pressure to keep “increasing test scores” (not necessarily the most important thing in the education of children), as well as the low esteem people like you hold teachers in takes its toll.

    1. I don’t hold them in low esteem, I have two teachers in teh family and if they can get a higher pay more power to them, I believe everyone should achieve as high as pay as possible. All I am saying is IF they are so unahppy a career change may be the best thig for them and their students, they went in knowing what the payscale was and now they are acting surprised, sorry that dog don’t hunt.

  3. In service related fields, pay scale is not really a matter of supply and demand, it’s a matter of how much society values the service. If only we had a society that valued our children’s future more highly.

  4. Notalib–Teachers who are unhappy with their working conditions do go into other fields, where they work fewer than 58 hours per week (which is a typical teacher work week) and make more money. Many other types of workers, like direct care nursing home workers, do the same. Oh well, we as a society will have to figure out how to live in a world without educated people, and how to die in a world without direct health care workers. Good luck with that, all you conned-servatives out there.

  5. geezermon, my wife is a hospice RN she case manages anywhere from 12 to 15 pateints at a time, she puts in 50 to 60 hours a week, drives up to 350 miles a week plus she is on call some days 24/7, so don’t act like teachers are making some kind of special sacrifice.

    1. Since when were we talking about RNs? This is about the education of our children. Why don’t you just come out and say it; that you do not value education, that your staunch belief is that it is not a factor in the performance of industry or our society as a whole. That it had nothing to do with the rise of our nation as the premier industrial power, and that there should be no incentive for our smart young people to take up a career of educating the next generation of americans to aspire to greatness.

      I’ll save you the trouble, because you already have. Many times over.

      1. As Notalib has stated elsewhere, he equates public education with liberal/progressive indoctrination.

        He not only doesn’t value public education, he despises it, and THAT is at the heart of everything that he has to say about education. Factor that into anything that he has to say on the subject. It will help to make sense out of what he says.

        I’ve always suspected that he had a hard time in school. Couple that with his hyper-partisan rightwing views on everything, and what Notalib says regarding education starts to make more sense, in a “Bizarro World” sort of way.

  6. WOW Rich can you be any further off the mark? Again I repeat I have no problem with what a teacher makes if they can find a way to get a higher salary more power to them but you just cannot keep raising taxes with out making sacrifices somwehere, someplace down the line something has to be scaled back or eleminated. Its a pertty simple concept to understand

    1. Nota,

      For once you’re right. You know what should be scaled back? 800 plus military bases overseas. The real defense budget annualy exceeds a trillion dollars. You can hire a lot of teachers, and hospice nurses, and alot of whatever, for that kind of money

      Donald Rumsfeld said the war in Iraq would cost 50 billion dollars. It’s now over one trillion. He was a bit off.

      The combined projected deficits of all states in 2012 is roughly 112 billion dollars. The cost of the war in Afghanistan in 2012 is projected at 104 billion. Hmmmm.

      Something has to be scaled back, you bet. It’s a pretty simple concept to understand.

    2. Easy to say that public education is where the “sacrifice” needs to be made when you not only don’t value public education, but despise it.

      Privatization of education has been a rightwing wet dream for a very long time.

  7. Oh please, RNs, Teachers, taxi drivers, fishermen, store clerks, dental assistants, bank tellers….all pay taxes.
    GE doesn’t and four hundred rich people in the U.S have more money than 155 million Americans altogether.
    It’s a pretty simple concept to understand. INCREASE the taxes on the wealthy.
    You can’t get blood from an onion.

    1. yes, to quote star trek, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few

  8. Ok then after you raise the tax on the ‘rich’ and the teachers want more money then where do you turn, at some point the well runs dry and then you need to make sacrifices. For you its a wait until it happens scenario for me its lets deal with it now.

    1. Again, it’s easy to say that public education is where the “sacrifice” needs to be made when you not only don’t value public education, but despise it, as Notalib does.

      In any event, Notalib’s “analyses” always involves premises which he hasn’t taken the time to have proven beforehand, as well as improbable future “scenarios” such as “after you raise the tax on the ‘rich’ [AND] the teachers want more money [sic] then where do you turn[?]”

