When the Media Asks "Are Teachers Overpaid?" Educators Ask "Are They Crazy?"

“Are Teachers Overpaid?” A few weeks ago, the New York Times invited five academics to answer that question in its Room for Debate section. Why would the nation’s “newspaper of record”  bother? Research has overwhelmingly shown that public school teachers are paid relatively less than comparable workers, that their wages have been declining for decades, that U.S. teachers are paid less than their counterparts in most other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and that low teacher pay hurts recruitment and retention. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for doubling the salaries of new teachers and says that professional pay is essential to recruit and retain quality educators.  A recent faulty analysis, however, by two right-wing think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute,  concluded, believe it or not, that teachers were overpaid in comparison to “similarly educated and experienced private-sector workers.”

The authors of the AEI report, Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine, participated in the NY Times debate to push their claim that teachers earn approximately 50 percent more than their counterparts in the private sector and that teachers receive salaries comparable to non-teachers who have similar SAT scores or other “standardized tests of cognitive skill.” However, “fringe benefits,” like “generous vacation time,” put teachers ahead of private sector workers.

Another contributor, Jeffrey Keefe, associate professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, pointed out the many fallacies of AEI’s conclusions, which he spotlighted in a  formal review released last week by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC).  Keefe dismissed AEI’s report as an “aggregation of spurious claims” and  cautioned the media that such “headline-grabbing” arguments will result in ill-informed and harmful policy decisions.

“Any discussion of teacher compensation should be based on high-quality evidence,” Keefe warned, “[The AEI/Heritage] report does not advance that discussion.” (Read the press release and Keefe’s analysis)

But what do teachers think? The news media often chooses to spotlight the opinions of journalists, think tank scholars, and others who talk about education policies – whether its teacher pay, the achievement gap or NCLB –  without properly consulting the real experts in the classroom. So NEA Today asked teachers on its Facebook page to respond to the New York Times debate. Some criticized a contributor’s lack of understanding of what teachers do every day. Others pointed out the misperception over “vacations.” Or as one respondent simply asked – “Are they crazy?”

“Please don’t tell me I have my summers off,” wrote Janet. “I spent all last summer paying for my own continuing education for an endorsement that will not get me more money!” Like Janet, scores of teachers use their “summer vacations” to pursue professional development and continuing education to further enhance their skills.

Barbara commented that even after 35 years of teaching and taking pay cuts, she still loves her job.

“While cleaning a drawer last week I came across a paycheck stub from 2008. After 35 years in the classroom my current paycheck is smaller than the one I found last week. I’d cry, but I’m so over arguing with people. Yes, it’s easily sixty hours, five days a week, but I’m part of what makes this country great. Every child deserves the best every teacher has to deliver.”

When they say that teacher salaries are above those in the private sector,” asked Karen, “are they taking into account the private sector workers with masters degrees, like many, many of the teachers I know who pay to earn said degrees but never get increased pay to reflect them? Even though states say they want “highly qualified” teachers, and require professional development and continuous education credits, but never provide the increased pay to reflect it?”

Matt echoed the suspicions many educators have had over the past few years in asking why such a question was being asked.

“It is because teachers and public schools are under attack from ‘reformers’ who want to see public replaced by private charter, with lower paid, little benefit teaching jobs. My question is are bankers, politicians, and lawyers overpaid? Where is the article on that?”

“Teachers make a bigger impact on society over a longer time period than many other professions,” posted Brenda. “Who in the future will be lured into a profession with wages that start low and fail to keep pace with comparable careers?”

Read NEPC’s review of the AEI/Heritage study

Read the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Review

Read EPI’s The Teaching Penalty

__________________

NEA believes attracting and retaining qualified school staff – K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, and education support professionals (ESPs) – requires salaries that are competitive with those in comparable professions. Low teacher pay comes at a high cost for schools and kids, who lose good teachers to better-paying professions. Learn more about how NEA advocates for professional educator salaries by visiting www.nea.org/pay.

  • Tina

    Of course teachers are UNDERPAID! We are expected to have all of this education under our belt, and then are not paid according to it. Not to mention that many teachers these days cant even FIND a job, that when they do have higher education, that counts against them, because then the state will have to pay them more than someone without an MA. But its still not as much as someone else in a different field… I have a teaching credential AND an MA. My husband only has an AA and is in the computer field, my teaching job I was making $32,000, and he was making $65,000. So tell me, do you think that is reasonable????? Not to mention that for that salary I make, I worked at least 60 hours a week, had no vacations. I worked at a charter in a very small town. They expected and required us to work ALL of our vacations. So where was the motivation at all?? Most teachers get SOME time off. I had none. Even at a public school though , your vacations are spent on professional learning to keep up your credential.

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  • deza

    I am getting so exasperated with the things teachers are being asked to do that are not even close to teaching that after just 20 years, I am looking to get out.
    I get less respect, I work harder and I have not gotten a raise in six years. Administrators push test scores in my face and tell me I should work even harder and then tell me the budget has been cut and suggest I should buy materials myself.
    I regularly look for other things I can do besides teach that I would enjoy.

  • Dan

    This is my third year teaching. After taxes, I make $22,000 a year. I easily work 60 hours a week. Over the course of the year, that’s about $2/hour.

    My best friend sells windows and roofing contracts (doesn’t even do the physical work). He makes $150,000.

    Tell me which one is more valuable to this country.

  • Jeff Chow

    What Teachers Make

    Adapted from a poem by Taylor Mali*

    The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”

    He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” To stress his point he said to another guest, “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”

    Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,
    “You want to know what I make?” She paused for a second, then began…

    “Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental… You want to know what I make?”

    She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.

    “I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions. I teach them to write and then I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math.

    “I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity. I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe. I make my students stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America.

    “Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

    Bonnie paused one last time and then continued, “Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.

    “You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?”

  • Chris

    I won’t get much support for this comment, but as a teacher, I make almost $100,000 for a 10 month job. That equates to about $120,000 over 12 months which I think is a pretty good salary. I have certainly considered changing careers, but I can’t make this kind of money in another profession. As for the continuing education arguments, many other professions have to earn continuing education credits, but guess what, they have to earn them without the benefit of a summer break. They have to actually go to classes/workshops/grad school while they are working. Horrors! Finally, if you can find something you’d prefer to do in another career field, go for it. No one is holding you hostage to the teaching profession.

    While I certainly think we must advocate for increased salaries, our constant cries that we are underpaid are resonating like the boy who cried wolf. I think people are getting tired of hearing us complain.

    Chris

  • Bill

    I have never seen one hour of over-time benefit added to the 40 hour work week most people receive. I easily work 60 hours a week, which means 20 hours of time and a half. I would be rolling in the dough if I were a private sector employee.

  • Chris

    In response to Chris who makes $100k/yr: I’m happy that you are in a district that pays that much, but believe me, you are the minority. Please do not speak for the profession when most of us are far below your salary amount. I make 49K and a masters degree and will not receive a raise for a minimum of two years and when I do it will be under the cost of living increase. So, I am overpaid? I love my job, and I will keep teaching, but I am definitely not overpaid.

  • Kevin Rugg

    I don’t know where in the world Chris is teaching and making $120,000, but it certainly isn’t anywhere near my neck of the woods.

  • Matt

    Chris what exactly is it you teach and your education level? You have to admit that you do not fall into the category of your average teacher…

  • B Thomas

    20 years ago with an AA degree, I made $50,000 salary, running the tech dept and teaching classes for profit, to engineers I left work to raise a family, then began working as a paraeducator and loved it. I am just now returning to school to be a special education teacher. I expect to make less teaching with a BA or MA than I did with an AA 20 years ago. Yes. Teachers are not overpaid. However someone did say that private sector professionals get over time or time and a half. That was not my experience. On salary I put in the amount of hours it took to get the job done.

  • Nathan

    In response to Chris: That is a great salary. I don’t know where you teach but that is not typical or even within firing range of any teacher salary in my area–or even in my state for that matter.

  • http://neatoday.org/2012/02/06/when-the-media-asks-are-teachers-overpaid-educators-ask-are-they-crazy/?utm_source=nea_today_express&utm_medium=email&utm_content=overpaid&utm_campaign=12021 ricardo alvarez

    If the teaching profession is so financially unattractive, why do so many people go into teaching? Ignoring incredible retirement benefits, job security, and time off is intellectually dishonest. Having taken graduate courses in both education and other fields, it is without hesitation I aassert the education graduate courses are relatively easy. How could they not be since so many supposedly overworked teachers manage to teach full-time while earning their master’s degree? There are hardworking teachers who earn every penny of their compensation. There are some –see “Waiting for ‘Superman'”–who are liabilities not assets. Honest teachers will concede that effort and effectiveness vary greatly. The most influential teacher I ever had encouraged me to become a teacher, asserting “the pay is pretty good.” As for cherry-picking what others make, I know people with as much education as the typical teacher who are not making anything close to $100K, don’t have summers off, and won’t be able to retire at 55.

