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View Diary: A political issue -- teacher pay (255 comments)

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  •  Nonsense (none)
    I have three teachers in my immediate family.  I know damn well what I am talking about.

    Furthermore, if the job compensation is so horrible, why is your girlfriend entering the profession?  There are obviously benefits that attracted her (and others), that they couldn't find in the private sector.  This "woe is me" crap is silly.  They aren't slaves, they chose the profession knowing beforehand what it entails.  There are benefits to being a teacher that are simply not available in nearly any other profession.  THAT, in part, is why people become teachers, despite the "low pay".

    For instance, I am currently in law school.  I have my eye on a nonprofit job when I graduate that'll pay about 30k a year.  I'll STILL have the massive law school debt, I won't have summer or winter breaks, and I won't have the benefits of a strong union, etc etc etc...  But I am not going to bitch and complain about not being paid enough, because I made a decision to pursue this particular career. I'll feel blessed to be able to participate in the profession I chose for myself.  I swear, some teachers (I bet only 1-5 percent of them, and lucky none of my family members), give their profession such a bad name.  I've never heard such a winy group of people.  In compensation for their lower salaries, teachers have benefits that most Americans will never experience.  Being able to travel with ones family for a solid MONTH every summer?  That is unreal!
    My advice (and I know that no one asked me), is that if you are a teacher and you are constantly upset with your financial compensation, you ought to go into a different career, because you've obviously chosen the wrong one.

    •  You're missing the point (4.00)
      Honestly. I'm trying here:

      Teachers are "bitching and complaining" about the pay of the PROFESSION.

      Your soon to be profession is paid very very well on the whole. Your choice within it is really great and shows your progressive values. But it it your choice. You could go work for a different firm 10 years down the road when you are married, have a mortgage and kids, and earn more than any teacher ever will.

      As teachers go, I'm paid fairly well. But my profession is not. That is the argument I'm making. I will never be able to move to another school district and quadruple my pay. You have that option.

      •  a good point here (none)
        Teaching is the only profession where your experience is seen as a negative.  You wouldn't be able to move to another district because once you've got a certain amount of experience, you become practically unempolyable. You're too expensive. I had eight years of teaching experience when I moved to California (from Chicago, where I was well paid) I was forced to begin at the bottom of the pay scale, as a first year teacher, or I wouldn't have found a job.

        where are we going and why am I in this handbasket??

        by tallawa on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:12:41 AM PDT

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        •  Exactly (none)
          I have a sibling who could double her salary moving north but she could not get hired because she has a Masters degree plus 16 years experience. Her cost of living is also higher than it would be in her hometown region in PA.
          Plus Teaching jobs in Central PA are considered excellent jobs with great pay because we are known for low wages, layoffs, poor benefits, and loss of jobs.

          Being a teacher in Central PA is considered a high class job as I hear my neighbors refer to it.
          It is considered quite good. But take that salary and move to an urban area and the person would be living in poverty. Cost of living and the region has a GREAT deal to do with this discussion.

          It all depends where one lives and what the school district offers. For instance, teachers here average 48-55 k per year and most houses are well under 100k.

          We choose hope over despair; possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism.-John Edwards

          by wishingwell on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:27:05 AM PDT

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        •  To be Fair (none)
          From what I've seen, this is also true of senior lawyers who do not remain at their firms long enough to make partner or those who do not have the requisite book of business.  You become, essentially, unemployable at many firms.  

          There are many professions that punish the more experienced for being experienced.  The work force as a whole does it - after all, I bet many of us can tell of at least one experience where we did not get a job we were clearly competitive for on the grounds that we were "overqualified."

          My separate place for mental meanderings: Political Sapphire

          by shanikka on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:33:34 AM PDT

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          •  but (none)
            school districts (this is untrue in private schools, as far as I know) never want you to have experience, they will only hire you if you agree to come in at the bottom of the pay scale... in the private sector, there are jobs that demand experience, there are times that an employer wants the "overqualified" candidate.  You will never see a posting for a teaching job that says "experience required" becuase there is no such job.  I agree that it does happen in the private sector too, but it's everywhere in education...

            where are we going and why am I in this handbasket??

            by tallawa on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:41:25 AM PDT

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      •  Yes (none)
        And say you moved to my region. The competition for the teaching job would be stiff. You would be competiting against recent college graduates with no experience and they are the ones getting the jobs. I bet the pay would be the same or even better but 100 people are competiting for the same job. The reason being the cost of living in Central PA is quite low. Most of you would pass out that an expensive home is considered anything over 150 k and expensive rent is considered anything over 400 a month!!!!!!!!!!!!

