Teachers ARE NOT Underpaid

It has almost become a folk tale/cultural value/moral imperative to say, “Teachers are underpaid.” It is not true. Salaries paid to public school educators, in California at least, say otherwise.

Common reasons given for paying teachers high salaries include:

  1. Teachers have to earn a credential that takes five years of college in California. This means four years to earn a degree, plus one year of student teaching. I argue that most real degrees take five years to earn because the course of study is so rigorous. Liberal Studies is a cakewalk in California, I should know, I hold this Bachelors degree.
  2. Teachers have to earn continuing education credits. This can be accomplished by a teacher attending a conference. Yes, those things held in Las Vegas where no attendance at sessions is taken and a teacher may as easily be out at the buffet or recovering from a hangover in their room.
  3. Teachers take work home with them. Some do, some don’t; it is not a job requirement.
  4. Teachers buy things for their classroom like art supplies. True, they may spend some of their own money on their classrooms but this is voluntary. These items are not necessary to teach the core curriculum.
  5. Teachers are heroic in sacrificing their lives to the children. Hmmm…really?
  6. Teachers have to deal with angry, unreasonable parents. This may be true, but does anyone think these angry unreasonable people are not also angry and unreasonable with the checker at Walmart or the attendant at the Costco Gas Station? People making a lot less money deal with the same jerks.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Even if you believe all of the arguments above, deal with the cold, hard facts of what teachers are being paid.

The range of teacher salaries in the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) is $40,184 ($218/day; $31/hour) for an entry level teacher ($8k more than I made last year with a Master’s Degree in private industry). The work year for a teacher is 184 work days (180 teaching days). The work day for a teacher is a short 7 hours (6 hours with children).

The highest teacher salary possible in the SCUSD is $86,673 (Ed-Data). Average salary for a teacher in the district is $63,345. Add to this salary 8.25% ($5225 for the average teacher) that the district must contribute to the State Teacher’s Retirement System (STRS) and the $9,949 contributions for health benefits and taxes that the public pays on their behalf.  This adds up to annual compensation of $63,345+$5225+$9449=$78,518 ($426/day; $60.96/hour).

A teacher earning the top salary earns these amounts – $86,673+$7150+$9949=$103,772 in total compensation ($563/day; $80.42/hour).

Are you still feeling that teachers working 180 days a year with children for six hours a day are underpaid, self-sacrificing, martyrs of public good?

Let’s take a look at what the average “Jos” is making in comparison to teachers. Here is some eye-opening data from the US Census Bureau. The average per capita income of the residents in Sacramento is $25,427.

That’s right, fact check it on the web site for yourself – http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0664000.html .

The median income level in the City of Sacramento, (all wage earners in a household), is $50,267.

So the average teacher in Sacramento earns $37,918 (>149%) MORE than the average resident who pays their salaries.

The average teacher makes $13,708 (>26%) MORE than the average City of Sacramento household.

SCUSD spends almost 85% of all its income on salaries and benefits. So for every new dollar of tax income, 85 cents of that dollar will be fought for by the teacher’s union to increase salaries and benefits. I personally will not vote for any tax increases to benefit teacher salaries until the average level of these salaries is cranked down to a level that is reasonable and which reflects the level of incomes of the people paying for those salaries.