  • Sarah

    My husband and I are both teachers in an affluent community. We make less than $70,000 a year COMBINED. He is a band director and works his tail off – 60-70 hour weeks through all of the year and he works most of the summer too. I am an intervention specialist and hours and hours and hours outside of school on paperwork. I also have a master’s degree, on which I can barely afford the payments. And oh, I also just shelled out another $1,000 to take coursework to meet my district’s requirements. We are both young, energetic teachers (3 and 4 years in the field respectively) and are already looking for a way out. With the rising cost of living, continued unfunded mandates coming down from our state governmenet and districts, and both of us on pay freezes (my husband took a cut last year) we will not be able to afford to raise a family.

  • MarianKitty Dennis

    I know of no person who went into teaching for the money. Most of us wanted to see that every child had an equal opportunity to learn; to pursue an education that would enable them to develop their skills, talents, and passions. I never was paid for the time I spent, often in the middle of the night, working on lesson plans and projects that would motivate children. How about the extra hours we spend before and after school working with specific children who may need tutoring? How about the time spent with parents? How about the hundreds of dollars we spend on materials (i.e.books,games,equipment) to make our classrooms more exciting places to learn?
    I am now a retired teacher but have never questioned why I became one. However now that there are so many more demands made on teachers, I do question why teachers salaries are not increasing. Teachers are a valuable profession. We are apart of children and their families’ lives. We do make a difference. Unfortunately we are not compensated for our worth-our value.

  • mrs elliott

    I would also like it to be clarified that I am not paid a dime for summer break or winter break or spring break. I am only paid for the days that I actually teach . Many many teachers must get a second job to make up for this “vacation” time.

  • Frank

    I am an engineer married to a teacher. My salary is about 10% higher than that of my wife.
    She retired at age 55 at 70% of final salary. I can retire at age 65 at 40% of final salary.
    She had health insurance at no cost to her while she worked and now for life as she is retired. I pay 40% of the premium while working and 100% when I retire.

    She worked 185 day/year – I work 245 days per year.

    My company had an opening fo an engineer. In 6 months we had ZERO applicants.
    Her district had two openings for teachers – they had over 1000 applicants.

    Why do you suppose that is? I suggest that perhaps it is not because teachers are underpaid.

    And yes – I sometimes have to work more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay.

  • James Mooney

    As a past school borad member and having a wife and daughter as teachers, I reminded a group of parents at a board meeting who thought elementary teachers were overpaid babysitters. I had to agree! I told them that we should pay teachers what you’d be expected to pay a baby sitter. So now we have 1 baby sitter in the classroom getting paid $3.00 per hour. This babysitter has 25 children in the classroom. That sitter is now making $75.00 per hour, time 6 hours per day, or $450.00 per day….times 180 days or $81,000.00. The look on their face was amazing. So I suggested that we pay a first year teacher the same as a babysitter. For some reason, no one agreeded with me. I wonder why?

  • LJenkins

    reply to B Thomas:
    No offense, but a para does not do the same type of job as a regular classroom teacher, and gets to clock in and out on on a schedule. I have been teaching for 23 + years and not only have I spent summers going back to school, but I also go to professional meetings throughout the year (on my own dime), spend time before and after school grading papers and projects, (because contrary to popular belief I don’t just park behind my desk all day) I stay after school to help students who are behind, I stay after school to help students who want to be better, I spend much time at home worrying about the well being children whom I didn’t get to raise, I spend time gathering supplies that my budget won’t provide for. (not to mention the dollars out of my own pocket that I spend) I also spend time of my own having meetings with parents who can’t understand why their children aren’t doing well but don’t really want to parent, trying to track down parents of failing students who just don’t care so they can’t tell me its my fault, and meeting with administration to try to figure out how we can meet the needs of our community without spending any more of our underfunded school’s budget. So for those of you who keep saying we get our summers “off” I say we more than make up for it during the school year. And for those of you who say we make a good wage there is this… Last year for the first time in 4 we got a raise which amounted to just enough money to cover our increase in insurance and retirement, and one of our board members who is a banker had the gall to say we shouldn’t get any more than that or we would get greedy and ask for more next year…don’t most people at least get a cost of living increase every year? And for the guy who thinks we are dumb to choose teaching – well I guess he just doesn’t know what it means to be passionate about doing something he loves.

  • Sharon Turner

    To Chris,
    Your either a shill for the Civitas, work somewhere other than public education, or you are a liar.
    To the person whose wife is retired and draws good pay and benefits, that is no more. New teachers in my state qualify for no raise of any sort for FIVE years. I have personally not recieved any sort of pay raise since 2009. We had a pay cut of 5%. We have not had new text books in 6 years.
    We are so short of teachers that I taught 4 subjects during first period and 4 subjects during second period last semester. I am an EC teacher also certified in HS SOcial studies, but last semester I taught pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, a class in remediation all in first period. Second period I taught World History, civics and economics,biology and study skills in second period. I had 1 history book for 6 students 5 civics books for 8 students and bought all of my own materials for the study skills and remediation classes. I buy my own copy paper, pencils and often food for hungry kids.
    Teachers go into teachers because they care, not because they want to make a fortune. Unfortunately alturism won’t put food in our own children’s bellys or clothes on their back.
    All this intentional mis-information being put out by media and special interest groups aimed at demonizing teachers and the teaching profession needs to stop.
    We sacrafice for the betterment of man-kind because we choose to. At least have the decency to be truthful. 100,000 dollar salary indeed. What a liar.

  • tanganyika

    Clearly, it is not the fact of teachers overpayment that is at stake here- if anything, the agenda is to gut the educational system, ‘dumb down’ and slam-dunk the citizens, destroy unions, and privatize education-all publicly stated conservative mantras for anyone willing to see. To gain traction on these and other attacks on the public sector, why not attack the weakest link? I recall reading a book by the title, the “Postindustrial Peasant”- and sure enough, we are here! Paradoxically, the snobs who mouth the above mantras have gained enormously from a system they want now to kill. All manner of experts in this and that are crawling out of the woodwork (they chose to chew through), making grossly unsupported if downright mean accusations about teachers and the ‘teacher problem’. It is sad to watch the demise of all that is beautiful in education emanating from a divisive political theology whose key constituents are capital, capitalists, and their political hangers-on. Only today, the MN legislature was debating a MN Chamber of Commerce proposal for what pay equalization between the public and private sectors. True to form, the assumption of public teacher overpayment relative to the private employees is a key component.
    Yes, teachers do make a DIFFERENCE, indeed have made a huge difference, even to the lives of their chief detractors

  • Elizabeth Carlin

    I retired from teaching 31 May, 2011. At 68 I was tired of having to follow leaders that disregarded law and/or common sense. I had a principal that mandated me to go and pick up my special education children which mandate took me over my ADA restrictions. I was always falling and have not since. The money did not keep me working, the kids did. My pay based on years of service and my masters degree was in the $67,000 range and was livable since I had no one at home and my home paid in full. Because of my age I also had another large source of income. It would have been difficult with a house payment, children and car payment that my coworkers had. My summers were spent in classes that I paid and I paid 2-3 thousand dollars a year for supplies for my students out of my pocket.
    The idea that children do not learn because of their teachers makes me crazy. Children make choices to learn and when they chose to learn they do. My biggest chore, in the classroom. was to let students know that they could learn and learn they did when they thought they could.

  • Dave Koven

    Like it or not, we live in a world where money talks and idealism walks. Everyone loves Mother Theresa, but very few want to do what she does. Teachers have been infantilized, largely by themselves. Their idealism allows them to accept whatever anyone gives them. It’s like WE don’t even value what we offer the country. In the business world, huge amounts of salary are paid to people to “attract, motivate, and retain” their services. We’re talking millions of dollars. How many great ideas does one person have in a lifetime? Even in off years, they get paid. Americans are anti-intellectual and think teachers should be rewarded more like Ichabod Crane. We, like idiots, go along with it. We need to be in a professional association, (like the AMA or ABA) and set our own standards and disciplinary procedures, instead of a union. We’re either professionals or we are not. No one took a vow of poverty upon entering the public schools. Bottom line is…people respect what they have to pay big money for. Not too many CEO’s or Engineers can do what we do and do it consistently well. Most private sector people I’ve talked with say, “I don’t know how you guys do it, I’d go nuts in short order.” Idealism won’t pay the bills. We are offering a “product” that is valuable beyond words, an education. Surely we can do more for ourselves as the “gatekeepers to the American Dream” than we have so far?