      Well, Notalib, I doubt that teachers wanting more money is going to cause the world to end. I suppose that if it was going to, we could do something else to pay for the “exorbitant” demands of the teachers, like stop acting like we have to be the world’s policeman.

      We had a budget surplus in this country until Bush and his Republican cronies pushed through unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy, an unfunded Medicare Part B and took us into two unfunded and disastrously expensive and wrongheaded wars, representative of the Republicans’ unfortunate sense of what priorities should be.

      Education, public education, should be a priority, and teachers should be paid like education is exactly that.

      Republicans, wingnuts, teabaggers and the Christian right won’t say that because they believe, like Notalib does, that public education is evil, that it inculcates the wrong “values” [i.e. values other than those embodied by 1950s America], and want to replace it with a privatized, voucher-based system where “real values” can be taught, as well as corporate profit realized.

      I do agree with Notalib on one thing, though. “…[We] need to deal with [things] now”, but not in the manner anticipated by Notalib.

      We need to end the Bush tax cuts, and raise the tax rate of the top tier of taxpayers, the wealthiest of the wealthy, we need to penalize companies that ship jobs overseas, we need to make sure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes by closing loopholes allowing them to avoid doing so, we need to cut oil subsidies, and we need to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

      AND we need to treat the education of our youth as our ultimate priority, give public education its rightful and well-deserved due, along with adequate funding, and we need to pay teachers a salary that honors the “hero” status that they rightly deserve to have. We need to reverse the disastrous course that Republicans have begun to take with respect to public education, and we need to do it now.

      Republicans have wasted money for years on policies and wars that have proven disastrous, policies and wars that turned the Clinton budget surplus into a massive deficit, and allowed them to say, as Notalib maintains, that our only alternative is to cut things like public education and teacher’s salaries.

      Let’s tell them, and Notalib, enough. And start doing the right thing, beginning with paying teachers a salary commensurate with the fundamentally important role that they play, and should play, in all of our lives.

  9. Nota thats actually addressed in the article…

    For those who say, “How do we pay for this?” — well, how are we paying for three concurrent wars? How did we pay for the interstate highway system? Or the bailout of the savings and loans in 1989 and that of the investment banks in 2008? How did we pay for the equally ambitious project of sending Americans to the moon? We had the vision and we had the will and we found a way.

  10. Ok you say “beginning with paying teachers a salary commensurate with the fundamentally important role that they play” and what is that “fair” WAGE? Where does it start where does it cap?

  11. Nota do you even read the posts??? that is also answered in there!

    McKinsey polled 900 top-tier American college students and found that 68 percent would consider teaching if salaries started at $65,000 and rose to a maximum of $150,000. Could we do this?

    1. Citing that Mckinnsey research, you’re making the case for market-based pay. Great, couldn’t agree more. BUT – this cuts both ways. In Wisconsin (not counting MPS) with the current salary and benefits, we’re already getting hundreds of applicants for many positions. If you’re broad field social studies or history, you almost have to be able to walk on water just to get an interview. We could cut their starting salaries and/or benefits and still have a glut of qualified applicants. Meanwhile, tech ed. applicants can almost pick & choose their schools because schools can’t find enough of them.

      Wisconsin’s education schools export hundreds of teachers every year – most intelligent, hard working and well-trained. Arizona and Las Vegas recruit here heavily because of the work ethic & quality of our ed schools. I know a couple of schools out there that have half a dozen teachers hired directly out of UW schools. The teachers don’t leave because they really want to – or because the out of state jobs pay more. They leave because they want a job and can actually get one there.

      Using market pay to get the best & brightest means paying some fields more than others based on the talent pool. What do you think WEAC’s opinion on that is? What’s yours?

      1. true Wisconsin does put out many highly qualified teachers, the worry is, and its a legitimate one, that with the current demonizing of teachers that will change. Why would someone go into the profession now?

        So if we pay by subject matter that will just over correct a temporary problem. If we make the teaching profession as whole valued, respected and well compensated than everything will even out. The problem we have is, as the article points out, too many schools have such high turnover. let’s fix the problems in education that are there.

        Unfortunately the only thing the governor seems to want to fix, which is not a problem, is that teachers are overpaid.

        1. The problem we have is, as the article points out, too many schools have such high turnover. let’s fix the problems in education that are there.

