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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

If we want to pay (some) teachers more ...

The teacher pay debate tends to be simplistic and unserious, writes Andrew Rotherham on Eduwonk. He calls out a tweet by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, which claims teachers earn 24 percent less than comparable college graduates and most are forced to work multiple jobs to survive.

Cardona is citing an EPI analysis, funded by the teachers unions, that estimates a 14 percent salary differential when benefits, such as pensions and health care coverage, are factored in, Rotherham writes. It includes private-school teachers, who tend to make less.

Moonlighting isn't the norm for public school teachers: Less than one in five takes a second job during the school year and one in three in the summer, he writes. "It's also not a huge source of income," and is "more common among private school teachers."

What needs discussion, and rarely gets it, he writes is that school districts are spending more for teacher compensation, yet teachers aren't seeing the money in their paycheck. That's because more and more is going to retirees. Yet, "teacher pensions don't work well for most teachers."

Rotherham doubts that elementary education graduates can be compared to graduates in science, math and computer science, and questions whether we really know how many hours the average teacher works outside of school. He's "not convinced everyone is working a ton we somehow don't know about because if that were so their unions wouldn't fight tooth and nail not to extend the contracted day. They'd do the opposite, capture the time, so we could pay teachers more."

Still, teachers in some specialties are in short supply, he concedes. Paying teachers more requires paying teachers differently by linking pay to "labor-market realities." That could mean higher pay for physics teachers than for P.E. teachers.

Educators need to be honest about trade-offs, he writes.

We've made a decision as a sector to prioritize quantity over quality with teachers and deemphasize productivity. . . . class sizes could be marginally larger and teachers would be earning a lot more. Instead, we've gone the other direction.

Overall, school finance is "a hot mess. It's inequitable, inefficient, and often misaligned with the avowed goals of the education system."

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Sep 23, 2023

One aspect of pay for new teachers is to allow them to opt out of a pension system, maybe even providing matching contributions to an IRA.

I have a 31 year old friend who will work this year and quit. Two teachers at his school quit in the early weeks of August.

I know this idea would be opposed by a teacher union, and it's retired (like Malcolm Kirkpatrick and me), and soon-to-be retired members. They would fear that it would weaken support for the pension they are/will be receiving.

But the big complaint really has to do with the unrelenting demands put upon teachers by the principals, who are doing what they are now being trained to do, and…


Sep 20, 2023

I'm an Old Guy and I've been hearing this my whole life. Teachers pay is *much* higher than it seems. The figures are rarely adjusted for the fact that teachers get a whopping load of time off in the summer and they rarely take into account very expensive benefits. Adjust the pay for those things and we can talk.

Also, don't give me that "but, but, teachers have to take home papers to grade and sometimes have to show up early and ...". Listen, *all* of us out there in corporate America have to deal with taking work home, putting in extra hours for various reasons, and so on. All of my career, I've spent my own time on continui…

Sep 22, 2023
Replying to

OK you deal with 120 out of control 14 year olds all day. Let me know how it goes.

I worked in the finance field for 15 years before teaching. You have no idea how draining it can be, but try it if you don't believe me.


Sep 20, 2023

Moonlighting is more common when the person has no offspring needing attention.

People immediately stop listening when only the salary is discussed rather than total compensation.

The Union contract concerning teacher's working hours is public here. It is less than a forty hour week. That helps the public schools attract people who are highly competent in math, science and business and can't work the standard 50-60 hour week with two to four weeks of vacay that the regional nongovernment employers demand. Of the forty weeks school is in session, nine are four day work weeks, while one is three day as parents who need to arrange daycare know well. Public school teaching attracts people who can't afford to be col…


Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Sep 20, 2023

"Education Secretary Miguel Cardona ... claims teachers earn 24 percent less than comparable college graduates and most are forced to work multiple jobs to survive."

  1. Less that what? Yearly? Monthly? Hourly?

  2. What is comparable? "I just failed Ed 204, Philosophy of Education. Guess I'll have to change my major to Electrical Engineering", said no one, ever.

  3. The mean teacher salary (MA with 6 to 10 years in service) is close to the median household income in most US States. Median household income is more than one income.

  4. Some time ago a study found that teachers earned less after they left the profession. So much for the myth that they could do better in the private sector. That is probably tr…


Sep 20, 2023

As a retired teacher, I'm not happy that my cost of living raises don't keep up with inflation and that they are significantly less than what city workers get. I'm not happy that I'm only allowed a small fraction of my Social Security benefit. I'm not happy that I don't receive any health benefits, unlike teachers in the previous generation who received full medical and dental benefits for life. I'm not happy that my district only allowed 403(b) choices that had very high fees.

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