Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Are Teachers Overpaid?
February 4, 2003 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Are Teachers Overpaid? Tamim Ansary poses and attempts to answer this question in a thoughtful column, full of interesting links to delve deeper into the issue. Bottom line, teachers are overpaid...that is, if you want lower taxes, school funding will be cut and teacher salaries will go down. How does that bumper sticker go again, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance" ?
posted by msacheson (46 comments total)

 
I've never understood this. The people with the largest voting block (the lower and middle classes) get the crappiest education system. Why won't we vote out people who won't follow through on promises to care about education?

And are there actually people who think teachers get overpaid? I don't think I've ever even heard that before.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:11 PM on February 4, 2003


Bottom line, teachers are overpaid...that is, if you want lower taxes, school funding will be cut and teacher salaries will go down.

Um, were we reading the same article? The author says that, yes you could cut teacher salaries to lower taxes...

But it's wishful thinking to suppose that we can have good schools without paying teachers good salaries. Comparisons to the good old days ignore the fact that times have changed. Back then, low wages could secure top talent because half the population was restricted to just two or three jobs, one of which was teaching.

That doesn't sound anything like "teachers are overpaid" as a matter of fact it seems to be the opposite!

The people with the largest voting block (the lower and middle classes) get the crappiest education system. Why won't we vote out people who won't follow through on promises to care about education?

Maybe because this "largest voting block" either have terrible showings at the polls or they get fooled by slick, well educated, moneyed politicians. This is all not to mention that old people vote in droves and care little for anything other than their own pocketbooks, thus since their kids are grown could give two shits for the state of education as long as they get a tax break, free drugs and cops to make sure that the noisy, disrespectful, uneducated kids don't keep them awake at 8:00 at night!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:16 PM on February 4, 2003


As a teacher, I've heard it all. "You get summers off, all those holidays, snow days, blah blah blah." Never mind how much time it takes to read and grade a pile of English papers and then re-adjust your curriculum to address the problems that you see in the writing of those papers.

When you think about all the problems that teachers are required to address, above and beyond mere education, I argue that teachers save just as many lives as doctors. I have stories that would curl your toenails -- things teachers really should not have to deal with.
posted by archimago at 1:19 PM on February 4, 2003


Perhaps if we demanded that professional athletes all have a salary cap of $43,000 per year, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

We need to sort out our priorities.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2003


As a soon-to-be teacher, I'm looking forward to a pay hike and less hours! What can I say, private industry doesn't pay (or treat) professional writers very well....
posted by Polo Mr. Polo at 1:32 PM on February 4, 2003


Like archimago, I teach English, and take hundreds of papers home every weekend to grade. (Of course, I could be grading them now instead of hanging out in the MeFi lounge, couldn't I.) I have 170 students, and they write something almost every day. Do the math (I can't; I'm an English teacher).

I love my job and I don't complain about the pay. Maybe that's because I used to be a musician, and the monthly paychecks seem pretty cushy compared to what came out of the bar's cash register at two in the morning.

But the attrition rate for beginning teachers is pretty bad (only 50% make it past the first five years). The vacations are fantastic, especially if you are an artist or a parent (I'm both), but the emotional stress of teaching can be pretty tough, especially in the pretty tough schools.
posted by kozad at 1:34 PM on February 4, 2003


Are Teachers Overpaid?

No.
posted by nofundy at 1:36 PM on February 4, 2003


Competent teachers are not overpaid. The problem is, there's no good system for weeding out incompetent teachers in the public school system. Civil service rules handcuff administrators. Some administrators are way too political to make good choices.
Archimago and Kozad: Both of you know you work with incompetent teachers. What would it take to get rid of them?
posted by stevefromsparks at 1:53 PM on February 4, 2003


I was shooting to be a math teacher for a bit. I'd done some subbing in school districts while working as a programmer as well, and enjoyed it, and really enjoyed a few experiences I'd had teaching high school students who came to the University I was studying at for some advanced coursework.

Student teaching killed any enthusiasm I had for it -- and I taught in a nice upper middle class school with relatively high parental support. Even in an ideal situation, you're fighting a relatively tough battle with a number of fronts. It's not like walking into an office where you can read your email or surf the web for an our or two while you wait for your brain to warm up. If you're not always on, classroom management problems come up pronto, and there are any number of students who are going to be basket cases anyway, and the scary thing is, some of them have legitimate reasons. Not to mention that you may or may not be actually allowed to educate, depending on state curriculum and school curriculum rules.

