Duncan: Pay great teachers $150,000

A “great teacher” should make up to $150,000 a year, said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.

“I think young teachers — we should double salaries. A starting teacher should make $60-$65,000 [a year]. A great teacher should be able to make $130, $140-$150,000 [a year]. Pick a number. We have beaten down educators. We have to elevate the profession. We have to strengthen the profession. We have to reward excellence. Great teachers, great principals make a huge difference in our nation’s children. We have to invest in them and yes, need to reward excellence, particularly when great teachers are taking on tough assignments and inner-city schools in rural or remote areas, areas that of critical need like math and science — we have to get much more creative than we have in the past.”

Duncan wants higher base pay and performance pay.

“We” doesn’t include the U.S. Education Department, by the way.  State and local taxpayers foot the bill for teacher salaries.

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  1. Good luck selling that to the taxpayers. $150K might be reasonable to the Upper East Side teachers or the North Shore of Chicago. But a salary like that in eastern Kentucky or southern Illinois would be a bit ridiculous.

    Duncan needs to take about ten seconds and think before he opens his mouth.

    • And good luck selling the concept of “great teachers” to the mediocrities that expect regular raises for being among the living.

  2. And your take? If they would agree, I would agree…

  3. We know the candidate pool that present salaries generate. If you are stating that it’s good enough for you, no improvement needed, no need to draw more talent to the pool, no need to offer a caliber of education above that of “east Kentucky”, it’s certainly your right to take that position.

  4. And who decides which teachers are great?

    • Tom Linehan says:

      Several different methods work if you want to find just the best and the worst teachers. I see no problem with this. For instance Gates came up with a student questionnaire that correlates quite closely with many other methods. Another way to do this is the way South Korea pays their best teacher. They allow them to use technology to expand their numbers of students and pays them by the students. The system is voluntary for the students and for the teachers. Some teacher reportedly make seven figure incomes. Six figure incomes are common. In general teachers salaries are much higher,;class sizes are much bigger ;and cost per pupil is much lower that those in the US.

  5. Michael E. Lopez says:

    If schools just got rid of the seniority pay system and paid a base salary of $70K for the first 5 years, and $90K thereafter, I personally know eight or nine super-brilliant, super-competent people who would leave their jobs right now and become teachers.

    Seven of them would probably be very, very good at it, too. (The other one or two would most likely be merely adequate, by today’s standards, for all their brilliance. Temperament matters.) But as it stands, they are not going to spend years of their life working their way up from $45,000. There’s a present value of money analysis to be performed, after all.

    These are people living in fairly high-cost urban areas, by the way. I’m sure you could get a similar effect with less money in areas where a house costs $100K or less.

    • Working their way up from 45K? I’m amazed at the misconceptions people have about teacher salaries. I’ve spent the last 20 years working up to 45K.

    • I’m in NY, which is known for its relatively high teacher salaries, and after 6 years I’m only at about 41,000.

  6. I don’t see Duncan’s idea going anywhere. For one thing I’ve been assured that determining whether a teacher’s any good or not is well nigh impossible so there’s that problem. Or is it that all teachers are above average? I forget.

    Then there’s the problem of incumbent teachers.

    Since they’ve made it clear they’ll work for old rags and out-dated dog food is it really wise to put them in a position to compete for more money? Some of them might be tempted to try and in so doing have it proved that, far from being worthy of a $150,000 salary they’re not worthy of minimum wage. It seems a cruel predicament to put someone in whose has never had to consider the value of their skills or rather has always enjoyed the luxury of assuming, without objective evidence, that they are highly skilled.

    Fortunately, these questions will soon be rendered moot.

    As parental choice becomes the rule, and not the exception, parents will demand to know just how good the teachers into whose hands they deliver their children are. Schools that refuse to bow to presumptuous parents will enjoy the blissful silence of the empty building.

    • Ahh, Allen, you know so little.

      “Parents will demand to know just how good the teachers into whose hands they deliver their children are”

      Please let me extend an invitation to you to visit my school and attempt to communicate with those parents about their children.

      • You mean the school in which parents are held in low to no regard? Yeah, I’m sure that’s going to be representative of the schools which necessarily have to treat parents like they have some worth or see their school fold.

        Of course, you don’t have to worry about your school folding, no matter how badly you treat parents or how poor a job you do educating their kids. You live with the happy certainty that if they don’t cough up their kids you can send the cops, and child protective services, to their home.

        Gosh, I wonder what the thtreat of that sort of strongarming does to people’s attitudes? Not a consideration you have to entertain though, hey?

  7. Secretary Duncan has a bully pulpit from which he can express nonsense at no cost to himself.

    Ken Burns (“Baseball”, “Jazz”, “The Civil War”) is probably the greatest US History teacher who ever lived. I expect he makes much more than $150,000, and he’s worth whatever he earns in a free market.

    How much should a schools pay for a great hop-scotch teacher? A great teacher of White Separatist theology? Secretary Duncan panders to the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel.

    As ever: “What works?” is an empirical question which only a competitive market or numerous local policy regimes can answer. Secretary Duncan has no clue.