  • Ed Jones

    A first year teacher does not make a living in Kentucky as their salary is below the poverty line. If I had not retired from the military prior to becoming a teacher, I would have some trouble making ends meet. My daughter teaches in a different district 30 miles away. We both have the same rank and yearsteaching yeet she makes $5,000 a year more than I do. It depends on where one lives. Chris doesn’t say where he works or what he teaches nor does he say how long he has been at it. I find it difficult to believe that a classroom teacher is making $100.000. Summers are not time off as in a vacation. Summers are unpaid time just as if one worked at a factory and the factory closed for two months. I get Thanksgiving and Christmas as Paid holidays every other day that I am not at work at the job site is an unpaid day. I had my G.I. Bill to pay for my MA. My VA benefits pay for my health care because I can’t afford the health care offered through my school. My system collects 9.5% of my salary per year for my retirement and will pay me 2.5% for every year of teaching.Why do I teach? I have devoted my life to something other than myself, there is more to the world than “ME.” I have the expertise and the passion for what I do so I do it. Yes there are a 1000 applications for teaching positions. We were told that there was a shortage of teachers and we bought into the idea that we are needed. We are not overpaid just because there are people trying to get jobs in education. We are not overpaid because there are retirement benefits. We are not overpaid just because there are only 183 days of work (THERE ARE ONLY 185 days of Pay!!). Fact is we are not overpaid at all.

  • Lori72

    I am in my 12th year of teaching. Yes, I have had other careers (in the financial world), however when I needed a pen or post-it notes or white-out, I went to the supply cabinet to get it. As a teacher, I cannot – I am told to buy my own. And far too many kids come to school without basic supplies, if I do not give them paper/pencil then I am not doing my job according to some. Do you know I spent $235 on paper last year? and another $150 on pencils!!! not to mention all the other items necessary. Oh, and some would say I allow bullying – isn’t that a PARENTS job? What I have to do in the 45 minute class period is teach, not raise your kid! Teach your child a little respect and how to treat one another BEFORE they enter school. Remember that discipline begins in the high-chair, NOT the electric chair! Raise ‘em right, so i can teach ‘em well!

  • Sharon Gunrud

    I am retired after teaching public school for 40 years. From the first day to the last day, I was NEVER overpaid. Anyone who thinks this has never faced life on the firing lines…the classroom.

  • http://neatoday.org/2012/02/06/when-the-media-asks-are-teachers-overpaid-educators-ask-are-they-crazy/?utm_source=nea_today_express&utm_medium=email&utm_content=overpaid&utm_campaign=12021 ricardo alvarez

    People go into teaching for the exact reasons people enter other professions: they weigh the costs and benefits. Why can’t teachers admit they enjoy the time off, the relatively early retirement, etc.? Many people justifiably no longer buy the “we make a huge sacrifice” argument. If teaching is so unattractive, they’ll be a shortage. Unfortunately, the unions have prevented allowing districts to pay different salaries for different disciplines and it is easy to understand why. Does any person think getting the degree in all disciplines is equally difficult? That’s off the Laughometer. Does a P/E teacher or kindergarten teacher have us much grading to do as a math or English teacher?! Teacher’s union president Albert Shanker nailed it when said “When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” If teacher’s want a fair salary, they should subject themselves to the competition of a free market. That they support a president–he’s sends his kids to a private school–who opposes real school choice is a sad commentary on the sincerity of the “it’s all about the children” nonsense. We need competition. It’s an American thang!

  • Teacher Gerald

    Teachers get paid by the teaching day. In Hawaii the state holds part of my salary each month and then gives it back to me over the summer. This is why people and the uneducated media think teachers get paid summer vacations. I don’t get interest on the money the state holds for me. I’d prefer to get all of my salary every month and use it to invest. But the state doesn’t allow this. (I also think Chris is lying about his $100,000 and is probably not a teacher either.)

  • Just a teacher

    For those who think anyone who says they make a $100,000 salary as a teacher is a “liar,” I suggest you do a bit of research before you call a colleague a “liar.” Some teachers here in NY make exactly that much. Of course, it takes working for 22 years, a Master’s degree and 30 credits beyond that. And then, of course, you have to deal with the cost of living of NY–I daresay that housing costs here are substantially higher than the places where those of you who are only making in the $20,000 range live. The smallest “starter” houses routinely go for half a million; the ones large enough for a family with children can easily be double that, with yearly taxes in the $8000 range. Are your costs of living as high?

    Guess what . . . even at $100,000 (and after federal, state, and city taxes, as well as hundreds in union dues, and other payroll deductions, we’re lucky if we see 60% of that), we can still be underpaid. I promise you, even my older colleagues, past the 22 year mark, making $100,000, are hardly living the life of a millionaire. These numbers still place them very squarely in the middle class camp, especially since those who have taught that long are also the age where they are putting children through college, caring for elderly parents, etc. Let’s just make sure we’re comparing apples to apples.

  • Scubus

    ricardo alvarez,

    1. Shanker is correct, teachers pay union dues to have an advocate for teachers, students have plenty, including the teachers the union represents. If you think the union can harm students without repercussions you are kidding yourself. Besides, I have not seen any large scale union policies that harm students. By the way, Shanker was president of the union nearly 30 years ago. He’s been dead over a decade. Is he really relevant to a discuss about current policy?

    2. My mother and my sister are/were kindergarten teachers. The fact you question the amount of work they do compared to a math or English teacher demonstrates you have no clue what they do. I am also curious what you believe PE teachers do and the body of knowledge they are required to have to be successful.

    3. A free market system of education would be a disaster for most students. There is a reason the most successful education systems on the planet are run by government. Feel free to explain to me how a free market system might work. What is your idea of school choice? Would ALL the schools be subject to the same standards and requirements – including providing services for ALL students who showed up at their door? And keeping them? How would that work?

    While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I am as well and it is my opinion that you are clueless and ill informed about education.

  • TennBoy

    25 years ago I worked for the Feds as a GS-12, Masters degree. With experience, but no promotions, I would be topped out today at 68K. Instead, I returned to school and got a Ph.D., then paid for another year of school to get a teaching license, taught 16 years and made 53,000 when I retired – which adjusts to 64K on a 12 month basis. 4 weeks vacation is included in both jobs. Add my military, and I am a retired Ph.D.+ with 20 years teaching, age 65. My pension is $975/month. When you talk about teacher pay remember to discount to present vaalue the retirement over a set, say 20 year, period. Also, amortize the cost of credentials. THEN compare pay. Oh, don’t forget 401(k)’s in private sector – they match.
    Anybody with the smarts of the AEI should know to discount and compare present value of all future benefits to compare $$ compensation.

  • Shannon

    I taught for 2 years in Santa Fe, NM, which is not a cheap place to live. My salary was listed as $30,500, but once taxes, retirement, and benefits were taken out, the money I brought home was just over $19,000. I received two paychecks a month of $780 each. I was living in a 1 bedroom apartment on the for $750 a month (which was an absolute steal of a deal considering I had just moved there from a studio apartment for $900). Once you factored in utilities and student loans I was paying $1,200 a month and only earning $1,560.

    I was able to live like that, but only because I did not have a family to support, and I still had to be very careful with how I lived. No air conditioner in the summer, heat only around 60 degrees in winter, no TV, only the cheapest pre-paid cell phone I could find, and driving a junky car that I purchased for $500 because I didn’t have enough extra money per month to afford payments on anything better.

    Was I overpaid?

    For comparison’s sake, the minimum wage in Santa Fe is $10.25 an hour. Somebody could work full time at a fast food restaurant for minimum wage and bring home $1,638.40 a month, or if you take out 5% for taxes, exactly the same amount I brought home. Granted, they probably don’t get benefits and retirement, but they didn’t have to go to college and probably don’t have $300 student loans to pay off every month.

    So I ask again, was I overpaid?

