A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The stagnation of teacher salaries

For a while there, the Cornelius household has been contemplating a return to the beloved home state. I began to surreptitiously investigate school districts back home.

Then I told my husband he'd better make a whole lot more money back there.

If I moved back to Oklahoma, EVEN ASSUMING that they gave me credit for all my years of experience, I would take nearly a thirty thousand dollar pay cut.

Thirty! Thousand! Dollars!

A year!

And probably more, since most districts do NOT give full credit for experience. I mean, that's an entire beginning teacher's salary, which, accoding to a report out from the American Federation of Teachers, averages $31,753.

Now look, I never thought that I would get rich at this gig, nor am I really interested in getting rich. I'd like to be able to afford to send my kids to college, though (let me assure you that teacher pay has not kept up with the rising price of college, either).

Here are a few interesting facts from the post at AFT's Let's Get It Right blog:
The average teacher pay in 2005 was $47,602. Beginning teacher pay was $31,753.

Average and Beginning wages didn’t keep pace with inflation in 2005.

Real salaries for experienced teachers in the largest cities rose by less than 1 percent in 2006. Average raises for beginning teachers were up by 1.3 percent.

Between 1995 and 2005 real pay in the private sector rose by 12.7 percent. Real beginning teacher pay rose by 3.3 percent. Average teacher pay rose by 1 percent.

When compared to professions requiring similar education, real teacher pay rose by less than 1 percent over the five years 2000-2005. Pay for other professions rose by more than 6 percent.

A beginning teacher with the average student loan burden could expect to spend almost 9 percent of her take home pay on loans in 2006.

In 15 of the 50 largest cities in America a mid-career teacher can’t afford the median priced home.


Let me point out a few facts. In this 2004 article from San Francisco,
... home ownership in San Francisco is almost completely out of reach for teachers in the city. According to the California Budget Project, it takes a monthly income of $10,308.08 to buy a median-priced home in the city, but a teacher makes just $4,160.75.
California school districts such as San Jose Unified, Santa Clara Unified, San Diego Unified already have programs to help teachers afford housing near where they teach. My sister taught in the San Diego area, and still could not afford a home, nor even rent.

Now, here in the vast Land Between the Coasts, the situation in not THAT dire, but salaries have certainly been stagnating in the last few years. And if you live in a so-called "Right to Work" state, chances are that teachers lack the ability to officially engage in collective bargaining. All it takes is one confrontational superintendent to be hired, and districts around here can change the terms of teachers' contracts at will.

It's not so much about me, either. I reached the top of our district's salary scale this year, and got a very lovely increase in salary from moving up a step (add in the fact that we no longer have to pay child care for the first time in thirteen years, and it seems like we've just become Enron execs, figuratively speaking. How wonderful that college is just around the corner!). But I worry about those teachers in the middle as well as those at the bottom.

There's a lot of noise made by a certain sector of the population about how teachers are lazy and overpaid-- John Stossel has been a prominent mouthpiece for this viewpoint. Here's the basic story: teachers don't work an 8 hour day, teachers get three months of vacation, and two weeks at Christmas, and Spring Break too.

Let me explain this gently: teachers spend 6.75 hours each day, with a 22 minute lunch, followed by an average of an hour to an hour and a half of unremunerated work spent planning lessons and grading papers, including time spent on weekends. Teachers do not even have the ability to go to the restroom when the need arises.

In the state in which I live, teachers are pretty much required to have a master's degree after teaching for six or so years. My school district did not pay for my master's degree-- I was expected to pay for it myself. My husband's company has paid for him to earn one master's degree and two graduate certificates, and they would pay for him to go to law school, if he should so desire.

Teachers do not get ANY paid vacation. We are paid over the summer with money we earned during the school year.

I am here because I love teaching and helping students. I enjoy their sense of humor, I enjoy watching the spark of understanding in their eyes. I know lots of teachers who feel the same way.

The least we can expect is to be able to have a hearth and home while we labor to educate young minds and often heal wounded souls as well.

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16 Comments:

At 3/29/07, 7:42 PM, Blogger Oberon said...

.....the art of peace is medicine for a sick world......morihei ueshiba.

 
At 3/29/07, 8:27 PM, Blogger M-Dawg said...

In my school district, we are currently working without a contract.

Our lovely city would like our union to accept 0-0-2 for a "raise" since the city "claims" they have no money to give us. Meaning that for year one and two of our contract, we would get NO raise! Meanwhile, the cost of living rises but my salary would stay the same. The highest step is an eight. If you go to any school district around us, they make at least $10,000 more a year than we do and we are considered an inner city school.

I feel that I'm not asking for much. A 2% raise is acceptable. Granted, I would LOVE to get more money. I just had a friend of mine that works in business tell me she got a 6% raise this year. Can you imagine???

I work a second job during the school year plus I work summers. I'm also a coach and class advisor so I can make more money and it still doesn't pay the bills.

Why is it that society cannot respect what we do? What can't our gov't respect us and pay us what the majority of us deserve?

I love what I do. I love working with my students. I go above and beyond for my students. We all realized that we were not going to get rich doing this job but we still need to pay our bills and survive. As a single woman who owns her own condo and has major student loans, I would like to be compensated. Apparently, I'm asking for too much.

Oh, it's illegal in MA to strike and my union has no backbone so my guess is that I will go w/o a raise for two years. :-(

OK, I'm done venting. :-)

 
At 3/29/07, 9:27 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

It also doesn't help when they say you have a raise, but they also raise the insurance cost which ends up being more than the raise itself.

...a $30,000 cut. OMG!

 
At 3/29/07, 11:12 PM, Blogger educat said...

Okie teacher salaries are pitiful, to be sure, even after the increases of the last few years.

Here's a pitiful bright spot, though, our State college funding program pays tuition for kids whose familes make under 50K.

