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Teachers Earn More than You Think

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Teachers routinely grumble about being underpaid, and some certainly are. But an op-ed by researchers Jay Greene and Marcus Winters in the Philadelphia Daily News takes issue with this common gripe. They say that factoring in leave time, generous benefits, and the number of hours worked (nine months for many teachers compared to a full year in most other professions), teachers actually earn more per hour than many other white collar workers. The two researchers analyzed salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to come up with this report which lays out the claim that teachers aren’t as underpaid as many people think.

7 Comments

Sorry, this idea of teachers being 'not as underpaid as you think' is bogus and nonsense. Teachers work 10+ hours per day but are only paid for 7.5 of those hours. Teachers also work 10 months of the year, not 9. Also, yes, teachers get good benefits for health insurance - but that is it. No employer matching 401k stuff... no stock options.... Anyone who says teachers are paid well has not spoken to a teacher about it. Teachers are public servants and are taken advantage of by their communities. MOST teachers cannot afford to purchase property in the communities in which they live. AND the government has offered to 'help' this problem by offering a slight assistance program if the teacher is willing to live in a nasty, dangerous neighborhood which is engulfed by thugs and criminals. So, if you think teachers are living well, you go get a teaching job, support your family of three kids with it and get back to me. Tell me how great your savings are and how nice the home is you have bought.

Wow. Statistical geniuses crunching numbers from the government have it all figured out. Interesting that teachers are, as claimed, not underpaid "on average". I would be more inclined to listen to these gentlemen if they used median as the measure rather than average. That would give everyone a better sense of what's really happening. The previous comment included much but not all of the problems with being a school teacher. What about the extra hours required for after hours events: open houses, parent/teacher conferences, parent phone calls, etc? Teachers are not eligible for over time because the districts couldn't afford to pay them. You are able to move up in corporate America based on your performance, but you must have advanced degrees and countless years of experience to move up in education. And gentlemen really, I find it difficult to believe as a teacher of 13 yrs and now an administrator (by the way, I have a masters degree and I don't even make 56K as an assistant principal for 12hr days plus extended summer work off contract that has to be done due to NCLB), that when you compare the salaries of public school teachers in reference to the cost of living in the areas in which they live and teach that they are just complaining about a nonexistent problem. The East and West Coasts tend to have much higher teacher salaries because of strong union affiliations and a much higher cost of living. From experience, I can tell you that no single person can buy a home in a decent neighborhood on a salary of $56K unless they have no student loans, no car payment, etc. There was never a summer I did not work as a teacher because I had to, and I would do so now if my schedule allowed it. I also worked a part-time job while teaching, but many districts' local board policy forbids that now. And so many public schools don't include paid benefits because health care costs have made it impossible not to ask for employee contribution to their own health plans. I pay as much as a single person as my sister does with a family of 4! So these gentlemen can come down off of their high horse and study real people and not just statistics, which can be manipulated by the person citing them. I don't know about anyone else who read the piece, but I thought I read a snippet in there that basically suggests with much subtlety that teachers should not be complaining about their pay in general, but more about the payscale and where they fall on it. Sounds like they are pushing teachers to clamor for merit pay to me. But what do I know? I'm just a teacher.

Thanks much to the teachers who have responded to the ill-informed and biased teacher salary analyses of Jay Greene and Marcus Winters. Teachers need to be paid more and differently - and paying attention to teachers themselves will pave the best way to do so. Check out TeacherSolutions on teacherleaders.org.

Wow!! I didn't realize how much I was paid. Let's see--I work an average of 10-12 hours a day--grading papers, reading educational journals, etc. after hours. Oh yes, on week-ends, I usually spend 5 hours to get ready for the week ahead. How many other teachers do this? The reward--seeing achievement!!

@Lori
You said, "Teachers work 10+ hours per day but are only paid for 7.5 of those hours."

Teachers are salaried employees. As is the case for type of compensation plan, you work until the job is done. This is not unique to teaching, nor are the long days and weekends.

Would you prefer to be paid hourly? It would require you to stay at the school so you could clock in and out. 8 hours a day at $34 each comes to $48,960 for a 180-day school year.

I left teaching about 10 years ago and took a job in the software industry. It took me 5-6 years to earn in the private sector what I would have been earning had I stayed in teaching -- and that wasn't including benefits. Five years later, and I am still on par with what I would have made in teaching.

In two of the states where I worked, there were generous teacher retirement systems. In MA, a teacher can retire at age 55 and receive in annual pension benefits between 45%-57% of their income (actually, the average of the last three years). Benefits top out at 80%. I think this far exceeds what one could expect from Social Security.

And there are other benefits as well. This week is a common school vacation week in MA. I've seen a number of parents bringing their children into work with them. Afterall, there is only just so many employees who can take these peak weeks off. For others, I am certain the cost of childcare adds up to a considerable sum.

As for the 10-12 hour workdays. I am certain that some teachers put in that time and that others do not. I am also certain that there are days that are very light indeed -- nearing the end of the school year, field trips, in-services.

No one is forced to become a teacher. The compensation of a public school teacher compares well against other white-collar professions, and especially well against private school teachers. If the compensation and benefits aren't what you desire, that leave the profession. I believe Mr. Greene and Mr. Winters are doing good work by dispelling a myth that discourages people from entering the profession.

i am thinking about becoming a teacher but my dad said i should look up how much teachers earn a month because of lots of reasons i guess, but i was not in luck because i couldnt find out please if you know email me at [email protected] thank you

I don't know why teachers complain about being underpaid and expect other people to sympathize with them. If you can make more doing something else, why didn't you do something else? -- Perhaps because the reality is that after you account for the value of your free time, benefits, job satisfaction, effort and cost of business, law, or medical school, you don't really end up ahead?

You have government health insurance and benefits. You can do your planning and correcting work at home, in a bar, or at your children's sporting events -- and that's if you do any of that at all. You can not teach your students a single thing all year and still have a job. You have your summers off to do your landscaping or home repairs -- things people who work all year would have to pay other people to do. And, the list could go on! ... Please, stop whining.

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  • Michelle: I don't know why teachers complain about being underpaid and read more
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  • dweir: @Lori You said, "Teachers work 10+ hours per day but read more
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