Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Low Teacher Pay

This PSA is brought to you courtesy of a post by PZ Myers of Pharyngula, reflecting an NYT op-ed by Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari... TEACHER PAY SUCKS BIG-TIME. The op-ed contains many interesting facts, but the center of it from my perspective is in these three grafs:

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible. 

So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. ...

We’ve been working with public school teachers for 10 years; every spring, we see many of the best teachers leave the profession. They’re mowed down by the long hours, low pay, the lack of support and respect. 

When I was born, Dad, trained as a schoolteacher, was working as a shipping clerk for a railroad, basically so he and Mom could afford to have a kid AND rent a very modest place to live. (Two-income households were uncommon in the working class in those days.) A decade later, when Dad decided he really, really wanted to teach school, we made the decision as a family, because it meant a drop in annual income from $13k to under $10k. Add another decade; Dad's salary was still not back to where it had been, though he was well over halfway to a Master's degree earned at UH in night classes, and I went to work in my first full-time job as a programmer... at a salary higher than Dad's salary at the time.

Add 40+ years, and not a damned thing has changed except the dollar amounts. Forgive me if I barf on the next person who says a bunch of damned lies about public school employees including teachers having such a great deal. That person is already soiled in my opinion; it's going to be difficult to see exactly how much of them to wipe away...


  1. I hear you!

    I quit my student teaching because i realized that there wasn't enough money to make me go into a classroom and deal with what teachers must endure today.

  2. Kay, my Dad was a great teacher. He knew when (and how) to be patient and when to be impatient, and he had almost a saint's dedication to the basic mission of his profession, in the face of low pay and changing times.

    I, on the other hand, just didn't have the gift. I held a teaching fellowship for two years at the UH School of Music, teaching music theory and sight-singing/ear-training to freshmen and sophomores, and I never really got any better at it.

    This strikes me as ironic, because I taught my performing instrument (recorder) at the college level in the University of St. Thomas - Houston Music Department, as well as privately, and I was pretty good at that. But classroom teaching and individual instruction are very different activities. It's just as well I didn't continue on a course that would have kept me in the classroom.

  3. I was a college teacher, a union member, worked an average of 4-5 hours for every hour spent in class with a full load schedule. I loved teaching, heart and soul. When I left a large Northeast University after teaching a full load and faculty duties I was only making $14,000.00 a year. I couldn't survive on that and left to take up business. Years later, one of the best moments of my life came when a woman, who seemed to know me, came up to me at a public event and said, "You probably don't remember me, but I just had to tell you that you changed the course of my life and were the best teacher I ever had."

  4. mandt, if you care about the job, it takes just about forever to do it right, doesn't it.

    As far as I can tell, NO ONE makes a living teaching, at least not for any long period of time. I believe that in America, teaching was considered a "woman's occupation" for so long because that allowed school districts to place brilliant people in front of classrooms while paying them pocket change. IMNSHO, America can either change that attitude or else sink to the bottom among the nations of the world.

    Practically every good teacher ultimately finds something else to do. I had a ready-made occupation... I was already an IT professional with an M.Eng from a name-brand university... and eventually I tired of living with a roommate in a tiny 1BR apartment that was almost too small to hold a rehearsal in. Enough was enough, and the teaching is what had to go. Sad, really.



• Click here to view existing comments.
• Or enter your new rhyme or reason
in the new comment box here.
• Or click the first Reply link below an existing
comment or reply and type in the
new reply box provided.
• Scrolling manually up and down the page
is also OK.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes