21st 2009
Are School Teachers Getting a Raw Deal? Maybe the Truly Great Ones

Posted under Denver & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Teachers

In a post written yesterday, the venerable Dr. Jay Greene makes the point that education schools typically undersell the benefits of the teaching profession to their own graduates:

But the reality is that teaching is a pretty good gig. Yes, the work can be draining, but the hours are great and you get regular breaks throughout the year, including a long one over the summer. The annual pay is OK, but when you consider it on an hourly or weekly basis, you’ll get paid more than the average white collar or professional specialty and technical worker (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In addition, during a period of almost 10% unemployment you’ll sure appreciate the high job security. And let’s not forget the benefits, including solid health-care and an extremely generous retirement package that will let you retire in your mid-50s with about 60% of your peak salary guaranteed for the remainder of your life and adjusted for inflation. It would take a fortune in a 401k or 403b to produce that kind of pension benefit.

I guess everybody likes to complain about their jobs — that’s something I’ll worry about when I become a grown-up. Jay Greene’s point is that as a group teachers aren’t that bad off, so why are they fed the line of misery?

My point is that while the back-end pensions need to be brought in line with economic realities, really good teachers are being shortchanged on the front end. At the same time, some other teachers should be let go altogether. The issue is more how educators are paid than how much. Our capability to reform and enhance compensation structures based on value added to student learning makes it nearly a crime that we overwhelmingly use the old-fashioned single salary schedule to pay everyone the same.

What are we waiting for? This issue paper on Denver’s ProComp and Teacher Compensation in Colorado (PDF) by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow is a good place to start.

In the meantime, while we plan for our teacher social event tomorrow evening, I’m curious to know whether our guests see their profession to be so uniformly a raw deal, especially on the financial front.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Are School Teachers Getting a Raw Deal? Maybe the Truly Great Ones”

  1. Sue Workman on 10 Sep 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    I had to laugh when I read this post. I love to hear non-teachers talk about the great hours, especially when I’m on my computer at 10 pm, having just finished my word study lists for next week.
    I had a mentor teacher who put this just right: it all depends on whether you prefer working 40 hours a week 50 weeks per year or 50 hours a week 40 weeks per year. Teachers work the same hours as anybody else, and the best ones work a whole lot more! On an hourly basis, I’d say I would probably make as much as a Starbucks manager, and how many of them have Master’s degrees?
    As for the “great” insurance benefits, I don’t receive them, because I get better insurance through my husband’s job at Home Depot. So I can’t comment. (Except I guess that is a comment.)
    I’m not one of those teachers who complains about my job. I knew going into this profession that I would work hard and just make a living. (I definitely didn’t anticipate HOW hard I would work, though!) Teachers obviously aren’t in the profession for the bucks, and most days I really love my job. However, I do get a bit defensive every time I have to hear about how easy we have it. The only person I know who hears this refrain more than I do is my brother-in-law, who is a sports photographer and gets to hang out on the sidelines at all the Bronco games. I guess I have to admit it though; I don’t have much sympathy for him either.

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