The first step to creating an education system full of the best teachers we can find is to pay them in line with their importance to their communities. We pay orthodontists an average of $350,000, and no one would say that their impact on the lives of kids is greater than a teacher’s. But it seems difficult for everyone, from parents to politicians, to shake free of a tradition in which teaching was seen as something of a volunteer project for women whose husbands brought home the real money. Today’s teachers need to, but very often can’t, support a family on their salaries. They find it difficult or impossible to buy homes, to save money, to live comfortably, and, in wealthier areas, to live in or near the towns where they teach.
I vividly remember, while growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the '70s, knowing that my sixth-grade math teacher was also—even during the school year—a licensed and active travel agent, and I recall seeing a number of my high-school teachers, all with master’s degrees or Ph.D.‘s, painting houses and cutting lawns during the summer. This kind of thing still happens all over the country, and it’s a disgrace. When teachers are forced to tend the yards of students’ homes, to clean houses, or to sell stereos on nights and weekends, the quality of education is diminished, the profession is disrespected, and we parody the notion that we hold our schools and teachers in the highest regard. Teachers with two and three jobs are tired, their families are frustrated, and the students they teach, who want to—and should—consider their instructors exalted figures, learn instead to think of teaching as a part-time gig, the day job for the guy who sells Game Boys at Circuit City.
I can’t believe some of those other salary figures. Average orthodonists make over a quarter of a million dollars a year? Longshoremen clerks make $136K? Am I missing a joke or something? I’m pretty sure he advocated paying teachers $350,001 or more, though it’s likely he doesn’t know he did.
It’s neat the way he compares salaries in San Francisco and South Dakota. That’s just a completely valid comparison.
To get to my point, this guy completely ignores that teachers make $46K in like 8 months of work. In a job with great job security. Do elevator repairmen get 2 weeks off for Christmas, another for Easter, and 3 months in the summer? No? Hmm, maybe that explains a little bit of the pay disparity.
To counter his extremely convincing personal anecdotes and selected whiners, I only recall two teachers having second jobs, and one of those was for fun(he worked for NASA in the summer).
Mainly, I’m just incredibly upset by the “We pay orthodontists an average of $350,000, and no one would say that their impact on the lives of kids is greater than a teacher’s” bullshit. Clearly, we needed to pay this guy’s teachers more. Insulting my intelligence is not going to persuade me to favor paying teachers more.
Anyway, the biggest problem with paying teachers more is the teachers. They oppose paying enough to get good math teachers because then math teachers would make more than history and English teachers, and the teachers unions oppose that. Given that, no school district is going to pay some joker with a history degree $70K a year to read a textbook.
The first step to creating an education system full of the best teachers we can find is to pay them in line with their importance to their communities.
Bologna. Private schools are full of teachers who make less than their public school counterparts. Raising teacher pay will have just about as much effect on education outcomes as wiring every classroom to the internet - nada.
All valid criticisms, but I think the big problem with teacher’s salaries is that they’re entirely determined by the government, and the only “competition” in attracting teachers is cross-state pay differentials, more or less. To some extent, we’ve never really laid out exactly how competent we want teachers to be, other than the laughable tests, so we won’t notice if we’re hiring people who can’t do the job.
I’ve given up talking about teacher’s pay. Even when they agree, people still take the time to shit on us. (Yeah, we’re all jokers reading from textbooks, Ben).
For fuck’s sake guys, stop blaming the teachers for your shortcomings or whatever it is that gives you your huge chip on your shoulder.
Reeko- I’ve always thought that private school teachers were paid more than public school teachers. Are you sure? Also, you don’t think that better pay will encourage higher calibre graduates to come into teaching? If that’s the case, why do private businesses worry about offering decent pay rates?
Oops, I’m talking about pay again. Time to get back into my shell.
Maybe the answer isn’t in dramatically increasing teacher pay but in dramatically increasing the number of teachers and classrooms so the teacher/pupil ratio is much smaller. Instead of a 30:1 ratio, why not a 15:1 ratio?
His whole post is pretty bad, but I’d like to highlight this little gem:
You heard it straight from Ben, folks! The biggest obstacle to giving teachers more money are the teachers themselves. They just hate money, apparently! We try to give them more, but they just rip up our checks and spit in our faces.
Maybe they are in Australia, but I know that my wife has had to take pay cuts to teach in private schools here. And she has never regretted it for a second.
Also, you don’t think that better pay will encourage higher calibre graduates to come into teaching? If that’s the case, why do private businesses worry about offering decent pay rates?
Possibly, but most teachers I know have never wanted to be anything but teachers. They got a bachelor’s degree knowing full well what they were getting into salary-wise. I commend that. Raising teacher pay could attract more talented people into the field, but I believe that it would more likely result in attracting people who are looking for the money and vacation time.
The problem isn’t with the quality of the teachers.
I’m more inclined to believe that the answer lies with smaller schools. Small enough that the principal knows every student by first and last name.
I’m sorry. I guess I wasn’t clear. The principal thing is a school size issue only. My point is that everyone should know everyone else. You shouldn’t be graduating high school with people whom you have never seen before.
Small schools can be good but I’ve seen some truly dysfunctional ones. A good school is a combination of lots of things, some that are out of control of the teachers and administrators.
I used to think that a teacher’s pay was a pretty good indicator of a salary that was enough to live on with a decent life-style. After having kids I’ve now downgraded it to ‘enough to live on and pay the quarterly bills almost on time’. It used to be pretty good compared to lesser skilled jobs but now even my students are surprised by what I earn compared to their fathers. Of course I get good holidays (much to Ben’s chagrin) but things like overtime are a mystery to me.
Reeko’s right when he says that most teachers don’t join up for the money but I’ve seen an incredible amount of young teachers leave teaching for better salaries and less stress.
It always saddens me to see idealistic people join a service (teaching, nursing, the armed forces) out of a sense of duty and then see them screwed over by the more cunning and realistic Governments of the day.
I agree, though it would be difficult to allow schools to be more competitive in attracting teachers without some drastic changes to the system. Currently, salaries are set by the government because the school budgets are set by the government. Schools can’t afford to offer competitive pay because their income, in general, is unrelated to the performance of their employees. So they just pay teachers what they can afford to pay. That’s not the school’s fault, of course, or the teachers’. It’s just a flaw in the system. I think what’s needed is a restructuring of the entire system of districting. I’d prefer to see our current system dumped in favor of a voucher system, which would allow schools to grow their budget by attracting more students (which would in turn provide incentive for schools to pay close attention to the caliber of the teachers that they hire).
I also think we should provide schools with a lot more funding than we currently do. When I look at some of the things our tax dollars pay for and then look at how underfunded our public schools are… well, it’s shameful.
Playing devil’s advocate here - If teaching suddenly became a $100K a year job, you’d have swarms of people getting teaching degrees so they can rake in the cash. The $$$ would be the prime motivator, not the passion for teaching.
Raising teacher pay could attract more talented people into the field, but I believe that it would more likely result in attracting people who are looking for the money and vacation time.
And doctor’s salaries only ensure that the best doctors are practicing? Sorry, that’s BS; ANY high-paying job will attract its share of money-grubbing incompetents. That said, pehaps along with raising the pay for teachers, we should ALSO raise the requirements to get a teaching license.
Or maybe if teachers actually made an appreciable amount of money, there would be enough people who wanted to be teachers that schools could afford to fire bad ones, maybe? Because these days, if you aren’t screwing one of the kids, you can pretty much keep your teaching job no matter what.