Michellc has been carefully monitoring the teacher walkouts and demonstrations in her state, and reporting what she finds to us in the General Discussion threads each day, as well as working to inform and organize parents in her area.
I admit to not knowing much about teacher compensation, although it seemed to me that, considering the total compensation and education, they were doing okay. Then, I ran across this article at City Journal, a serious blog that I follow fairly regularly. Read the entire article, if you are interested in this topic, as they present facts, figures, and links about teacher training and compensation, and how they compare in the white collar job market.City Journal
Most commentary on teacher pay begins and ends with the observation that public school teachers earn lower salaries than the average college graduate. This is true, but in what other context do we assume that every occupation requiring a college degree should get paid the same? Engineers make about 25 percent more than accountants, but “underpaid” accountants are not demonstrating in the streets.
Wages are not determined by years of schooling but by the supply and demand for skills. These skills vary by field of study. About half of teachers major in education, among the least-rigorous fields at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Incoming education majors have lower SAT or GRE scores than candidates in other fields, but—thanks to grade inflation—they enjoy the highest GPAs. Data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment indicate that students majoring in social science, humanities, and STEM fields not only start college with greater skills than education majors but also learn more along the way…
It’s true that teacher salaries in several states are lagging. Teachers in Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have good reason to be dissatisfied: their salaries rank near the bottom nationally, even after controlling for cost of living. Even in these seemingly underpaying states, though, pensions can more than make up the difference. Oklahoma teachers accrue new pension benefits each year, with a present value equal to 30 percent of their annual salaries. Subtract Oklahoma teachers’ own contribution of 7 percent, and employer-paid retirement benefits are worth 23 percent of annual salaries. By contrast, the typical private-sector employer contribution to a 401k plan amounts only to about 3 percent of employee pay.
Many teachers also qualify for retiree health coverage, now practically extinct in the private sector. In some states, retiree health care is modest: Oklahoma teachers get an insurance supplement of about $100 per month. But for teachers in Illinois, future retiree health benefits are worth an additional 8 percent of annual pay, while in North Carolina, retiree health benefits are worth an additional 12.5 percent.
This opens the possibility of a constructive reform. States could offer newly hired teachers higher pay, coupled with switching those teachers to a generous, well-designed 401(k)-type retirement plan. In Oklahoma, for instance, the state could give new teachers an 11 percent raise—costless to the taxpayer—by providing a 401(k) plan with an employer contribution, which would still be four times greater than private-sector levels. For areas with legitimate teaching shortages—such as in STEM fields or special education—districts could offer targeted salary increases. A strategic approach to filling teacher shortages is particularly important to poorer states such as West Virginia and Oklahoma, where resources are limited.
Across-the-board pay increases, by contrast, are expensive and inefficient. Arizona governor Doug Ducey’s promised 20 percent teacher salary increase will cost $400 million annually before a single new teacher is hired. Such efforts create no incentive for prospective teachers to specialize in areas where shortages exist. And if the salary boost winds up reducing teacher retirements, fewer spots will open up for better-qualified new teachers. Research has found that better pay has only a modest impact on teacher quality.
We haven’t even considered the fact that teachers don’t work as many hours per year as a person in a white collar job in the private sector. No matter how generous private sector benefits may be, I don’t know anyone who receives 2-1/2 months of paid vacation per year.
The long vacation time allows teachers to take a second job during the summer, if they choose to do so. The woman I hired to do some yard maintenance a couple of years ago started a company to do exactly that. She makes pretty good money at it, although it is hard work.
I like what one person in the comments section had to say:
If teachers are not happy with their pay, no one is prohibiting them from changing careers. We all have choices in life. Choose well, or make a change. Just stop the complaining.
The marketplace determines value, and thus wages. Not some top-down planning body with the fanciful notion that taxpayers are a bottomless pocketbook.