          Op-end, not article. Setting aside that it’s an opinion piece, the major problem I have with it – and you’re taking it so seriously – is that it’s pretty clear they’re not talking about Wisconsin. (The toll workers comparison was a good clue). They were overly vague and spoke like they were universal problems, but they’re not.

          Again – aside from a few subject areas, we simply don’t have problems finding a large number of quality applicants. We do not have a high turnover problem – at all – in K-12 education in this state.

          Now – if you want to talk about MPS, that’s all a whole other story. And certainly, a lot of the problems the author mentioned are more common in major urban school districts. How to fix that is a really tough, and expansive problem. I think anything and everything should be tried there – tons of pilot programs to find out what sort of things can help, and what don’t. But money isn’t the panacea some seem to think, since MPS spends about 150% more per student than my kids’ school. And that includes cost of transportation – our rural district probably spends 10x as much on busing, which only makes the instructional spending even more severe.

          Also – while I don’t agree with everything Walker has done – and think he’s done a very poor job communicating – I think to say he’s demonizing teaching is a bit too far. I understand why some see it that way, but that doesn’t make it true. And I don’t think it will have a significant impact on the number of people going into teaching. We’ll have to wait & see though. With the economy we have right now, I have a hard time imagining college students really thinking a starting salary of $40,000 with better fringe benefits than they could ever get in the private sector is a bad deal.

          1. I would strongly disagree that he is demonizing teachers(and all public workers), Not only is he cutting their salaries significantly, he is also cutting $900 + million dollars from education AND completely taking away local control from the School Boards.

            I think money is a major problem, yes we are paying alot into education now but we need to redirect it not significantly slash it. Much of the costs of teachers go back to health care. I have heard as much as $25k yr per teacher. Thats not the teachers fault, and since every other industrialized country has some form of a single payer health care system, we truly dont spend more than every other country if you take that out.

            I cant speak to the Milwaukee Public Schools becuase I have not studied them, I would say though that cutting 1000 employees will not fix the problem either!!

            1. I cant speak to the Milwaukee Public Schools becuase I have not studied them, I would say though that cutting 1000 employees will not fix the problem either!!

              No argument there. Well that’s not exactly true – if one could actually be selective with the cuts and trim the fat, it could be addition by subtraction. But that’s not allowed – seniority is all that counts which is one of the things that is just broken about the current system.

              But keep in mind – a good chunk of those cuts were necessitated by their own doing. They were one of the districts that extended their contract before the state bill was passed. Waiting would have allowed them to spare a majority of those cuts. Time after time, the choice the unions make is to cut whole jobs rather than take minor concessions from everyone across the board. That’s fine – if that’s the way they want it, then they have to live with it.

              You’re certainly on the mark about health care being a major component & making everything else more difficult. State and local governments and private companies large and small are all bearing the brunt of the burden from Congress that has ignored the problem. While I disagree completely with most of “Obamacare,” I blame President Bush and the Republicans for not doing anything. They could have passed a number of smaller, targeted bills (like a health care portability act, no rescission, & addressing pre-existing conditions) that would have been universally supported, made things better for everyone and taken away the issue from the Democrats. All that being said, the fact of the matter is, the teacher’s health care plan is vastly more expensive than what anyone in the private sector has.

              1. The teachers health care plan is more expensive than the private sector has, and its much better in most instances. To which I say its a shame that the private sector has such bad health care, lets bring them up not the teachers down. Let’s look to the insurance companies to cut rates not the teachers to pay more and more and more.

                As for doing the contracts early, in my school district we re-upped them also and signed them for an extra year. We still forced the teachers to take a major pay cut to the tune of over 1.1 million dollars in “savings”. Which only left us almost $2 million in the hole. So the Gov’s tools didnt even cover half of the budget deficit we are facing.