        We choose hope over despair; possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism.-John Edwards

        by wishingwell on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 11:29:25 AM PDT

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    •  You are currently in law school (2.50)
      That explains a lot.

      Tired of the corporate DLC suck ups?WE'VE GOT DEANS BACK

      by TeresaInPa on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 09:45:19 AM PDT

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      •  I am a nontraditional student (none)
        I worked in the corporate world for a while before going back to school

        I hated it;  Absolutely hated it.

        That is why I (am)chang(ed)(ing) professions.  I thought about social work or teaching too.

        I could have made some big $$$ if I stayed with the corporate gig, but I realized I would have died a very unhappy person.  I'd much rather have very few material possessions and walk around with the knoweldge that I am actually doing something to help others and make the world a little bit better than when I was born into it.  I feel so blessed to even have the opportunity to do something like this.  The teachers in my family feel the same way about their profession, which is why they are such awesome teachers.

        •  I love teaching... (none)
          but I'm not going to be able to afford to do it much longer.

          Luckily I have a degree that allows me some mobility. Others aren't so lucky.

          "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

          by kredwyn on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 01:34:47 PM PDT

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    •  let me reply to you on several levels (4.00)
      1. a first year lawyer who makes over 100,000 / year compared with at debt approximately the same size is far better positioned to retire that debt than a first year teacher with a debt of 30,000 but earning 25,000.   The lawyer is not locked into step increases that are at best incremental, and can look forward to substantial paydays in the future.

      2.  to look at national averages for teacher salaries is mislead.  It would be almost as distorting at looking at the average networth of a group consisting of Bill Gates and teacherken  -- our average networth is something around 30-40 billion, but none of it is mine.

      I make substantially more than the national average.  I also (a) live in an exceedingly high cost area; (2) have more education than the average teacher; (3) with ten years of experience have substantially more experience than the experience median among all public school teachers -- remember how many leave in the first 5 years of teaching   -- people like me do pull up the average, but the real problem is for those who want to have families and who are in the first 5-10 years of teaching.

      You argue that people going into teaching know what they are getting into, so basically they should shut up about their salaries.  Why? First, not all teachers have tenure  -- some systems have no tenure provisions at all, others do not grant tenure for anywhere up to 5 years of experience.  Thus they do not have secure jobs.  Teachers can and do get laid off if schools have cutbacks.  And a fair number of teachers do not have the protection of union contracts or the full benefit of same  --  right work states are not the only states that prohibit collective bargaining by teachers and other public employees, and even a fairly pro-union state like Maryland prohibits strikes by public employees.  The ability to negotiate for better (a) working conditions (b) benefits (c) protections against vicious administrators and - yes - (d) better compensation is therefore quite limited.

      Most of us who teach do not do so for the money.   And as I have pointed out, far too many of us are NOT free during our "time off" during the summer and other 'vacations' because we must do ongoing training, we have to work at other employment to supplement inadequate compensation.

      There are public school systems that do very well by their employees -- I can think of several in welathy communities like Scarsdale and Mamaroneck NY, Greenwicc CT, even Arlington VA where I live.   There is, hwoever, still a great disparity in the educational requirement we must ahve for our job and the compensation -  even were it pro-rated by 6/5 to make up for the so-called 10-month work schedule  - that we receive as compared to those with equivalent educational requirements and responsibility.

      Also note  --  I made clear in my diary that this is not an issue for me   -- I can manage, between the income I bring in and that of my wife, although had we not bought the house while i was in the private sector, before I went to work for local government for 8 years, we would ahve had trouble qualifying for a mortgage.

      When I left my government DP job in 1994 to get my education to become a teacher, for which I paid about $30,000 of my own money, much of it borrowed, I was making just under 65,000/year.  I already had one master's degree, and when I began work as a teacher in 1995, with credit for my military service and the one masters, my starting pay was 30,000/year.   Thus although I no oonger confront the financial issues facing many teachers, and that educational debt has long since been repaid, I understand the issues confronting many teachers when it comes to financials.