  • http://neatoday.org N. Ford

    I am a 51 year old first year teacher. Ironically, my first year salary is almost identical to my salary in 1989 as a manager of a retail building supply company, with much less formal education. Benefits are similar, however at the building supply I had the chance to make a bonus every year based on performance. Obviously you would not go into teaching for the pay. I believe I can make a difference but must admit, the 60 to 70 hour weeks are discouraging. The less our students do and are responsible for, the more the teachers are required to do. Our education system needs repair. If I was 25 and starting out, there is no way I could justify working as a teacher for this pay (32,000/yr). I simply could not afford to support my family. My children are grown and my wife and I can live simply, so we get by but pay was definitely not the motivator for becoming a teacher. Anyone who thinks a teacher is overpaid is severely confused. I suggest that everyone spend a month by yourself in a classroom, collect the paycheck, and then say that a teacher is overpaid. Really?

  • L

    I think when asked if teachers are overpaid the response is of course not- we aren’t even paid what a typical babysitter gets an hour, say about $5 per hour per child. Just think if we actually were considered as valuable as a babysitter. 20+ kids @ $5 per hour…Hhmm.. If you make about $3500 a month you are making about $175 a day (of course no prep time etc is included just school hours0

  • Tina

    My sister, who holds a masters degree, makes close to $500.00 per HOUR as a marketing consultant. Any teachers close to that,
    chime in.

  • Bill Chouramanis

    The sad state of American education is all I can say. Thirty-six years ago I had teaching colleagues with families that were on food stamps! I am retired and working as a limo driver. It is unfortunate to say that I can make as much money as a limo driver with only a driver’s license as I did after 33 years as an administrator and counselor in education with a post graduate education. Teachers are the people we entrust to prepare the next generation of this country. Yet the public subjects teachers to constant ridicle and criticism about how many hours they work and how they make too much. On the contrary, the great percentage of teachers I have worked with over the years put in many hours beyond classroom time with preparation, remediation, research, etc. With school budgets being cut, the public should be grateful for how much money teachers put back into their classrooms to educate their students. The educational profession needs to be recognized as an important component of society and receive appropriate remuneration for their services.

  • Allison

    I wonder if Chris works for a charter school. Some New Jersey charter schools are paying teachers $100,000+ in salary per year. I worked for three years at two charter schools in Philadelphia and made about $34k per year. After I left the schools, the CEO’s were investigated for misuse of funds that they spent for their own enjoyment. Charter schools receive money through taxes just like public schools but unfortunately charter schools are not held as accountable with their funds as the public schools. I am currently a proud public school educator.

  • Cindi B.

    When teachers work (during a school year) we work WAY more than 8 hours a day. It’s
    every evening, every weekend, every “vacation”, and every summer. It’s arrive by 7:30, often
    earlier for meetings. Leave an hour or two after official paid time ends. Do between 2 and6
    hours work in the evening. Done properly, any study would take into account the REAL hours teachers actually work. When you do that, the per hour is considerably WORSE than LOUSY.
    If study authors don’t take real hours worked into account in their study, then they just plain
    don’t know what they’re talking about, and the study is basically useless. The effects of
    “generous vacations” and “summers off” are effectively and totally negated. NEA should
    survey all full-time teachers as to ACTUAL hours worked each week, and publish that data.
    Get the truth out.

  • GGC

    I have been teaching 38 years now. We have a 200 day contract for the year and that includes a whopping 8 days of paid vacation,180 student days, and all the rest unpaid days off. My summers are unpaid. I have to save enough from each check each month to give myself a paycheck to put food on our plates and pay other bills. If I get foolish, food is not there. I am usually smart enough to leave it alone. My sister keeps telling me about her husband who sells steel, alot of stress there and work to take home?, gets six weeks of PAID vacation. That’s a whole lot more than my 8 days.

  • debbie M

    I find it difficult to believe that there are other jobs in America that have one person working with 150 different people in one day. on the high school level a teacher is prepping for 4 – 5 different subjects per day. Each student is expected to achieve proficent levels of education on specific topics. WE need to make certain that they eat every day, are in their seats on time, turn in homework and show proficency. I need to counsel that student when its needed, encourage to strive and direct their attention from the lure of technology to the facts of history, science and reading. I’m supposed to work without enough books in class, no technology and somehow manager to modify my instruction because of language needs. Overpaid, I think not.

  • Steven C

    Teachers do not have “vacations.” They have scheduled periods of unemployment. They do not get paid for this. They are contracted for a certain number of days per year and get paid for working that number of days. They DO NOT get paid vacations which is a common misconception.

  • M

    How many times do I have to explain to people that I do not get paid for my summer vacation??!!!!!!! In my state we get paid for 10 months!!! We have the option to have our checks spread out over 12 months. I’m so sick of people bashing teachers who have never walked a day in our shoes. Before they have a right to say anything, I challenge them to spend 1 week in a class of 25 first graders all day long, with no help whatsoever. One adult with 25 children. Or any grade level (K-12), I bet they will feel differently after experiencing that. We don’t do it for the money obviously, I teach because I love working with children.

  • Eda Wilson

    Vacation time for teachers?????? I taught 33 years and never had a paid vacation day except when God gave us a snow day.

  • http://NEAToday.org Tracy

    Chris, are there any job openings in your school so I can apply?

  • Sergio Diana

    First, The REPUBLICAN¬S ( bless st. ronnie) first came for the air traffic controllers..
    The REPUBLICANS said how dare they fight for their rights to work decent hours and receive decent pay and benefits?!!
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an air traffic controller .

    Then the REPUBLICANS came for the private sector pensions The republican¬’s wall street buddies gave us the 401K!! They’re better than defined pensions because we don’t have to pay for them )and just think of the billions of dollars in fees we will make to fund your campaign.

    and I didn’t speak up because I did not have a private sector pension.

    Then the REPUBLICANS came for the right to unionize. Unions make people lazy and the REPUBLICANS gave us “right to work” states. Pay less wages to your employees if you come to these states! And the corporations cheered!

    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then the REPUBLICANS came for the public sector pensions . . “The REPUBLICANS said..” We’re broke from tax cuts to the wealthy and unfunded wars that we started!!” Pay up middle class. Why should public sector employees get decent pensions, we already got the private sectors, let’s take theirs too..

    and I didn’t speak up because I was not a public sector employee.

    Then the REPUBLICANS came for the teachers . They are overpaid, they get summers off, they should be making what the rest of the private sector employees make to be competitive with Chinese slave labor wages. They are the only unionized group left with enough power to stop our complete annihilation of the middle class!!

    And not only did I not speak up, I got on board to point fingers at those teachers and said, what right do you have to ask to get paid for your contributions to society? I make less, you should too..

    And then the REPUBLICANS came for me,

    And there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Justin

    @Chris

    Love the ignorance. There are schools that pay well. You are in one of them if what you say is the truth and you are a k-12 teacher. But the large majority of schools do not pay teachers like this. I currently make 33,795 a year and I am a fifth year teacher with a masters degree.

    I have put 350 hours and still counting of my own time into developing and implementing a self paced program for my mainstream math students. I have not been paid a dime to do so. I stay after school with students on a daily basis until 4:30 and go home and continue building my program, correcting papers, doing research and continuing my education. I don’t get paid extra for this. THE MORE I WORK, THE LESS I MAKE AN HOUR. The less I work, the worse I am for my students.

    So I can work less to make my salary more reasonable and completely shoot my morals and ethics in the foot (even though it is barely above poverty line and I have 6 years of education, tons of student loan debt and plenty of friends who didn’t go to college making twice my salary) OR work my butt off, get no respect, and get paid squat.

    On top of that I am held accountable for student test scores on a MULTIPLE CHOICE test (NWEA’s) where students scores can easily be swayed due to random guesses. Some of these kids have been taught by my student teacher, others have missed 40+ days of school, other have parents who beat them while other student’s parents let their xbox babysit them until 4 in the morning. A large majority of my students come from broken homes and are in constant turmoil about the dynamics of home. And that is just the tip of the ice berg.

    In 2014 I am held responsible for 100% of my students to reach a BENCHMARK! Tell me, how many lawyers are expected to win 100% of their cases? How many doctors save 100% of their patience? How many doctors are held responsible for their patience CHOOSING to not listen to their advice? Oh and should I also point out that lawyers can REFUSE the bad clients? Doctors ARE NOT held responsible for patience who do not listen to their advice, and surgeons can turn down a surgery if they feel the patient will die on their table.

    Why do I not get any of these professional courtesies and understandings when it comes to parents and children making horrible choices? Why am I responsible for picking up parent’s slack and expected to be a miracle worker? No one else is. I have 6 years of education after high school and counting. Why am I making roughly 30k a year?

