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In the Money


Maybe you won’t need that summer job after all. A new report by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative New York think tank, finds that teachers actually have it pretty good. Who knew? The report, which looked at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that teachers’ average hourly wage in 2005 was $34.06—roughly $9 more than the average for other white-collar workers. “It’s a widely held belief that public school teachers are horribly paid,” said Jay P. Greene, one of the report’s authors. “The facts are public school teachers make more than other professionals.” The study, which purports to make no judgment about whether teachers make too much, also says that paying teachers more does not correlate with higher graduation rates or student test scores. Teachers’ union officials were quick to take issue with the findings, saying the report used flawed methodology and did not account for extra hours worked or advanced degrees held. A teachers’ union study of labor data “found that teachers earned $20,000 below the average of other white-collar professional jobs,” according to the spokeswoman for the Iowa State Education Association.


I want to know how they figured out what a teacher makes per hour. Did they figure in game duty where at our school we get $15 to spend an entire evening in the cold collecting money at the gate for the football game? Did they take into consideration the time spent on the weekend grading papers or planning for the next week. Did they consider the time spent during the summers preparing our classrooms and our lessons for the next year? I kind of doubt it. I would guess they they probably just figured out the contracted number of days with a 7 hour workday, which very few of us teachers ever experience.

I think that many of the teachers who read this blog probably do fall into the category of those who work above and beyond a 7-hour work day. However, what you put into your job is often what you get out of it, not only the money. In so many other professions, the same fact holds true. There are those who put in extra time and effort, and there are those who don't. In teaching pay is absolutely not linked to merit, so perhaps that's more of a problem than the average salary.

As a young teacher, I made more money than my friends starting out in most other professions that I would also deem as noble as teaching - educational publishing, non-profit work, political work. Not only did I make more money, I had more job security, better benefits, and outstanding vacation time.

Considering the freedoms teaching allows you, like summers to pursue your interests, spend time with your family, and get a much-needed break from teaching, I think it's a pretty good deal.

If we keep measuring ourselves by how much we make, I think we're missing the other benefits teaching offers. And if you can't see that, then perhaps you're in the wrong profession. Some people like to complain no matter what job they're doing. It might be time for some self-searching if that's the case.

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