And many teacher's kids qualify.

(please insert a Debbie Downer "wah-wah" here)

 
At 3/29/07, 11:23 PM, Blogger Suzy said...

Wow, this hits a nerve! I too love my job and would do a lot for my students -- and the district banks on that as they cut more and more services, knowing full well that dedicated teachers will try to pick up the slack.

Our state has what is called the QEO (Qualified Economic Offer,) which basically caps what any district has to offer their teachers at a rate that definitely does not keep up with inflation.And WI teachers no longer have the right to take contract disputes to binding arbitration.

BUT what our district has is a strong teacher's union -- hated by many, but we're a big enough district in a city where many value education so we have some clout. And somehow, our union demanded and won the right to go to binding arbitration.

However, as elementaryhistoryteacher said, insurance is bleeding us dry.

I think the work we do is not respected because children are neither valued nor respected by our society. And everyone went to school, therefore everyone is an expert. And the archetype of the American teacher is 17 year old Laura Ingalls Wilder, boarding with different families, working only until marriage.

In solidarity with all of you teachers ...

 
At 3/30/07, 10:09 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Adding to what EHT said, it also doesn't help when they say you have a raise, but add extra time and halve your prep time, as they did in NYC.

While pay rates vary, you also need to consider cost of living from place to place. Here in fun city, homes run half a million bucks and up, and taxes are very high.

 
At 3/30/07, 10:43 AM, Anonymous bev said...

I left a perfectly good IT management job to become a teacher. Once I actually become certified and get a job, I will have taken a $20,000 a year pay cut from my days in IT.

And now my home district (which, I'm willing to bet, is in the same county as Ms. Cornelius') has posted a central office IT job opening that will pay TWICE what I made doing the EXACT job in the private sector. Sure, they're looking for someone with a masters, but it's not necessary for the job out in the "real world."

Even if I try to justify it by telling myself I was underpaid as an IT manager, I still don't feel any better...

 
At 3/30/07, 2:42 PM, Blogger graycie said...

Around here, the pay raises go to beginning and mid-level tiers -- They have figured out that those of us who have been around forever are too expensive for other districts to hire and so we have nowhere to go and so they don't have to give us raises.

 
At 3/30/07, 4:46 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I got a look at next year's pay scale today. It's official.

I would actually take about a $35 K hit if I moved, in a BEST CASE scenario.

It's insane. I might as well just leave teaching and become a cop, which is what I feel like some days anyway....

 
At 3/30/07, 6:04 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

We had a fancy audit done some time back that concluded that Memphis City Schools was extremely top-heavy on administration. Nothing was done about it. The school system eats up money but it doesn't get to the teachers or the kids. It's not that the people of Memphis don't want to support the schools and it's not that the system doesn't have the money. There have been instances of the careless waste of millions of dollars that would bring tears to your eyes. No one is accountable. We elect the same idiots to the school board, over and over. I don't know what the solution is.

 
At 3/30/07, 8:38 PM, Blogger 40 said...

I agree that administrators (not principals, but top level superintendents) make far too much. But, the fact that the state and federal funding is constantly decreasing makes it nearly impossible to get the teachers a raise that is real.

I don't know the answer to this question about teacher salaries. I can't see it ever getting better... unless we REALLY start seeing the negatives of losing the battle with other nations in terms of educating our children.

Then maybe we will wake up and realize two very important facts:

1) There would be GREAT teachers if the pay was better (and not much better) I have friends in the corporate world that say... I can take a cut, but not THAT much.

2) You get what you pay for. If you want highly skilled graduates, you need highly skilled educators to get them there.

Those that make the sacrifice (my wife and I are both teachers and together don't make what I did in the corporate world alone) are doing it for all the right reasons.

John Stossel is an idiot.

 
At 3/31/07, 5:19 AM, Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Great post, Ms. Cornelius! I have it even better than you. I'm at the top of the scale, and I have a Masters, but my kids are out of college, and my house is paid off. Life is good. But it took a long time for my wife and I, and both of our incomes, to get to this point. Like you, I really worry about those younger teachers at the lower end of salary scales. When I began teaching, our family actually qualified for a welfare program.

I also love those people who present our student-contact time as being our total "work hours." It's Saturday morning as I write this, and guess where I plan on spending most of my day? Sol Stern wrote a book a few years ago, and he presented NYC teachers who worked a total of 30 hours a week as the norm. People like Stern and Stossel just prove the point that many of those "experts" who are informing the public about education haven't got a clue.

 
At 4/1/07, 2:43 AM, Blogger Chanman said...

Who are all these people making $10,000 a month, and where did I go wrong???

 
At 4/2/07, 12:08 PM, Blogger McSwain said...

I'm not a younger teacher, but a middle-aged teacher who made a career change because I could no longer ignore the call to become an educator. The pay cut I took to make this change was insane--more than 50%--because there is no credit for life experience.

And I WISH there was only 1 1/2 hours of extra work. As an upper elementary teacher with no prep time and required participation in the state BTSA program, I'm lucky to get 5 hours of sleep each night. I have no life. Summer will be spent in BTSA classes.

When I changed careers I had no idea. No wonder so many new teachers burn out.

 
At 4/8/07, 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been reading awhile, and you mentioned the Bay Area districts trying to help teachers buy homes.... I'm so grateful that the discussion is going on around here, etc.

BUT... My husband and I went to the workshop to find out how so we could get prepared, we had high hopes. They said no because a) our student loans (didn't make enough as a contract teacher to pay tuition, just to live on) and b) my huband doesn't make much, but by the time we pay off this loan debt (and my required masters) he'll probably be paid more commensurate with his experience and talent- and we'll be disqualified because of our combined salary, which puts a little tiny condo-buying again out of reach.

 
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