  • http://neatoday.org dennis

    It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, teachers salaries and benefits are frozen for well into the future and in many area’s they will be given furlough days and there isn’t much the national and state unions can do about it.

  • Brad

    I think an important issue is the amount of time many teachers work during a day. What I mean is real total time. Many jobs have breathing room, lax time, sit down moments, self reflection time, eating time… many teachers have little of this…
    A lot of teachers are constantly on the go… when I was a Middle School teacher in a tough class, just sitting down might cause me to lose a great many students…
    In a given day, a teacher puts in a real 8 to 10 hours. With some non education jobs that I have worked, I might only put 4-5 hours of real work in on an 8 hour day.
    Most people don’t realize how challenging teaching can be… especially in tough schools. The debate is silly. When it comes down to it, perhaps it is immoral/ unethical/ shameful/ ludicrous to question the pay of anyone who makes less than 70,000 a year? I sure don’t… even those who have time to think up questions of why I get paid too much…

  • Elizabeth Riley

    Teacher pay is high enough? If we don’t want to be financially strapped, Why do we do it? IT IS REWARDING! If we didn’t have to spend so much time disciplining undisciplined kids, it would be more rewarding. Teaching kids things they will never forget and becoming a confidante to a troubled kid are enough reason for me. I make so little money and my take-home is about 20% less than it was 5 years ago. No raises in that time, but now we have to put money for our retirement and health insurance. These things were given to us in lieu of raises in years. Every time I can make a child gow into a more responsible adult, it is worth it.

  • Maryanne

    To the 100K Chris…since we do not get paid over the summer, it is ridiculous that you say your salary could be counted as 120K. There are no summer jobs that pay the 20K that would fill in the gap between 100-120K (to my knowledge). Lucky for you that you make so much. I bet you are about 1% of the nation’s teaching population. You looked for other jobs, but could find none that paid so well. Do you love teaching? the students? …just the money?

  • joseph spano

    Teachers that want to educate our children, demonstrating that fact by the effort put into this honorable profession, deserve the salaries they receive. However those who rest on their laurels or tenure without validation or accountability should seek other employment.

  • James Wintermote

    It’s a matter of simple economics and capitalism. If you want the best product, you usually have to pay a higher price. If you want the best empmloyees, you need to offer a competitive salary. In the profession of teaching, if school districts truly want the best teachers, they should be willing to offer better salaries and benenefits. I have seen first hand how teachers move away from states with lower salary scales and gravitate to the higher paying states.

    If pay is going to continue to be an issue with teachers across this nation and salaries are not going to become competitive, then perhaps states should not require teachers to have a degree. Going to college is a huge investment and people expect a return on their investments. Teachers are also required to earn continuing education credits to maintain their licenses. I wonder what the quality of our nation’s teachers would be if they weren’t required to have a degree or continue their education.

  • al rinaldi

    When teachers salaries are solely on the backs of homeowners,when do you reach a comfortable level? I am sorry but i am with a district and when you combine Pay, eddrpp, benefits and retirement. The legacy costs are killing the states. Unions have taken teaching away from its mission.

  • Silvia

    In my fourth year of teaching I earned $57,000 in Los Angeles Unified. I have my Masters degree in addition to my credential. I was laid off last year and went to work in the private sector where I earn $10,000 less, do not have summers off, my retirement is a 401k plan and my health benefits are not nearly as comprehensive.Are teachers overpaid? No, but the private sector here is Los Angeles doesn’t pay better than teaching.

  • mona

    Here’s what I know for sure:
    My husband and I each have a Master’s degree in our respective fields, and earned these degrees before starting full-time work. I have additional credits of post-graduate work (about 20 extra credits) – meaning I technically have more education than him. He has been employed at his company 6 years; I am currently in my 5th year of teaching.
    Our starting wage was disparate, but not enormously so (about $10,000 difference per year).
    Since then, he’s maintained nice raises each year. My district went on strike a few years back (wages, by the way, being at the bottom of the list of items we were striking over) and ended up with a 1.5% raise over 3 years.
    My husband and I are nearing a place where the amount his salary has increased due to raises over the years will be more than my TOTAL salary.
    Now, this may be an extreme example (and my husband is obviously extremely lucky to be in his field) – but come on, isn’t there something wrong with this picture?
    Don’t even get me started on the fact that his career required him to sign up for a (that’s right, just 1!) test to prove his competence and it was administered by the state for a cost $35 (which I believe his employer reimbursed him for). I have spent over $700 on various praxis tests – educators everywhere are padding the pockets of ETS, and that is ridiculous. To keep my teaching license I can do National Boards ($2500!) or a state-administered portfolio (for the comparatively low, low price of $550!).

  • Jed

    Silvia,
    It sounds like you’re comparing your 4th year teaching salary with your 1st year salary in the private sector. Your comparison really isn’t valid for another 3 years. Also, did you complete your master’s during your first 4 teaching years? Was its completion required for you to maintain your teaching certificate? Did you take these courses in the summer or concurrent with your teaching position? How many hours per week did you work while teaching? How many hours per week do you work in your private sector job?
    I think you’ve made a faulty comparison.

    Of course some private sector jobs are different, but many only require an 8hour work day. I get sick of hearing “summers off”. Comparing teaching to private sector jobs, actual work hours are nearly the SAME. The hours are just distributed differently throughout the year.

    Private sector = 1,960 work hrs/yr.
    Public Teacher = 1,950 work hrs/yr. + required college courswork!

    Explanation:
    52 weeks – 2 weeks vacation – roughly 5 holidays – the remaining weekend days = 245 work days in the private sector. At 8 hr days, that’s 1,960 hrs/yr. In many states, a teachers schedule requires 185 work days. There are extra work days for classroom set-up / break-down, say, 5 + 5. This takes us to 195 work days. Additional required college course work increases the total considerably, but I won’t even include those numbers here. Teaching hours are like ‘presentation’ hours in the private sector. There is A LOT of work required to prepare for each ‘presentation’ and assess student work outside of actual teaching hours. It is common for teachers to work 10 hour days. 195 work days at 10hrs per day puts teachers yearly total at 1,950 hrs/yr.

  • Amy

    The amount of hours I and all other teachers dedicate to our profession extends well after the hours in our classroom. Between lesson plans and creating materials to teach I work every bit of 80 hours a week. That’s down this year because I’m in my second year. My first year all I did was work. 12 hours at the school and then till 1 or 2 in the morning every night at home and forget about a weekend. But I’ll do that every year if needed because I love my job. What I do makes a difference. So our so called liberal holidays and vacations are not only well deserved but also needed in order for us to keep up with new teaching practices and professional development requirements. Teachers should be simply compensated for doing our job in its entirety. We buy classroom materials out of our own pockets and we sacrifice time we could be spending with our own children and family to go above and beyond for our nation’s youth. We just want to be paid for what we do–what we deserve. We are worth it.

  • celine

    My two cents: the researchers sound like my 8th graders—lack of critical thinking skills and did not do their due diligent with their research.

  • granola0

    Teachers are way overpaid in our district and only work 10 months! Support staff not only work 12, but have to figure out all the new technology to make it easier for the rest. They also get huge stipends for coaching and sponsorship of clubs. They get increases of 10K after they get their certain Masters degrees too. Many of them work hard, but many do not and just collect the paychecks. It is disgusting the extras that get paid for, when it should be included in their jobs. Very entitled people…….

  • james

    I am a school teacher and I make a comfortable living. For the amount of education that I have, I am underpaid. For those who post negatively… they have never put on the jock. They don’t know. If you have never been in the class room you can not comment. You can’t even listen to your school board for that matter. They have never put on the jock. For others to claim that we are overpaid is ridiculous. Summers off! A majority of us still find work (a lot of it is to remain active), but we have courses to take, curriculum to upgrade. Most people when they leave their job they go home. We take our work home with us. Yes, it is part of the job.
    Someone posted that we get all this extra money for coaching sports. Again, you have not put on the jock (no pun intended). I coach football,powerlifting, quiz bowl and baseball. All of this combined comes to about $3 per hour. In football alone I would spend 500 hours in practice/ prep time per season. Financially speaking it is not worth it to coach a sport. We teach and coach because we like it.
    If I am overpaid then you are overpaid.

  • http://majjensen@yahoo.com Tom Jensen

    I am a NBCT that retired at the top of my district’s pay scale ($50,000) in 2006. I went to work in the private sector and immediately received a 30% pay raise. In addition to working (only)40 hours a week with NO papers to grade or off duty requirements, I was able to be treated as a valued asset and not as a wage slave.