That said, I don't think teacher salaries are really the chief problem in education at the moment. There's enough people who want to be teachers who'd be good at it, and if you're frugal and careful, you can make an adequate living at salaries you start getting after a few years. But I have to say that the certification process was really obnoxious, and probably 80% worthless (the 20% useful part being one of the classes and the student teaching experience itself), and I know a number of people who'd like to teach -- in some cases, would do it for free -- and would be good at it, but the certification process is a big deterrent. There's also the problem that there are studies which correlate education quality NOT with teacher salary and per-pupil funding (which is what politicians always hack on) and classroom size, but rather with *school* size. And finally, this isn't a formal study, but I have a strong suspicion that with more control over their classrooms, teachers would not only survive the system longer, but actually get better as educators.
posted by namespan at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2003


Are Teachers Overpaid?

1) Government employees with a powerful union, powerful lobby, and bomb-proof tenure ... is this a trick question?

Are Teachers Overpaid?

2) Compared to what? Compared to what they would earn in a competitive, free market?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:58 PM on February 4, 2003


There is a competitive free market for teachers - the ones that teach in parochial schools. They typically get paid about half of what public school teachers get paid.
posted by Jos Bleau at 2:08 PM on February 4, 2003


Are Teachers Overpaid?

Following the axiom "you get what you pay for" I'll say that they are grossly, horrendously underpaid.
posted by spazzm at 2:18 PM on February 4, 2003


There is a competitive free market for teachers - the ones that teach in parochial schools. They typically get paid about half of what public school teachers get paid.

Yeah, but in Parochial schools teachers can smack students around. That kind of freedom is priceless.
; )

(I say that as a former parochial school student, not teacher...).
posted by stifford at 2:28 PM on February 4, 2003


As far as how society "values" education, teachers are overpaid. As noted, parochial school can pay as much as they want to for teachers - but they would have to charge the students more. The same applies to teachers - paying teachers more requires taking the money from somewhere else.

I would love to see more of a free market for teachers (and for education in general). Forget about teacher certification as being mandatory. How about interviews and then hirings at a decent wage. A great teacher might be worth 80k to the district and a terrible one only 20k. Teachers should be axed if they don't get the job done, and recieve raises if they do.

As for retaining teachers, the best way to do that is to make the working condition better. This mean flexible administrations and good incoming students. If teachers are challenged and feel free to teach great classes, I don't think they'd be quitting at the rate they are currently.

However, pragmatically, every school can't be Exeter. There simply isn't enough tax money to be paying public servants more than the quite decent wages they make now.
posted by Kevs at 2:42 PM on February 4, 2003


Namespan is right: the certification process is horrendous and gets worse every year. I got certified thirty years ago when it was a pretty simple affair. But they make you jump through more hoops every year. The legislatures (different in every state, another problem) decide that 1) schools suck, 2) because teachers suck, therefore 3) if we make it harder to become a teacher, we'll weed out the suckiest would-be teachers. Pretty dumb.

Also right is Namespan that small schools are much better. I work in one (700 kids, 6-12) and it's a fantastic place.

Stevefromsparks: there aren't any incompetent teachers in my school, because everybody wants to work here and it's hard to get in. But most high schools have two or three or four bozos out of a staff of sixty or seventy. They're often coaches. I don't know how to get rid of them without also giving the administration the tools to make life hell for feisty but effective teachers, and there are a few principals I've known who would be pretty scary people without the checks and balances built into union contracts.
posted by kozad at 2:47 PM on February 4, 2003


Are Teachers Overpaid?

I'll gladly pay a higher tax rate in order to live in a world with better educated children. The long-term benefit greatly outweighs the cost, especially since a significant increase in education will expand the economy in the long run, more than offsetting the initial costs.
posted by mosch at 2:49 PM on February 4, 2003


I'm vaguely, and slightly irrelevantly, reminded of Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address, where he boasted of the (miserable pittance) savings that could be made by means-testing the families of children who benefit from subsidised school breakfast programs.

I'll say about this what I said about that: it's the last f***ing place to try to save money. Teach kids and feed them if they're hungry. Period. If we don't do that we have no claim to call ourselves civilized. I will gladly shell out for that before some of the other things they sneak into our tax burden.