      Many of us do work for which the pay is not truly what it should be.   You have heard up thread about what a lawyer doing non-profit work undergoes.  Were salary the only consideration, think how many might not be willing to go into many helping and service professions, for example, clergy  -- you have I  assume heard the expression that the parsonage is a poor house.  I can remember years ago, around 1980, when I was president of a small Orthodox Church parish in suburban Philadelphia.   The salary for our Priest was 600/month, plus a housing allowance and a car allowance and some minimal health insurance and pensions benefits.   The entire package was worth less than 15,000 / year.  I helped him do his taxes, and even with his wife working as a nurse, they got full credit for social security etc but got back not only all federal taxes paid but also 1/2 of payroll taxes as well -- that's how poorly they were paid.

      Eventually, even though salaries increased, and even though he moved to a bigger church upstate which paid more at a lower cost of living, when his kids started approaching college age he had to give up full time pastorship and go to work as an accountant for a resort company so that his kids has some chance of being able to go anyplace but the local junior college.

      For far too much of our society, the measure of one's worth is moeny -- how much you make, how much you have.   If you see that message drummed into people, including the students you teach, it is kind of hard for teachers not to say -- in that case, I want the recognition for the service I provide, so pay me more.  

      It is also a vicious circle  --  people say the quality of those coming into teaching isn't very good (not true, but that's a different story), so why should we pay them more.  At the same time they discourage those whom they would recognize as of good quality, syaing "why do you want to go into a job that gets so little respect and pays so little?"

      I have no trouble with the fact that you do not agree with all of the article, or even most of it.  I posted it to provoke a discussion.  I do think that you are not fully listening to everything that is being said on this thread, including in response to you.

      That said, feel free to take a differing point of view.  Only please, do not disparage those who disagree with you  -- that we enter teaching knwoing it is low paid does not therefore mean we have to be silent about that inequity  -- we still have -- as does any one -- the right to try to improve the conditions under which we work and the compensation which we receive.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 10:00:52 AM PDT

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    •  asdf (none)
      There are obviously benefits that attracted her (and others), that they couldn't find in the private sector.  This "woe is me" crap is silly.  They aren't slaves, they chose the profession knowing beforehand what it entails.

      That is most definitely true.  One of the benefits is the satisfaction of educating children. Since some people derive happiness from educating children, it's a not a great logical step to think that they would then be willing to do the job for less than anyone else.  If I'm terrified of 10 year olds, I'll teach but only if you pay me $100,000 a year.  If you love children (not Jackson style) and interact with them well you might be willing do do it for $30,000.

      The problem is worsened, because the people that are willing to do the job for the least amount of pay are probably best suited for the job.

      I imagine that you are going after a non-profit job for the exact reasons that I've quoted you, some righteous sense of giving back to the community.

      I must ask, are you a top student in your class?  How many other top students are pursuing non-profit work (or working as a DA)?  How many poor, talented minorities are doing so?  Because the not-for-profit sector has a difficult time hanging onto talent, just like the teaching sector.

    •  Who can afford to travel (none)
      Not many teachers I know.  They're working year-'round, with the summer jobs.

      It's not paid vacation, y'know, as in the corporate world.  No paid vacations for teachers. . . .

      "Let all the dreamers wake the nation." -- Carly Simon

      by Cream City on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 10:45:40 AM PDT

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    •  Sorry, but... (none)
      do you mean "prolixity"?  Or is that a word I don't know? (I looked it up in the dictionary and it wasn't there.)
    •  You finally get it... (none)
      I think that's the whole point of the diary - qualified, intelligent, dedicated teachers ARE  and WILL CONTINUE to leave the profession because compensation levels are unsustainable.

      Teaching is a calling, but how much should one have to sacrifice to perform one of the hardest and most important jobs in the world?

    •   Union helps only so much (none)
      and "great benefits" depends on the states.  Many teachers are starting to take real hits in health care benefits to get any raises or help with classroom materials at all.  Most teachers have to pay for materials out of their own pockets - especially at schools in poor districts.

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