  • Erin

    I chose to be an Intervention Specialist as a 2nd career. I was searching for a meaningful career and thought the benefits would be a nice bonus. Well, I feel exhausted. This job is a HUGE challenge. I have to remind myself that I am making a difference to stay motivated. Test pressure, highly qualified status, and adequate yearly progress constantly drag me down. I refuse to give up but the hurdles seem to be getting higher.

    I left a career with better pay, better hours, and less stress. I did have continuing education to maintain. I did have to work some weekends. I did my job and I was acknowledged and appreciated for it.

    Now, I do my job and get told to work harder – do more. I risk losing my position due to lack of seniority – not lack of effectiveness. I miss the common sense of the business world. I am well invested in my career as an educator and don’t plan to leave. I think the education world needs to find a better plan to acquire and keep qualified teachers.
    I know both worlds – educators DON’T have it any easier.

  • Robert

    Granola0,

    Each year my district adds a piece of technology that I need to learn. The intent of it is not to make my job easier, but to improve opportunities for my students. This year it was website software that allows my students access to homework assignments and lesson plans should they be absent or need make up work. This software has added considerable time and effort to my job as a teacher and it is not an expectation when I am evaluated. This WAS NOT required of me 10 years ago. BTW…the support staff and the administration DID NOT have to learn to use it. I don’t mind because it improves the opportunities for my students.

    As for HUGE stipends…Coaches make about $3,500 to $4,000 per sport coached. But, have you spent any time investigating what they do? Coaches are expected to run summer camps or off season conditioning programs at no extra pay. They scout their opponents, run fund raising activities, in some cases they care for their fields and facilities, and they go to clinics to improve their knowledge of the game. These ARE EXPECTATIONS of all coaches! Work the number of hours out; the stipend is a pittance compared with the hours spent related to this aspect of their job.

    I have TWO mater’s degress. My annual increase for BOTH of them was NOT $10,000!

    I am going to assume that you have not spent time investigating or reasearching these trends. If you did, your findings would have little support.

    Many people think that since they attended a public school that they are an expert. That is like me suggesting that I could resolve the problems in NASCAR team because I attend the races.

  • David Bigelman

    I was engineer for 5 years prior to becoming a teacher. My salary after 5 years was $106,000 a year. I took a year off to become a teacher. 9 years later I make $56,000 as a teacher. Since becoming a teacher I have taken more than 100 units of graduate and professional development coursework. I took no state tests to be an engineer. I’ve taken 12 as a teacher, all but one at my own expense.

    To sum it up, as a teacher in my early forties with twice the education, I make half what I did as an engineer in my early thirties.

  • Sandy

    I am not sure where GranolaO is getting the information from. I taught and worked on my Ph.D. courses at the same time for 4 years and am still working on it. It was/is grueling work, but I benefited from my new learnings and so did my students. It was gratifying to see my students’ reactions when I learned along with them and we tried some new things together. However, just FYI – my district will give me only $600.00 more once I earn that doctorate!!! I did not do it for the money, but because I love working with kids and keeping on top of the latest strategies and research on how we learn.

  • Debbie

    Did anybody ask how many teachers HAVE to WORK other JOBS during the summer just so they can make ends meet? Summers off? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!! I’ve been working 28 years and haven’t had a summer “off” yet!

    Walk a mile in my shoes and bills and see what you think about teaching!

  • Pete

    How about teachers who coach? In the “real world” of work, someone who puts in time beyond their 8 hour day often gets paid “time and a half”. If there’s a Saturday involved (as a wrestling coach, I’ve done plenty of those, typically 6:00 a.m. bus departure, 10:00 p.m. or later return time), those in other jobs/professions may get “double time”. Teachers who coach may make around 1/15 of their hourly wage equivalent (or less sometimes). We coach because we believe in co-curricular activities and their inherent benefits to our students. I hope others realize this when they talk about how much educators “have it made”.

  • Silvia

    Hi Jed,
    To answer a few of your questions: During my first year with LAUSD I earned $52,000 – $5,000 more than my current position. I had just completed my credential and Masters. Hours per week are the same as I am now expected to work some evenings and Saturdays. When I say “summers off,” I mean I did not have to report to a building. I could do lesson planning etc by the Merced River in Yosemite.
    I am not attacking teachers as overpaid. I am stating what I have found to be true in Los Angeles. This doesn’t appear to be true nationwide. I am not opposed to teachers’ benefits and pensions.I am pro-teacher and pro-union: I marched against Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

  • Tina Llopis

    Are they serious? I have 31 years of my life invested in teaching and have a love/hate relationship with most aspects of my career. I have taught grades 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12. I have determined that this is my final year to teach and with each (required) weekly, after school faculty meeting, I learn more and more about the requirements that our school district, state, and the feds are insisting teachers and schools implement. I, too am required to learn the new technology — for the kids. I don’t mind learning new skills because that’s what I’m all about. It’s made for an interesting life. I still enjoy working with students, I love when they’ve “discovered” something unknown to them and love watching their reaction when they share what they’ve learned with a peer or even with me. That surely has to be the absolute in my life. Here comes the “but”…. I am one who will question why our politicians do not come into a regular classroom on a regular basis and do what I do each and every day. They are the ones who make our laws and expect school districts/states to figure out how to fund these programs and meet their expectations.
    I’m particularly intrigued by the people who have huge signing/retiring bonuses. When politicians retire, do they have to worry about their health insurance, taxes, or income???? Certainly not! Looking forward, that is a serious concern of mine as well as other educational retirees.
    I think my salary is a decent one, however, I am only paid for the days I’m expected to be at school. Plus I did not take education as a career because I knew there was some big money to be made. I started teaching for the same reasons I’ve stayed in it…the kids. They are the best part of my job.
    It does bother me though, that as a single mother of two, my children and I qualified for the government’s free/reduced lunches at school. I could not accept that benefit, nor would I accept food stamps for my family. It simply bothers me that my family and I would qualify for those benefits.

    Like most educators, I also have a higher degree, to which I’ve earned $600.00 a year more, I have also held summer time jobs, after school jobs, and various workshops that have a stipend attached to them. My “free time” after school includes either catching up on the multitudes of emails sent from administration, parents, and sometimes students, grading papers, projects, and reports then adding those grades to the parent portal site, learning about new trends in education, going to after school meetings and workshops, looking up ideas on websites in order to go back to my classroom with something more to keep their attention.
    I feel torn because I do love working with children, but the added crap that we are required more and more is making it difficult to enjoy the most basic part of my profession.
    I know of few, if any other professions that have these same concerns.