On preview: what mosch said.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:12 PM on February 4, 2003


Kevs: A great teacher might be worth 80k to the district and a terrible one only 20k. Teachers should be axed if they don't get the job done, and recieve raises if they do.

Although this sounds like a no-brainer, it is far more difficult to assess a teacher's performance than it seems. What would "getting the job done" mean? The only "measurable" result of teaching that comes to mind is student performance. What if a teacher has underperforming students, no matter how hard he/she tries to motivate them? What about teachers working in traditionally low-income schools with limited resources, low attendance, and high drop-out rates? (yeah, go ahead and bring up Joe Clark...) How can a teacher's performance be fairly evaluated? stevefromsparks is right on the money: Competent teachers are not overpaid. The problem is, there's no good system for weeding out incompetent teachers in the public school system.
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 3:12 PM on February 4, 2003


Not to worry. We now have "the education" president...all will be well.
posted by Postroad at 3:13 PM on February 4, 2003


There simply isn't enough tax money to be paying public servants more than the quite decent wages they make now.

I call bullshit. Our (U.S.) military is our number 1 priority. We spend more on it than most other countries combined. There is plenty of tax money, we just don't value education as much as we claim in our campaign speeches.
posted by botono9 at 3:15 PM on February 4, 2003


First of all, for those of you "we spend all our money on the military" people, you do realize the fact that our military is stationed in and protecting most of the countries that you like for not spending their money on the military, right? I mean, Germany gets military protection from the US presence and their students get free college.

As for whether teachers are overpaid... well, most of the ones I had in high school were, but that's just because I don't think that putting a video in the VCR should be a salaried position.

I think attracting good teachers means more than just offering more money. Offering more money just attracts more people who like money. Getting better teachers involves having better criteria and being able to get rid of teachers that are really bad. And maybe actually hiring teachers based on merit, rather than on 1.) what can he coach or 2.) how likely is this teacher to quit before we have to pay her big bucks.
posted by dagnyscott at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2003


Teachers should be paid babysitter wages...
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2003


Kozad and Namespan, I completed the teacher certification requirements for OH, MD, VA, and PA with little difficulty. In my experience the tests were easy enough that a knowledgeable person could pass them, and the coursework and student teaching were relevant. I suppose you could say the need for the certification process varies from person to person, for some people are naturally gifted and already thoroughly grounded in their subject areas, and they can teach themselves on the job. Perhaps some people believe that good teaching really has few academic underpinnings, and decades of research into teaching methods and subject areas have been unhelpful. In that case, maybe we should axe the continuing education requirements, too?

botono9, on military spending, that’s more than the next twenty countries combined.
posted by win_k at 3:40 PM on February 4, 2003


I haven't been in a public school since 1981, but the experience--in an ostensibly very good suburban school--still angers me: a majority of teachers unimaginative, uninspiring types; a lot of arrogance; a lot of indifference.

So, assuming things haven't changed (yes, salaries have gone up; no more DEC Writers in the Computer Room...), most teachers are overpaid, and a few are underpaid. There are too many shitty teachers; too many who are there because they couldn't make it in business or elsewhere.

Teachers need to be paid more on merit, just as almost everyone else is, and in some cases, much more. It's the only way to attact quality educators, especially in the United States.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:41 PM on February 4, 2003


Teachers are NOT overpaid. Even crummy ones provide much more of a service than other people who are paid more. For example, a vast majority of the public use the schools as their own babysitters and to teach their kids rules and discipline and other things that should be taught by the parents.

My husband is in the process of becoming a teacher. I think it's obscene that, after taking $800 worth of tests, taking a $4000 public university credential program (San Francisco State), spending hundreds on books, and all the money on the extra classes he has to take, that my husband can expect $32,000 to start. Sick sick sick. If he works for 20 years in the same school district and take 80 hours of classes, he might make $65,000. A masters degree is worth a whopping $500 more a year. It's a sick joke.

I hope the credential programs aren't a waste. He's in week 2 of his program, and it remains to be seen what he thinks of it.

