Thursday, February 28, 2013

Let's Pay Teachers What They are Worth (exactly what we are paying them now)

The most popular post that I have by far is about mothers not being worth $100,000.  It probably made some people mad, but my wife and mother still talk to me.  So today, I am going to tackle another shibboleth. Teachers, specifically public school teachers.  I attended school in 4 different districts growing up.  If there was one universal theme that I remember from all of them, it is that teachers weren't paid enough.  They even went on strike one day, for the children.

I have several friends who are teachers.  If there is one universal theme that can be had from them it is that teachers aren't paid enough.  So, I feel safe in saying that for the last 30-50 years, teachers don't think they are paid enough.  I say that is a big fat pile of steaming cow dung. Before you tar and feather me, hear me out first.  One piece of glurge you may have received in you inbox is this diatribe:

Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year. It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit.  We can get that for less than minimum wage.
That’s right. Let’s give them $3 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours).
Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.
However, remember they only work 180 days a year. I am not going to pay them for any vacations.
LET’S SEE…That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on. My calculator needs new batteries.)
What about those special education teachers and the ones with master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.
Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here. There sure is.
The average teacher’s salary (nationwide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student– a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)

Someone was having a little fun and tried their hand at sarcasm.  Of course in their zeal to make teaching look like a simple business where they are getting shafted by averaging $50K a year while giving services worth $105K made me laugh.  Whoever wrote this failed any business classes they took.  If you are going to do a teacher=business comparison, you have to go the whole way.  So to start with I put the above numbers into a spreadsheet:

Students 30
1st Student (per hour rate) $3.00
Additional Students (per hour rate) $3.00
Hourly Rate $90.00
Hours worked per day 6.5
Billed amount per day $585.00
Days per year 180
Total Classroom Revenue $105,300.00

No, funny math, I agree that their calculations are correct.  For the total revenue.  Except that I thought I would adjust it a bit. First off, I am not a scrooge, so I'll pay them for a full 8 hours (there are lots of full time jobs that don't pay for the casual overtime you put in so I'm not shorting teachers any more than society is shorting other non-hourly workers).  I am also going to pay them for 20 extra days in the year, so 200 days total work days.

Now the per kid charge I have to disagree with.  Since the author uses babysitting as the yardstick, I'll do the same.  Most babysitters (and day cares) have a first child charge, and then it is discounted for each additional child.  Now normally they do this by family, but in this case, people are not individually choosing the teacher, the state is.  So I'll assume that the state gets billed $5 for the first child and $2 for each additional child.

So, my analysis looks a little different, but close enough for a starting point:

Email Reputo
Students 30 30
1st Student (per hour rate) 3 $5.00
Additional Students (per hour rate) 3 $2.00
Hourly Rate $90.00 $63.00
Hours worked per day 6.5 8
Billed amount per day $585.00 $504.00
Days per year 180 200
Total Classroom Revenue $105,300.00 $100,800.00

If you are satisfied with that, then pat yourself on the back and keep believing that the average public school teacher is worth $100,000.  Except remember, we are comparing this to a business, so the teacher is a revenue source, none of the expenses have been added in.  The building space can be looked at similar to office building prices (especially since you have use of the library, cafeteria, and playground). School supplies are needed for each student including textbooks, computers, library books, etc. There are support staff that handle all of the office stuff and janitors who clean up. Administrators are needed (because everyone needs a boss). Teachers do get a sweet deal in benefits, thanks to the unions negotiations.  So, here is what I think is reasonable (if you disagree, give me some information of why you do, and I'll change the numbers around):

Email Reputo
Building Rental per month (includes heating, cooling, plumbing, maintenance, grounds keeping, use of library, cafeteria, and gym facilities) $0.00 $2,000.00
School Supplies per student per month (paper, pencils, computers, curriculum, testing, library books, PE equipment, etc.) $0.00 $200.00
Support Staff (1@ $40,000 per 4 teachers) $0.00 $10,000.00
Administrator (1 @ $100,000 per 20 teachers) $0.00 $5,000.00
Benefits (Pension, health insurance, employer portion SS/Medicare, etc.) $0.00 $25,000.00
Total Expenses $0.00 $66,400.00
Salary of Teacher $105,300.00 $34,400.00

Uh-oh.  $34,400 is a lot less than the $50,000 average.  But even then, these numbers aren't realistic.  According to the Census Bureau, there are roughly 55 million K-12 students and only 3 million K-8 teachers.  To be conservative, lets ignore the high school teachers.  That is only 19 students per teacher, not 30.  If we assumed another 1 million high school teachers than we drop down to 14 students per teacher (coincidentally, I had several classes that had this few students and a couple with even less).  So, to be realistic, I'll cut the number of students to 20.

Teachers that I know also put in more than 8 hours a day, so I'll assume an average of 9.  Plus I'll assume they work an average of 220 days a year. I'll keep the $5/$2 split for kids, except that we have one more expense to add in if we are going to stay with the babysitting motif. Day cares have a minimum number of staff required for the number of kids - somewhere around 1:7.  So, in each classroom, a fine needs to be assessed, per student, per day for the overage.