  • cynthia

    It’s pretty well accepted that teaching salaries in the US have lost a lot of ground over the past 20 years. NEA where were you? After 23 years of teaching fulltime in Vermont, I finally crossed the $55G salary mark. I give nearly $600 of this annually to NEA. My last raise just covered the increased required retirement deduction, under the new retirement agreement supported by VT-NEA. At retirement I’ll receive a whopping 53% of average final salary in a low-salary state (most will get 60% now) I don’t see myself ever being able to afford to retire, though once you’re age 55 or at the top of the salary grid, you are a real target for a “job cut” so you can be replaced by a first-year teacher for less money, so it may be closer than I think! Teaching salaries in most of VT are generally low, though the cost of living here is not. Taxpayers simply cannot afford to pay more—the public sector problem for teachers. All too often increases in funding seem to stay at the administrative levels, and don’t really filter down to us “professional” teachers. I’m told that our central office administrators just got salary increases to be competitive with the highest paid “metro” area in the state, but teachers in rural VT are lightyears away from our salaries being anywhere near competetive with those in that high-salary area, at least 10 years behind that particular curve. If teachers were to propose such salary increases, we’d be laughed out of the room.
    Salary grids around here are designed so you “top out” after between 10 (VT-NEA advises) to 17 years of teaching, but retirement looks at teaching as a 30 year (or more) career. So after you are stuck at the top of the grid, you can expect to receive only small pay increases for the second half or two-thirds of your teaching career. just as your oldest child is getting ready to go off to college probably. Just as you’re perhaps beginning to consider your AFS for retirement planning. (Oh, to be teaching in a high salary state that pays 90% or 100% of AFS in retirement, as do all the states nearby except for one, according to VT-NEA) No, I’m not moving. It just is what it is- a double whammy. My
    teacher prep courses in college neglected to educate me about these finer points.
    More and more is being asked of us each year, which means way more hours worked—and what teacher works only their contracted hours anyway? That’s where much of the salary problem arises. Stick to contracted hours only, and the salaries aren’t bad at all. It’s all the additional hours that most of the public is unaware of that get you. Boards, too, are just as unaware, often viewing the teaching job as what they SAW it to be when they were in school 20 to 40 years ago. (In reality, teaching was more than a fulltime job back then, but that was even less common knowledge.) We need to educate boards and the public about the hours we work and the ever-increasing demands of teaching, which have escalated dramatically since my first years of teaching, and especially in the past 8 to 10 years. Most non-teachers believe we have evenings and weekends for our personal lives, for instance. Ha! If teachers were paid overtime, we’d all be raking it in!
    Our most recent school newsletter to parents cited the caring and dedicated teachers who arrive early, eat lunch with kids, stay late, etc. Not mentioned were the evening, weekend, vacation, summer hours we spend in the building and at home….etc. It’s great to be referred to as caring and dedicated, but what about being compensated for just some of this? Yes, there are teachers who work contracted hours only and leave the job completely at school, but they are not at all representative of the profession, though they just may be the real winners in the teacher salary realm.
    Does it make teachers greedy to want to be compensated for some of the over-the-top job expectations that most of us spend our off-the-clock hours on? Here’s the argument back: “Well, if you feel you have to be paid for every little thing….”. The additional 15,18, or 20 hours I put in each week is not the same as “every little thing”. Not by a long shot. It’s the difference between having a real personal life and half of one. As your JOB teaching bleeds over into too much of your life, you can be very aware of it, but you can’t stop it, short of quitting.
    There are many different but similar jobs within teaching, and all are valid. We need to stop arguing amongst ourselves over coaching pay, PE and kindergarten and art teaching, etc. and just realize that we are all professionals, or so they keep telling us, just not necessarily treated or paid as such. Teaching can be fine as a second income, but not so good as an only income. I no longer advise anyone to go into teaching unless they knowingly want to work a job and a half for one fulltime salary, or are independently financially set. If WE don’t educate the public and boards AND stand up strongly for ourselves in negotiations, no one else will.

  • Raechel

    Most people I encounter do seem to know that teachers put in all kinds of hours beyond the contract. I am in my twelfth year teaching middle school English. Like so many, I really love my job. I actually worked in the private sector (hotel management) prior to teaching. The funny part is that I went back to school to get my masters degree and teaching credential to get away from all the work hours. Ha! The real difference is that my extra hours are not “on duty” now.

    I have always maintained that I am compensated well, in a general sense. I like/need the time off and the benefits are pretty good (at least for now). My high school English teacher warned me against becoming an English teacher for all the time essays take to grade. I didn’t listen. But, you can imagine what grading 130 middle school essays is like. Preparing 7th graders for the annual state writing test means A LOT of writing needs to take place. Of course, that is the job, along with other grading, lesson planning, parent meetings, numerous committees, etc. The pay is fine, but the job requirements (especially with state test demands) are near impossible to do all well. It wouldn’t matter if I was paid $100,000/year! I wish the public could understand that last point. Yet, there are more and more demands as the years go by . . .

    Despite all this, I would still rather teach than return to hotel management (which I tried the summer of 2009 and hated). I needed that lesson.

  • Caitlin

    What Raechel pointed out at the end of her post is the most crucial element I see in teacher complaints. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to DO all of the required assignments. Our zone is going to be adding another hour to the teaching day. I already cannot keep up with all of the demands. They think the pay increase makes up for this (And the whopping extra 10 minutes of prep time being added). As Raechel said, extra pay is nice; but if the job requirements are impossible, adding to them makes it more so– no matter how much money gets sent your way to do it. Yes, better pay would ease some finanacial tension, but it doesn’t make doing a good job possible. I was brought up by a teacher & a store manager/farmer. I was taught that what the baoss asked for, he/she got. Every time I sit down to work on something, I can barely focus because there are 10 other things I “should” be doing as well. I kept track of the hours I actually worked last year. (Don’t do this! It will make you too sad.) When I hit the end, I had worked 51 40-hour weeks. I think that becomes 1 week of vacation. And even with that number of hours, I felt perpetually behind.
    Many of the posters are correct, we need to educate the public about what this job has become. Like another teacher, I cannot keep up with the workload & give MY family even half of what they deserve. Somebody else,not just teachers, has to start dealing with society’s deficits. We cannot fix everything in a school day & teach.

  • Tonya

    You have got to be joking! I make 40,000 a year and owe 57,000 in student loans because I had to pay for my own education to become a special education teacher. I do not make enough money to start paying back my student loans. I am still in deferment after 8 yrs of teaching. Was it worth me becoming a teacher…….No! I should of chosen a different major that would of made more money so I would of been able to pay back my student loans.

  • http://theuseofreason.blogspot.com Christian L. Palmer

    This kind of logic will ultimately kill both the public and private schools. Claims that teachers are overpaid generally include statistics of “average salaries” inflated by those who have thirty years’ worth of tenure and some who are also administrators. Moreover, the benefits teachers receive are comparable with many other professions, including hospital personnel, and for the same reason; teachers are exposed to a wide variety of infectious diseases and are thus more likely to become ill. When teaching a roomful of students from five or six countries who may or may not be properly documented immigrants (and thus screened for things like tuberculosis), the health hazards can run quite high.

    What these pundits want if simply an excuse to privatize a public system. In Indiana, where I teach, the situation is complicated by having a State Superintendent of Education who was formally on the board of a major for-profit charter school company, and whose wife is still a board member. He stands to make a hefty profit by selling our community schools off to charters, including those in which he has a personal financial stake. The worst part of this is that the vouchers will eventually ruin both systems. The public schools will become the dumping grounds for those students who are expelled from private institutions. Meanwhile, the privately owned schools will become dependent upon public funding and will be ripe targets for nonsensical regulations imposed by those who hold the purse-strings. Evenually the private system will be hamstrung by the same short-sighted policies that have ruined the public system, and we will then have destryoed both.

    I am a strong social and fiscal conservative, but some institutions simply do not lend themselves to privatization. Privatizing the military would be foolish indeed, yet with the rise of “private contractors” we have done just that and had to endure the inevitable problems of so doing. In a similar fashion, privatizing the public educations system is not a wise idea. It polls well enough that politicians will do it, but as Thomas Sowell once wrote, it often makes political sense to kill the goose who lays the golden eggs.

    Instead, I would suggest taking a look at the structure of our educational system itself. We still run schools under the assumption that physical age is a reliable predictor of academic readiness, something all of our research vehemently denies. In addition, shouldn’t charter schools be serving the students who fail to perform well in the public school setting rather than draining the public system of those already succeeding in it? I see a place for charter schools in the system as alternatives for those students failing to succeed in the public system. Give them more leeway for things like discipline and allow them to experiment with structural changes. I would not be opposed to military-style charters for students with disciplinary issues who impede the learning process in a regular classroom.

    The push toward charters and vouchers is simply a matter of politicians being led by the polls rather than using common logic and true leadership. Attacking teachers as overpaid whiners is simply a rhetorical tool to that end.

  • http://theuseofreason.blogspot.com Christian L. Palmer

    Please excuse the typos in my last post!

  • Margaret

    When I got tired of hearing “you teachers are always on vacation” I added up all the additional hours I put in beyond my teaching day with scoring student work, grades, meetings, parent meetings, conferences, and any professional development (which is typically on my time and my dime) it was well over 320 hours, which equals eight 40 hour weeks. I have 3 advanced degrees besides my bachelors degree. Am I over paid? I don’t think so. The next time a friend made that comment (he was a police officer) I told him all of the above and he was shocked. The public doesn’t realize what teachers do and how much time they put in to be current, to be the best teacher they can be, and to deliver quality lessons to our students.

  • Teresa

    First of all, I work out with a former NY teacher who retired and moved to TN. His retirement is more than 2 years of my pay in either OH or TN where I have worked. Basing this article on the teachers in NY would not be relevant to the rest of the country. I topped out at 12 years and have now been teaching for 32 years. Also, if my insurance or any of the things they take out of my pay goes up, that means my income goes down. It has steadily declined over the last few years. I also took a $5000 pay cut in moving from a poverty stricken county in Ohio to a wealthy county in TN. That amazed me! I don’t understand how teacher pay is decided or distributed. I have many friends and friends’ husbands who do not have nearly the education I have but make double and triple what I make, with the same amount of paid vacation I have off in the summer. Also, their education of any kind is paid for by their companies and they receive more pay for any training or education they receive. My education comes out of my meager salary and other than a new degree, is required but makes absolutely no difference in my pay.