The answer isn't to throw more money at SCHOOLS, it's to throw it at TEACHERS, give them a reason to stay, and as someone said above, give them more say in the classroom, and less paperwork and beaucratic headaches. Anyone who thinks the hours are cushy, the pay is enough (or too much!) hasn't been a teacher or lived with one. It's a tough, demanding job, even on the good days.
posted by aacheson at 3:45 PM on February 4, 2003


Parochial schools are not a good indicator of teachers’ market value. All the parochial teachers I know are supported by either their church or spouse. For that matter, almost all the non-parochial teachers I know live in dual-income households. I have spoken with several teachers who said they would not continue to teach if they didn’t have that external financial security—and with others who left because they didn’t have it. But how much money is enough to live on is individual perspective and doesn’t really speak to how much the job is worth. Moreover, how much money people are willing to accept for a job also doesn’t necessarily speak to what it’s worth. For example, there are thousands of volunteer firefighters who perform the same life-endangering job as professional ones. Should we stop paying the professionals because the volunteers are free? Both firefighting and teaching tend can attract selfless service. Taxpayers take advantage of that.
posted by win_k at 3:48 PM on February 4, 2003


Thank you Joey M. That was priceless...
posted by ubi at 3:49 PM on February 4, 2003


More statistics on American teaching salary trends.

Interestingly enough, a U.S. teacher's salary is about an equivalent salary to a UK teacher's (£25K = $42.5K) and the teachers over there are still fighting for greater pay.

Here's some statistics (1988) comparing teachers' salaries around the world. If anyone can find anything more current, it would be interesting to see how the disparities have changed over the past fifteen years.
posted by ed at 4:14 PM on February 4, 2003


By Joey Michaels’s $3/hr/student ‘babysitting’ method, I should have been making $64,800, assuming my time spent on prep, grading, discipline, in-service, etc., was gratis. Yeah, the calculation is hyperbole. But teachers work hard, far harder than someone who hasn’t tried teaching might understand. Non-teachers, think about the time it might take you to prepare and give two new 80-minute presentations for each day of the week, day in, day out. Many teachers have a tougher prep schedule than that. Plus the disciplinary issues can be grinding. And the thanks are few, they really are. I had students who called me ‘bitch’ simply because I had the temerity to smile and wish them good morning. I’m no longer a teacher, but teachers have my respect, and they can have my tax dollars, too.
posted by win_k at 4:21 PM on February 4, 2003


Are teachers overpaid?

As both a former teacher and an engineer, it has been my experience that the job satisfaction teaching is generally much higher than that of engineering; less fulfilling jobs should demand higher salaries than much more fulfilling ones.
posted by SilentSalamander at 4:38 PM on February 4, 2003


win_k schrieb:

Kozad and Namespan, I completed the teacher certification requirements for OH, MD, VA, and PA with little difficulty. In my experience the tests were easy enough that a knowledgeable person could pass them, and the coursework and student teaching were relevant.


Tests? I don't believe I had to pass any tests. The requirements in my state were that you get a BA in Education, specialized toward your subject. In my case, that meant a BA in Math Education. There isn't a way to seperate getting the certificate from the BA, so near as I can tell, if you already have an engineering degree or something, there's nothing for you to do but go back for another Bachelors degree (although I've heard the state is considering an alternative program for professionals who are interested in teaching).

I took a look at the CBEST (California's Test) a while back. I wasn't intimidated.... I think subject knowledge tests are probably a pretty good thing.

I suppose you could say the need for the certification process varies from person to person, for some people are naturally gifted and already thoroughly grounded in their subject areas, and they can teach themselves on the job.

The variance you mention is probably true, but my real issue with the certification process was the general uselessness and repetetiveness of the classes. Very nearly three semesters of coursework could have been distilled down to a single class.

Perhaps some people believe that good teaching really has few academic underpinnings, and decades of research into teaching methods and subject areas have been unhelpful.

That first phrase resonates with me. Very little of the theory I learned seemed helpful. William Glasser's stuff was interesting, and even more interesting when I actually read some of his direct work rather than what was telegraphed through the education text, but honestly, that's very nearly the only thing I remember as useful from the certification program. I also remember stuff like cutting pictures out of magazines to form a collage of how we felt as teenagers. Hmmm.

