Friday, July 27, 2012

Let's pay teachers babysitters' wages: Another modest proposal

Scott and Sadie, the morning deejays on Big Country 97.9 FM, said this morning that the average babysitting rate today is $12.75 per child. I don't know where that factoid came from, but let's run with it.

In April 2011, I stated that a typical teacher sees 80 to 100 students per day. That was based on survey statistics and professional experience, so I think it's still a valid number. Let's split the difference, and say it's 90.

Math time! $12.75 per student, times 90 students per day, times 182 instructional days per year, comes out to:


Think about it. If we paid public school teachers the going rate for basic child care, we would see the following changes in our educational system:

1. EVERYBODY would want to be a teacher.

2. That means that the best and brightest college students would aspire to become teachers rather than lawyers, accountants, salesmen, engineers, and doctors.

3. Schools could be VERY picky about whom they hired.

4. Therefore, the overall quality of teachers would increase.

5. It's a high probability that the overall quality of teaching, and hence of a public education, would increase.

Think of the difference that would make in the nation's health and well-being, 10 to 20 years down the road, when the students taught in this high-quality system take over as the movers and shakers in society.

Instead, the average K-12 teacher's annual salary, nationwide, hovers around $44,000 (see We are forcing our teachers to work for only 20%, one fifth, of what they're worth. That's slave wages.

Some of you may object that teachers aren't doing "basic child care," and that therefore we shouldn't be paying them basic child care workers' wages. AND YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. We should be paying them more — MUCH MORE. Give me a number. I dare you.

Some of you are still using the old objection that we don't need to pay teachers more because they get the summers off. Look again at that number. It's calculated on only 182 instruction days. If you want teachers to work 250 days a year, like the rest of us, then their annual salary should be:


Besides, for those of you who still think that "teachers get the summers off": some do, it's true. But I've seen many teachers in coffee shops, filling out applications for summer jobs so that they can afford to teach again in the fall. I've known teachers who moonlight at coffee shops, bars and restaurants, during the school year, to make ends meet. According to Eggers and Calegari, fully 62% of teachers work outside the classroom to make ends meet. I've seen many other teachers who spend their summers taking college courses (which they pay for themselves) to keep their certifications current. "Summers off" - pfsssh.

I'm not talking about "funding school districts." I'm talking about "paying teachers." But since the two are interrelated, I will say that we need to reform the way we fund school districts. Stop blaming the teachers' unions for the high teacher salaries - there aren't any "high teacher salaries." The highest average teacher salary, by state, is only about $59,000, and the highest starting salary is only $39,000.

The way public-school teachers are paid in the United States is a national embarrassment, and something that we as a nation should be ashamed of. Let's pay teachers what they're worth.

1 comment:

Loridawna said...

More than "Interesting" or "Cool", it just makes me upset and sad. I'm watching as, one by one, my best colleagues that I graduated with are leaving teaching to get jobs that will actually put food on the table. I watch these top-notch teachers leave and realize what will be left once we all go off and get new jobs...and it makes me sad.