Email Reputo Realistic
Students 30 30 20
1st Student (per hour rate) 3 $5.00 $5.00
Additional Students (per hour rate) 3 $2.00 $2.00
Hourly Rate $90.00 $63.00 $43.00
Hours worked per day 6.5 8 9
Billed amount per day $585.00 $504.00 $387.00
Days per year 180 200 220
Total Classroom Revenue $105,300.00 $100,800.00 $85,140.00
Building Rental per month (includes heating, cooling, plumbing, maintenance, grounds keeping, use of library, cafeteria, and gym facilities) $0.00 $2,000.00 $2,000.00
School Supplies per student per month (paper, pencils, computers, curriculum, testing, library books, PE equipment, etc.) $0.00 $200.00 $200.00
Support Staff (1@ $40,000 per 4 teachers) $0.00 $10,000.00 $10,000.00
Administrator (1 @ $100,000 per 20 teachers) $0.00 $5,000.00 $5,000.00
Benefits (Pension, health insurance, employer portion SS/Medicare, etc.) $0.00 $25,000.00 $25,000.00
Total Expenses $0.00 $66,400.00 $66,400.00
Salary of Teacher $105,300.00 $34,400.00 $18,740.00
Fine for violating 1 adult per 7 children ($25/person/day)

Actual Salary of Teacher


So, just from a babysitting perspective, each teacher should be paying $40K for the privilege to babysit. But as the author pointed out, your kids get an education too! Well, hopefully, in too many cases you don't.  So look at it as a teacher has to be providing at least $90K worth of information/training/mentoring in their job in order to be paid an average of $50K.  If not you are a drag on society.  $90K is a lot of information (particularly in this digital age).

But don't get on your high horse just yet.  Check out some publicly traded companies revenue and divide that by the number of employees and you will find that many of them average $150-300K of revenue per employee (and their employees are not making more than teachers on average).  That's a lot more than the above hypothetical teacher is bringing in.

So, teachers get paid what they are worth, sort of.  Most of them operating under union contracts get paid by seniority regardless of how well they teach.  Private school teachers, on average, get paid less and have less benefits than public school teachers, but you don't hear them complaining.  My wife and I home school our kids.  As part of it, the school district has the come for half a day once a week to meet state progress requirements.  The kids don't get assignments or tests from this half a day, it is just fun learning art, music, PE, and science.  Talking with the teachers, they love the job.  It has all the positives of being a teacher - seeing kids grow and develop, teaching what they like, involved parents; with none of the negatives - grading papers, teaching to a test, parents that don't care.

If you are a teacher and are not getting paid what you think you are worth, did you not realize this before getting into teaching? Like I said, this complaint has been going on for more than 30 years.  The US has put a value on teaching our kids at $50K per year average.  If you want to make more than that, practice putting a ball through a net or hitting it with a stick.  Society values those people who do it best at around $750K per year (just be aware that if you are only almost the best at those skills, society only values it at around $6K per year, so maybe teaching isn't so bad after all).  You're all adults now.  Live with your decision, or change your circumstances.  Just stop the whining about how unfair it is.


  1. Though only briefly touched upon in this post, I personally feel that if unions were not making compensation deals, teachers would truly be paid what they were worth. Terrible teachers would be paid less (or get the ax) and the top teachers would be paid way more than a time-clock punching teacher.

    Furthermore, schools could innovate. They could find ways to bring down the operating costs (i.e. more satellite classes or some such) and thus increase pay outs to teachers.

    All successful businesses are constantly searching for ways to improve service and decrease to make more profit. And when they have more profit, they can compensate top performers more. Why? Because they increased revenue.

    How would top teachers increase revenue for a school? Well... they would be in top demand. When there is more demand and not enough supply, the schools can charge more. Ahh... people would pay more for top performing teachers. And those teachers salaries would go up... or they would go to a school willing to pay their bill. Or heck, they might even start their own education venture and make even more cash.

    So if teachers want to be paid what they're worth, give teachers union the boot and privatize education.

  2. The private college where I work used to pay teachers based on performance. About a year and a half ago we changed to seniority pay. Personally, I don't mind because I have been with the company for over five years and therefore I received the largest pay-raise at the school. (I have the most seniority.) In reality, I don't like it. Yes, I would be getting about the same percentage pay raise, maybe even less, but I think it is more fair to compensate by value rather than by still being in the system.

    The incentive that disappeared is the quarterly bonus. We received a $200 or $400 bonus for each class if the students rated us high enough. I was a good instructor and attained the bonus almost every quarter in almost every class. I, therefore, took a major pay cut when the bonuses stopped. My "major" pay increases have now mostly compensated me for the difference, but if I was under the five year mark, I would still have a year or two to make up the difference.

  3. Please include the following in your computations. I would like to be paid for the hour before school when I meet with parents as a consultant for their child's behavioural issues. I'd also like to be paid for the hour during lunch when I am on call (and always called!) for bumps, bruises, scrapes and breaks - don't forget the $1000 I needed to stock my classroom, as well as a monthly allowance for the paper, ink, art and science supplies I purchase each month. The of course, there is the 1-2 hours after school, again available for parent consultation or perhaps as meeting chairman or secretary . I won't need to provide student supplies, the current owner of this business doesn't! I also won't need an administrator - I'm capable of doing my own PR and I won't want the reams of unnecessary paper work.I also won't require any support staff - like all good private schools I won't accept applicants who require extra care. I would willingly pay for 1 secretary!
    Really, I would just like to be paid for the amount of education and the level of responsibility needed for this position. You home schooled two kids - you're a light weight!