Teacher Pay

This is mostly a rant.  I know I said I wasn’t going to do it anymore, but I had to bite my tongue in public–though maybe I shouldn’t have–so I feel the urge to put it out somewhere.  More about regular educational issues later.

Why is it that because teachers get summer’s off, that is the biggest reason why teacher pay is considered adequate.  Most folks I talk with don’t actually know what teacher’s make, but because they “only work 9 months a year” it seems a fair salary.  An antagonist was “only joking” but kept pushing the idea that everyone has to work long hours, but they don’t get summers off, so that’s why they get paid more. So, my brother asked the antagonist what other job requires a college education with those long hours.  He replied with “doctors and lawyers come to mind”.  So, I did the math.  If I earned a doctor’s salary in my state, but subtracted out three months pay, I would still get half my salary again.  A 50% increase in pay.  How is that fair or equitable?

The thing is, it’s really not the pay that frustrates me.  It’s the notion that teacher’s don’t work very hard.  They aren’t really full time workers:  It’s just a part time job.  Why the lack of respect?  How can it change?

Part of the problem is that so many people, both young and old, don’t see that high school did anything for them.  They look back and don’t remember suddenly learning how to communicate their ideas well.  Instead, they remember wasting their time diagramming sentences.  Just this week, a friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that she had to study algabraic equations to graduate from college.  “When am I ever going to use this?” That is what she’ll remember of her education.  The time she felt was wasted.  Since most young people don’t realize that they have slowly gotten better at reading or writing, they don’t think anyone helped them with it.  They just blame them for making all of the hard work.

This is not true of everyone, obviously.  But it seems to me that more and more people have this attitude.  If that’s the case, how can we possibly improve education?

Ugh.  It’s March.  March is a bad month.  I’m looking forward to Sun in April.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.



  1. Scott Erb said,

    March 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Working at a University with a large education program, I was shocked at how much work teachers K-12 have, and how regimented and controlled they often are. University teaching is different both in that we are almost completely free to teach what we want how we want, and that it’s expected we do considerable academic research (which is what summers often entail). But when I see what K-12 teachers have to go through (especially those dealing with NCLB), and look at their pay, I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who choose that path. I often see students come through who could do great in law school, grad school, or other professions, but they want to teach. Too often pay pushes them away from putting their talents to use teaching the next generation, and that’s really a shame.

  2. Jay Burns said,

    April 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Teachers should probably be paid more. However, I do have some thoughts on the subject. I hope you don’t mind. If you do, I guess you’ll just delete it. I went to college and entered the radio business. I was told while in college that dj’s in general make terrible money. I decided to do it anyway. I made terrible money. After about 7 years I moved into an other field to make more money. I knew going in that I was going to work 60+ hours a week, and still be under the poverty line. Did I have a right to complain? No. I choose that path and knew what I was getting before it ever began.

    That doesn’t make it right, but it wasn’t like I was blindsided.

    Unions do teachers no good. They require equal pay regardless of the quality of work. Pay scales should not be set based on education or years teaching at the same location, but rather the quality of the teaching. Is that difficult to judge? Sure. However, I am confident that it can be done.

    When discussing this with a teacher I was told that it wouldn’t be fair if an administrator didn’t like you. Welcome to the real world. That is the way it is in any job. If your boss doesn’t like you, you won’t get a raise. Competition makes everyone better. Including teachers.

    I have other thoughts, but this is getting long. In conclusion, I want the best teachers to be paid very well. Much like “no child left behind” we can not drag the bad teachers along and expect the great teachers to excel.

  3. April 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Thanks for the thoughts, Jay.

    I do agree that unions don’t help. I’m not a fan. I have yet to see an objective measurement of what a good teacher is, though, and that is the problem with pay scales based on quality teaching. It would probably be more effective to do just like most other jobs and just allow the bosses to determine raises based on their gut feelings. But do bosses in other fields supervise as many employees? I honestly don’t know.

  4. Scott Erb said,

    April 23, 2010 at 10:28 am

    As a union local President (Associated Faculties of the University of Maine – AFUM, associated with MEA/NEA), I take issue with the broadside against unions. Unions exist to protect workers from real world injustices — such as an unfair administrator. We fight to protect faculty.

    That said, I don’t agree with every NEA position, nor do I think unions stand in the way of good teaching. I think a lot of anti-union rhetoric is based on propaganda that distorts what unions do. Ultimately the unions represent those with less power, and we work to protect those folk.

  5. April 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I’m sure that, just like any other group, unions work well in some areas and become terrible in others. In my limited experience having been part of some teacher unions (School, State, and National–some of the same acronyms as you, Scott: MEA/NDEA/NEA), I really only join because I want to be protected against liability. I have not seen the need for protection from unfair administrators, etc… So, it’s hard for me to see why the union deserves my money and allegiance.

    However, now that I think about it, I do imagine that if we didn’t have the union, bad things would happen and it would be hard to fight against it. So, I guess I understand the need. I’m just not a fan. Sometimes, I feel like having a teacher’s union is like having nuclear weapons. We have ours so the opposing side doesn’t use theirs. Costs us a lot, but gives us peace, of sorts.

    I think Jay’s worries about teachers getting blanket protection, regardless of ability or merit, just because they have joined a union is valid. I have seen teachers who were once good, but deteriorated into a twisted version of themselves because of age or dislike of policies, but administrators didn’t feel they could fire them because of union protection. I think that’s the sticking point for a lot of folks about unions. To give another analogy, it’s like when people could pay the church to forgive their sins. (or lessen the stay in purgatory–I never was very clear about that) It didn’t matter how bad a person you were, as long as you paid your dues, you were protected.

  6. Scott Erb said,

    April 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    A since retired Professor recruited me to the union with stories of what happened before unionization. I get along well with the administration here, and our goal (both union and administration) is to work together on common goals. I think our administrators are fair, but given different positions there are often perspective differences, and at times faculty have had grievances. The grievance procedure we have works well — it becomes a process, so it doesn’t harm union-administration relations. I’ve also seen tenured faculty retrenched, programs cut, and faculty “pressured” into retirement (not all on my campus, but around the system). I don’t think anyone is completely safe, even with union protection. And while everyone can think of examples of poor workers or teachers being protected from a just firing, one has to wonder how many good people would be hurt without those protections. Our union has no say over tenure decisions, except to make explicit the criteria for evaluation, so the administration does retain that. But again, universities are different than K-12, and what may work here might not for you all.

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