It may well be certification programs vary by quality, but I tend to believe that once you have a real grounding in your discipline, teaching is an art, and is better learned by apprenticeship and practice than by book larnin'. The bits of the academic knowledge that I was schooled in that eventually proved useful only made sense in that context anyway. I caught wind of the fact that my school is actually shifting in that direction -- they're extending the student teaching experience out to 5-6 months, and having some of the semester classes condensed into seminars that take place simultaneous to student teaching. It's a brutal way to make an already busy job busier, but it also shortens the program and increases the relevancy and focus. I hope it catches on.
posted by namespan at 5:21 PM on February 4, 2003


Here's a novel suggestion that would burn lots of vested interests: what teachers need is to migrate from the blue collar union mentality to a white collar professional class.

In other words, teachers as union employees are, and will always be treated as bottom-of-the-barrel. But if teachers can create and force their recognition as white collar workers, like the AMA for doctors or the ABA for lawyers, only then will they have the power to do it their way.

In other words, no longer bowing and scraping before bloated political appointee administrations; strict in-house licensing of teachers both to guarantee competency *and* to drive out the cheap scabs all too often used by districts to save money. And perhaps most important of all: curriculum control. "I am a Biology teacher, not a P.E. or a drama coach."

A *professional* teacher doesn't *have* to work with disinterested or disruptive students, or gets paid a premium to do so. A *professional* teacher doesn't have to incorporate crapola from political interest groups trying to twist their children's minds, or manipulate public policy by portraying students as drug crazed and out of control,
based upon some survey given to the class at the expense of study time. And a *professional* teacher earns their paycheck by giving parents what the parents want and are paying for.

Both the States and the unions would do anything to stop this, though.
posted by kablam at 5:48 PM on February 4, 2003


"A *professional* teacher doesn't *have* to work with disinterested or disruptive students"

ummm....that's what we're paid to do

"or manipulate public policy by portraying students as drug crazed and out of control,"

We teachers do that? We manipulate public policy? On what planet?

"But if teachers can create and force their recognition as white collar workers, like the AMA for doctors or the ABA for lawyers, only then will they have the power to do it their way."

Have you ever heard of the NEA?
posted by kozad at 6:55 PM on February 4, 2003


I don't know what's worse—people spouting off with no concept of the workings of economic forces, or the free-market worshippers who think they know everything because they took a Principles course. Two prototypical complaints stand out: (1) teachers must make "too much" because they evidently don't do a very good job educating the students (see: low test scores, illiteracy, Leno's "Jay Walking" feature, etc.), and (2) they make more than they would in a free-market system (see: parochial school wages).

Consider (1) first. I will make the outlandish assertion that people tend to work harder for higher wages. When the return to effort is low, effort tends to be lower as well. There are well-known economic theories concerning "efficiency wages": many firms pay "above-equilibrium" wages to encourage loyalty and elevated effort levels. Poor performance in many economic settings can be a symptom of excessively low wages. Not always, of course. In areas where there is little hope of promotion, no merit- or performance-based compensation, or few outside opportunities one might also expect to observe lower performance levels. Also consider that while the demand for teachers is relatively predictable and depends primarily on population size (with adjustments for class size requirements and state/local economic conditions that affect tax revenues), the supply of teachers is much more flexible. Well educated and capable people often have many career options, and people often change careers several times over their life-cycle. If wages were "excessively high" we would expect an influx of people from other professions applying to be teachers, allowing school boards to pick more qualified applicants or to bid wages down to market-like levels. The evidence, though, strongly indicates that this isn't happening. People who train specifically for the teaching profession don't continue as teachers. Attrition is very high among new teachers. Additionally, there are severe teacher shortages nationwide, particularly in certain urban areas (link courtesy the US Department of Education; see in particular the "Math & Science" section). Supply shortages are good economic indicators of poor pricing—on the low side.

Now consider (2). Parochial schools don't offer a good comparison, because education is still legally required through a certain grade level—the consumer base is fixed by legislation. In truth, if education were completely deregulated and privatized, there are several effects we might expect to observe immediately. First, education levels would drop significantly. Anyone who can't afford day care certainly couldn't afford quality education. Those people who would be willing to pay for 12+ years of school are already doing just that, but relaxing the law on school attendance would allow others to reduce their schooling. Also, we should expect to see curriculum stratification and diversification. More schools would take a stronger vocational approach to prepare those not going on to college for the workforce. Discussion of Shakespeare and calculus and "How a Bill Becomes a Law" would be far less common. But, accordingly, we would almost certainly see a decline in average and median teacher salaries.