  • Chris

    Interesting how the “poorly rated” comments get wiped out while the highly rated ones are move visible. I guess that is the NEA’s way of stifling opinions and hiding arguments that run counter to their preferred position. My earlier post got over 50 likes, but is still hidden unless someone clicks on it, and even then the font is so dim that it is hard to read. Nice strategy NEA.

  • Dave

    I was laid off from a private sector job where I was earning over $90K/yr and had 4 weeks vacation. Any required, or desired education expenses were reimbursed by my company. My job went away due to aquisitions and a downturn in the computer industry. I was over 50, male, and generally unhireable in the field that I had worked in for nearly 20 years. There was a shortage of science and math teachers in my area so I took the required tests and began teaching at an inner city High School. I never thought teaching would be easy, but could not believe how truely hard it is. That first year was grueling, and the pay was just over $32K. I worked every weekend, late into the nights, and was pink slipped in the spring. The next three years I taught at a middle school, which made high school look like a walk in the park. I had no equipment, textbooks, or running water in my science room. I funded all my lab supplies and most of my printing out of my own pocket. During the first 5 years of teaching I had to take summer work in order to make up for my loss in pay. All this time I was taking as many courses as I could in order to become better at what I was doing. I’m currently on February “Break”, which has been spent correcting mid-term exams, and writing my final research paper for my required masters degree. At my age I will never recover the costs of the masters degree with my $3200 pay increase.

    Teaching is different. The closest private sector job that comes close is a middle level manager position, but few middle level managers have up to 150 reports that they need to monitor daily and file reviews on bi-quarterly. Find me a management position that starts at $32,000 and requires a masters degree within 5 years, paid for out of your own pocket. That is the job I want to be compared to, not standard jobs based on education and SAT scores.

    Teachers are NOT over paid, and we should be grateful they are willing to do what they do in order to provide children with a brighter future. If pay was hire, we might attract some more talented teachers, and might not. The low pay certainly chases many away in the first 5 years. Perhaps if the pay scales were doubled some of them would stay.

    But we also must be realistic. Government spending and taxing is out of control. I don’t want to be selfish and burden others by increasing their tax expenses. In the private sector the company owners were responsible for generating the capitol to pay our salaries. The government is not charged with raising capitol, and can only do so by taking from producers. Heck, most of the parents of my students don’t even pay taxes.

    BTW, in the private sector no one is overpaid. Everyone is paid what they are worth or they don’t work at all. Right now I’m happy to have a job. An added bennefit is I know I am positively influencing the lives of most of my students. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but it is also the only job that puts a smile on my face every morning when I go in to greet my students. I can’t put a dollar amount to that.

  • Michelle Barnhill

    99% of Americans probably couldn’t handle being a teacher. They have no idea what we do and how much we care. “You” send your children and grandchildren, future care givers, mechanics, doctors, lawyers, policemen, firemen, service workers, and businessmen to us so that we can teach and prepare them for life…then “you” want us to make less money…hmmmm…”you” are asking for a grim future for “yourself”…better think about this a little more, after all that is what your former teachers taught you how to do and you wouldn’t be where you are without them!!!! :)

  • http://NEA@NEA.org Marge

    April 16,2012

    In talking with non-teaching individuals who feel that teachers are “overpaid” I usually ask what hourly wage their weekend sitter makes…maybe $5.00 per hour to “supervise” their children? If you take just five dollars and multiply that by twenty-five students(the size of a usual class), then by six and one half hours (a usual school day), then by one hundred eighty days (a usual school year), you will arrive at a sum of 146,250 dollars. I would have to say that “any” teacher does much more than “supervise” twenty-five students in a school year and that all teachers are much more educated and dedicated than the sitter parents hire for their children. I would dare say, without even doing the research, that there are few if any public school teachers who make this salary even taking into account the benefits their respective school district may provide. I seriously doubt that any “teacher” starts out with a salary anywhere near this amount…it may take a masters degree and ten to fifteen years of teaching to possibly get half of that amount. And pension? Of course teachers deserve every penny of it…for all the years they didn’t earn their “sitter” salary.

  • Mike

    Yes you won’t get rich, but a week off for spring break, a week off for fall break, 2 weeks off for Xmas break, all state and federal holidays, and NINE weeks off for summer isn’t all that terrible.

  • Derek

    I have been a teacher for 12 years. Early in my career, I learned my craft from some experienced, kind, and generous teachers with years of classroom time. I never hear the media, politicians, or business people say anything negative about the families that send children to school without the manners and respect needed to learn. I am a conservative in most of my political views, but it really bothers me that conservative politicians, newscasters, and business people think that “holding teachers accountable” is the way to improve our education system. A good education starts in the home. Children I work with that come from a home where the parents are in their business tend to be more successful and studious. This is obvious. Conservative media, politicians, and business people that have put teachers under the gun are making a huge mistake for our future. Many of them espouse a competitive environment where the best teachers are rewarded with higher pay. How stupid. Teaching is not a business. If you make me competitive with other teachers, than maybe I won’t show the same kindness and generosity those experienced teachers showed me early in my career for fear that my fellow teacher’s students may outscore mine based on some sage techniques I shared with him/her. I played sports for many years and served on active duty in the Marines and Army. I coach sports now and love competition. It does not belong in the classroom or on a school campus between teachers. How will students be placed if we are competing for pay based on test scores? Will we have exactly the same amount of students with issues that require extra time and attention? Ignorance and stupidity has gripped the national media, politicians, and the business world. I am pro-business, but I won’t tell you how to sell computers or pizzas and you should not be telling educators how to educate with stupid ideas and ignorance on your side.

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  • markEmarc

    To Janet in article. Very few of us as a teachers as a percentage pursue degrees and certifications, that will not lead to higher pay or professional status immediately or perhaps be beneficial in the future or post teaching. I highly doubt Janet is doing this and no summers off every year throughout her 20 to 30 year stint. And of course it its not required it won’t be reimbursed, but may be deductible. Many of us, have had our masters paid for and get an immediate step raise. While some in the private sector may with some larger companies get reimbursement or partial reimbursement, it is very rare that any would get a guaranteed direct raise because of it. Also for me it was much easier to complete my masters given that we do have summers off, long holiday and interim breaks, and can even do a portion while at work, plus ciriculumn is much shorter and simpler than say my spouses masters in engineering degree or my nephews MBA degree in information mgt/ finance concentration. I’m an early education major with a masters and I make about 20% less than my spouse but they have no pension and myhealth insurance is much better, my job security and pressure and stress level is way better also. Plus they get 3 weeks after even after being there 12 years! They have to occasionally travel and its all work no or little play,along with much longer and stressful hours. On the other hand, my brothernlaw works for General Motors and makes more and has similar benefits as me, but without the pressure and stress that my spouse does. Are we overpaid, I don’t think so, but we should be grateful and don’t whine about things. Plus I think the private sector general workers are underpaid- no unions. I know I may get heat from other teachers, but I am being candid from my perspective. We want $, but we want respect too. But with unions it makes it hard to have both, because they protect the bad teachers also and a handful of us just seem to alwaysbwant more, the more we make the more the union gets, all supported by taxpayers dollars, including the ones making half of what we do, no wonder they give no respect. The best we can do is work hard and stop whining, stop picketing, etc. even when we get rather comparatively smalk cuts, then maybe we will also get the respect. But to the public, the administrative side is much worse inbabusing your tax dollars.

  • mrsfoutdire

    Retired teacher from Michigan. I’m glad my wife also retired early a few years ago as a teacher. I feel bad for some of you in other areas of the country, but here in Michigan our union has provided us with an envious lifestyle, come here to teach. Not all of Michigan is Detroit. Plus we have spent our last 7 years in our Florida home in winter and easter break and, our beautiful lake cottage in upper lower Michigan. We are greatful don’t whine. And although we didn’t always get respect, we can’t complain. I can see why our district tax payers complained. While they were getting big cuts, many losing jobs , healthcare, and no pensions– some of us were whining about a few small cuts, taxation, and budget freezes and we are in a big union area with the big 3 autos, I can’t imagine how the taxpayers would look at us. Hey I was a PE teacher, health instructor and coach. My wife a h.s. science teacher. Her study and masters was much harder than mine, yet I made more than her and had almost zero stress. Neither of us would have traded our jobs for our friends or relatives jobs in the non union private sector, many of them making even less than us with same or more education, more stress and no pensions. So we don’t and never did whine not just out of respect to them or taxpayers, but because we are truly grateful and blessed.

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