                1. I take your point on not making it a race to the bottom. But we’re also not really talking about quality of care – though there’s always room for improvement, overall the quality of care is terrific compared to elsewhere. We’re talking about how to pay for it all. To that end, some of the cost increases to the individual actually do help with overall costs. As much as everyone complains about co-pays, for the relatively small price, they cause people to be better consumers – to consider whether a trip to the doctor for a cold or really minor things is really necessary. The same goes for the price difference between a regular doctor visit and an ER one (often times something like $25 vs $100 for ER). It makes you stop and think, “Can this really wait until Monday?” If it’s truly an emergency or needs immediate attention, $100 is nothing. But if it isn’t, and you wait to see your regular doctor, you’ve cut the costs (to the doctors, hospital, insurance company and yourself) significantly. Teachers have had plans with zero co-pay and even zero out of pocket expenses. While this is great if you can get it, it is a significant cause of health care inflation.

                  1. Locke,

                    I’d be interested to see evidence of what you describe above, that co-pays make people better health care consumers and that zero out of pocket expenses result in health care inflation. Where did you read this?

                  2. Locke, I see the point you are making but it doesn’t actually address the continued increases in the costs of health care. I might defer care for a day or two to avoid a larger co-pay but that doesn’t actually force the providers from reigning in the actual costs of providing the care…just your out of pocket cost for receiving it. I think we are all painfully aware that what we pay for health care (and perceive as its cost) isn’t actually what it costs.

                  3. Locke,

                    I don’t think there’s any solid evidence to support what you’ve alleged above.

                    There is, however, evidence to show that co-pays dramatically increase the administrative costs of health care by requiring more adminstrative staff and paperwork.

                    Zero co-pays actually reduce overall health care costs, not increase it.

                    There’s also evidence suggesting that a failure to go to the Dr. on a regular basis increases health care costs due to the high cost of treatment after conditions worsen, as contrasted with the lower costs associated with preventive care.

                    You’ve got things backwards, my friend.

              2. We aren’t even sure if 1000 is going to be the number or not. Until a state budget is even passed no one can predict what the shared revenue will be. In the past it was possible to make an educated guess since the ground rules fundamentally remained unchanged…but not this year.

  12. As long as we extend the school year to 12 months, base pay on merit, make proper adjustments to the benefit package, make teachers responsible for all their loans no sweetheart deals, remove tenure and make other proper adjustments I could see that as acceptable.

      1. I’ll grant that merit based pay isn’t always easy. But how is teaching so fundamentally different than any of the other careers where it has been done for decades? Hell the sort of chain of command approach to management has been practiced for centuries in the military. Why shouldn’t there be a management structure where the boss does performance reviews like everybody else?

        If the argument is that overall pay and benefits are a significant factor in bringing in and retaining quality teachers, then why shouldn’t merit/performance-based raises be used to reward and manage them?

        1. So then every district will be different based solely on the principal/adminstrators desires? Will we be giving raises to the teachers who drink with or sleep with the administrator? or maybe the ones who go to the same church, maybe who grew up within the district and has known the family for years?

          Without a defined set of standards it will be a mess

          1. I don’t see any reason every district shouldn’t be allowed to promote/give raises based on their own standards. Local control isn’t a buzzword for me (unlike many/most Republican politicians) – I really do believe that absent a very compelling reason, decisions should be as local as possible.

            Clearly arbitrary or capricious management is a bad thing. Principals and administrators who behave that way should be fired. Existing discrimination and civil service laws provide a great deal of protection of those types of things anyway.

            Why do you think defined standards and local control/management are mutually exclusive? Effective managers clearly define their expectations long before performance reviews. Every company has their own standards and procedures for performance reviews and raises – there doesn’t need to be one standard for all. Local control is not inherently incompatible with a framework pre-determined standards.

  13. Notalib- everything you say is predicated on the cruel stupidity of the system now. CEOs get “retirement/resignation” sweetheart deals and unchalleged benefits. Then they run businesses into the ground then get “reparations” from the consumer taxpayer. None of this is merit based. Tenure may not be called that for CEOs but is there.

  14. Are we talking about teachers or CEO’s? See here we go again, want, want, want but no type of give back, your response is exactly why the need to end collective bargaining needs to end as unions just do not bargain.

  15. To be blunt: Notalib picks at the low hanging fruit out of worship for wealth.
    The present economic imbalance in the American Society is no different than the Feudal Dark Ages of Europe.

  16. That is how a free society works you have winners and you have losers, in the society that Democrats want its distribution of wealth, control of the masses,an entitlement society, in short terms, socialism.