The problem with free-market comparisons is that the free-market is subject to certain massive failures. For one, people tend to be terribly myopic and impulsive (huge academic literature on this) and aren't very good at recognizing future benefits accrued through current costs. Also, school specialization/stratification brings with it some additional costs, including transportation. If the one school in the city that teaches Biology is across town, you have to get there somehow. &c., &c. The biggest problem, though, is that the mandatory public education system is one of the only moderately successful redistribution schemes we have in this country of equal opportunity, and the redistribution it provides isn't even terribly significant, since schools tend to be financed largely through local property taxes. Yes, teachers would make less in an honestly free-market system—and we'd have slower growth, greater inequality, lower social mobility, and more severe poverty traps. I'm not sure that in itself is a terribly strong argument that we should pay teachers less. Incidently, wheat prices are higher than they would be in a free-market system, too (we buy surplus wheat to keep the price higher), as are steel prices (Bush tariffs reduce international competition), and wages in general, since we have immigration restrictions on labor mobility...

But then, I guess you'd have to hire teachers who know some economics to learn that stuff, and the going wage for starting economists is about twice as high as for teachers. Good luck...
posted by dilettanti at 7:10 PM on February 4, 2003


"There is a competitive free market for teachers - the ones that teach in parochial schools. They typically get paid about half of what public school teachers get paid."....

A personal note about private schools: in the US, at least, private school teachers are poorly paid and sometimes a bit twisted...even at the level of "elite" schools.....at a prominent prep school, a friend of mine organized a political protest against George Bush Sr. (then running in the primaries in '79 against Ronald Reagan) and was in turn harassed by this guy, later known as the "Pumpkin Man".

The "Pumpkin Man" had constructed a whole elaborate mythology around himself (he was, for a while, the unofficial Phillips Andover "enforcer"): that he had served in Vietnam in the US Special Forces, that he knew many ways to kill, yada yada. Remember, this was 1979.....he seemed to revel in his self appointed role as a "trained killer"....but it was actually all in his head....he would lurk at the bus stop behind shrubs to catch kids (back from Boston) with booze...he had a little trick which involved taking off one shoe so that he could surprise kids while running up stairwells to bust them with booze or pot...and so on......................... " Mr. Cobb was arrested on charges of trying to kidnap children in Farmington, N.H., last week. Court records show a police search of his car and knapsack turned up a list of prices for performing various sex acts with "the pumpkin man," a pumpkin mask, children's underwear, a hunting knife and a bloody sheet, in addition to hundreds of photographs of adults and children in sexual poses.
Some of the photos showed a man with a pumpkin head, court documents said. The mother of a 14-year-old boy from Rochester, N.H., also told Farmington police that Mr. Cobb approached her son, who "was paid money to rub lotion on the pumpkin man," according to an affidavit filed in Lawrence District Court. "


George Herbert Walker Bush, George Walker Bush ("GW") and I - we all attended this eminent institution. And then there was "The Pumpkin Man".........
posted by troutfishing at 9:44 PM on February 4, 2003


I wonder if anyone has ever actually tried to figure out exactly what level of compensation produces the most efficient outcome overall. I suppose it might be an impossibly complex calculation, but presumpably there's some point at which the variables of teacher salary/quality, current tax burden, and increased future earning power of students are at some sort of maximally efficient point for society as a whole.

A lot of it probably comes down to the relationship between the quality of teaching and increased earning power. If teacher salaries had to be doubled or tripled to have a noticeable effect on student earning power, then increasing salaries might be pointless (from an economic perspective anyway). On the other hand, if relatively small increases in salary led to signficant improvements in student performance, then it's probably a spectacular idea.

On a different note, the idea of merit pay has always struck me as kind of dumb, given the impossibility of objective assessment. It would certainly have a homogenizing effect on teaching styles, as everyone would simply mimic whatever teaching style has been deemed by the people in charge as meriting extra pay. But since students learn in different ways, and respond to different kinds of teaching styles and personalities, this doesn't strike me as particularly good for students. It seems like the real place to improve teacher quality is in the hiring phase. Offer high enough salaries that you have lots of applicants to choose from, and then you are less likely to be stuck with bad teachers for the long haul.

also, great post dilletanti
posted by boltman at 10:30 PM on February 4, 2003


Are teachers overpaid? A Starbucks employee makes more per hour than I do, and I'm the one in charge of shaping our future.
posted by FunkyHelix at 4:46 AM on February 5, 2003


After reading the article and this thread, I emailed my friend who teaches English in a public high school in Nashville to thank her for being a teacher. I tried it once and quit because I couldn't hack it, but I'm damn glad she does it, like the teachers who posted here. Thank you for being teachers.
posted by cowboy at 6:36 AM on February 5, 2003


I think cops and firemen are overpaid too.