    It always amazes me that when dems speak of distribution of wealth they only mention CEO,s what about professional sports players who are making millions of dollars a year, Hollywood liberal elitists who make millions of dollars a picture, democrat musical artist who rake in millions on tour, why are they never mentioned as sources for funding?

    1. The always entertaining Notalib had the following to say:

      “It always amazes me that when dems speak of distribution of wealth they only mention CEO,s what about professional sports players who are making millions of dollars a year, Hollywood liberal elitists who make millions of dollars a picture, democrat musical artist who rake in millions on tour, why are they never mentioned as sources for funding?”

      Simple answer, Notalib, they’re not the ones who are SCREWING us.

      Parenthetically, Notalib, I noted with interest that you FINALLY indulged in the ultimate wingnut insult, “liberal [ELITIST]”.

      It is just amazing to me how clueless you are. You mindlessly use a word like “elitist” like that, all the while defending the rights of the true elitists in this country, the wealthy elite, including CEOs of big corporations, who could give a rat’s ass about the rest of us, including Notalib, to screw us any way that they want to.

      I may think that that actors and rock stars are overpaid, but they’re harmless, and what we pay them, we pay them voluntarily. It is the wealthy “elitists” and the obscenely compensated corporate/CEO “elitists” of this country who are constantly bending us all over a piece of furniture and committing sodomy on us.

      What makes Notalib’s “what are we talking about here, CEOs or teachers” posturing/sleight of hand all the more troubling, is that CEO compensation packages are indirectly funded by us. We’re the ones who are, year in and year out, held to account by the IRS, while the corporations treat tax avoidance as gospel. But, Notalib thinks that teachers and public education are the big, bad boogeyman here. What a crock.

      Yep, sacrifices need to be made. But, let’s have the true “elitists”, the wealthy, the corporate tycoons, in our country make them for once. Let the “give back” so important to Notalib be made by them.

      Public education is important, and teachers are important to public education. Let’s treat them, AND pay them, like the heroes, the custodians of our future, that they are, instead of listening to the disingenuous and partisan “unions” this, “public education is nothing more than liberal indoctrination” that, whining of Republicans/wingnuts/teabaggers/Walker apologists who simply want to advance their agenda of limiting the scope of government to the size of something that they “can drown in a bathtub”, the consequences be damned.

  17. Nota,

    Canada,Norway, England, France, Germany, many others, all free society’s, all democratic, much higher voter turnout, strong unions, fair taxes, lower mortality rates, longer lives, happier lives, you name it.

  18. Notalib: 1. democratic- it’s an adjective
    2. so the Koch agenda is nor want, want, want?
    Quit talking rubbish.

    1. It’s just Notalib’s “thing”. Get used to it. It’s not like he going to get any more intelligent with time. Or less mindlessly partisan.

    1. For a variety of reasons, I can’t shake the feeling that you never did very well in school, that you resented your teachers deeply as a result, and that your present views on public education and teachers were shaped by that experience.

      I would guess that you were no better than a “C” student, but probably worse, that you undoubtedly spent some time in remedial studies and/or continuation school, and that you had trouble finishing high school successfully, if you finished it at all.

      In the interests of full disclosure, Notalib, so that your opinions can be seen in context, why not tell us about how school was for you, your successes, if any, as well as your failures? I have a feeling that it will illuminate a great deal.

      Your harshly negative views of public education and of the teachers who provide it is just troubling and inaccurate enough to give any educated person pause. People who were successful in school simply don’t share your views in this regard.

      My teachers, instructors and professors gave selflessly of themselves to me in a way that inspired me to great heights. It is apparent that you did not have the same experience.

      My experience showed me what heroes teachers are, guiding, shaping, inspiring and instilling a thirst for, and a love of, knowledge, creativity, logic and reason in young minds, expanding horizons and opening up paths to limitless futures, and doing it all with often very little gratitude being shown to them in return, and despite woefully low salaries compensating them for the time and effort that they put into it.

      I’ve always been bothered by your tendency to speak in generalities, with very little evidence to back them up, a tendency exacerbated by your exceptionally poor verbal, writing, comprehension and logical reasoning skills. If you, in fact, had trouble with school, it would serve to explain a lot about your views on public education and teachers, and about why you value them and it so little.

      Are you man enough to talk honestly about it?

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