Until I need them. Then, they seem very meagerly compensated, indeed.
posted by UncleFes at 7:23 AM on February 5, 2003


I think attracting good teachers means more than just offering more money. Offering more money just attracts more people who like money.
And what's wrong with that? Lots of intelligent, hard-working people like to own a home, a car, and still have enough money left over to pay for their children's education and maybe a few vacations along the way.

I'll be extremely happy if the day comes that my very well educated sister (who works as a music teacher at a public school) calls me up to tell me that she's now the highest paid sibling.
posted by mosch at 7:55 AM on February 5, 2003


I'm not really sure where I stand on teacher pay the issue, but I think any discussion of the issue should cover their total compensation package:
-- Vacation time that would be the envy of any American worker. Christmas/New Years, Easter/Spring break, snow days and of course, almost three full months off in summer.
-- Health benefits that are typically more generous than the U.S. average
-- Pensions – although not all districts includes pension plans, they are almost completely unheard of in most U.S. workplaces
posted by nobody_knose at 10:09 AM on February 5, 2003


Let's not get carried away w/this "teaching is so rewarding, no one does it for the money" fallacy. Why can't it be both? No one assumes doctors are less noble to save lives b/c they make money. The life is still saved and the doctor can still afford a house, and everyone's happy, no?
I have a Master's in Early childhood special education and last year made $9/hr working w/preschool children w/special needs, at one point w/12 3-year-olds, no assistants, and not enough money to clean the perpetual poop stains off my clothes. Loved it, was great fun and incredibly rewarding, exhausting, etc. This year I am in another grad program and being paid $1081/month to teach 2 sections of freshman English, which is not nearly as much fun but no one poops on me. I will go back to special ed as soon as I finish this program, but I would like to be able to afford to do laundry. Knowing that my mechanic made four times as much as i did an hour did not help my assessment of my country's priorities.
posted by anyasar at 2:00 PM on February 5, 2003


Someone in this thread pointed out the starting salary for a teacher being about $32,000/year. While that probably seems low to most of the people here, it is $10,000 above the average American salary, which to me seems a pretty damn good wage for someone who's just graduated college.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:09 PM on February 5, 2003


In rural areas, starting pay is as low as $22,000 for a regular teacher. There's a huge divide between city and rural school systems so don't give much attention to any average salary charts you might read. City schools are SO VERY VERY poor, don't you know? Bush's education plans, by the way, cut funding that rural schools have depended on from programs like Gear-Up and such while increasing the height of the hoops teachers are forced to jump through with that No Child Left Behind nonsense.
posted by druzba at 8:13 PM on February 5, 2003


Just a comment on the frequently made comparison with pro athletes making millions of dollars. Pro athletes make those kind of bucks because they are a very small group of people providing a service (entertainment) to a very large number of people (through the magic of television).

Suppose you are both a sports fan and a parent. You might feel that the services your kid's teachers provide are hundreds or thousands times more valuable than the entertainment provided by your favorite basketball player. In fact, you actually pay hundreds of times more to your kid's teacher (thru taxes) than you do to to the basketball player (through a percentage of consumer goods which go into advertising which ultimately pays most of the athlete's salary.) The reason the ball player gets paid more is that each teacher is supported by a few hundred taxpayers while the ball player is supported by tens of millions of sports fans.

Take away television, make the ball player support himself off of local fans and he'll be making much less than the teacher. Conversely, if you want to replace the millions of local teachers with a few hundred superstars who teach the entire nation's kids on television - those teachers can rake in some seriously big bucks.
posted by tdismukes at 3:41 PM on February 6, 2003


$32,000/year for starting public school teachers, perhaps. It's about $10,000 less, if you work in a private school. There is a lady who has worked in our private school for 12 years, and makes $25,000/year.
posted by FunkyHelix at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2003


« Older What if Saddam does have these weapons of mass-des...  |  Not just selfcentered, but war... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments