Yes, we have all seen the demonstrations and protests in Trenton against the Pension and Health Care Reform Bill that passed last week, but there is another side. There are plenty of people in New Jersey who are actually glad teachers (and other state workers) will have to pay thousands of additional dollars into their own pension and health care. I have heard some pretty obnoxious comments made in favor of these cuts, like:
“Why should I have to pay for the teachers’ health insurance? No one pays for mine.”
“Tell me one other job that works 180 days a year and has every holiday off?
“Unions are ridiculous and bullies.”
So, let’s take a look at this, shall we?
Myth #1: Teachers are overpaid
When someone complains about teachers making too much money, what they are really saying is, “I know a teacher and he makes more money than me, therefore he is overpaid.” So let’s take a look at exactly how much teachers are making. I would like to point to just two studies, even though there are many of them out there with all the same conclusions. Take a look at some research by Sylvia A. Allegretto, Sean P. Corcoran, and Lawrence Mishel published in 2004, and another one by Buzzle.com. Here are some highlights:
Several types of analyses show that teachers earn significantly less than comparable workers, and this wage disadvantage has grown considerably over the last 10 years.
An analysis of weekly wage trends shows that teachers' wages have fallen behind those of other workers since 1996, with teachers' inflation-adjusted weekly wages rising just 0.8%, far less than the 12% weekly wage growth of other college graduates and of all workers.
A comparison of teachers' weekly wages to those of other workers with similar education and experience shows that, since 1993, female teacher wages have fallen behind 13% and male teacher wages 12.5% (11.5% among all teachers). Since 1979 teacher wages relative to those of other similar workers have dropped 18.5% among women, 9.3% among men, and 13.1% among both combined.
A comparison of teachers' wages to those of workers with comparable skill requirements, including accountants, reporters, registered nurses, computer programmers, clergy, personnel officers, and vocational counselors and inspectors, shows that teachers earned $116 less per week in 2002, a wage disadvantage of 12.2%. Because teachers worked more hours per week, the hourly wage disadvantage was an even larger 14.1%.The average earnings of workers with at least four years of college are now more than 50% higher than the average earnings of a teacher. And in addition to starting salaries being lower, inflation has grown faster than the increases in teachers’ salaries each year. Over the past year, inflation increased 3.1%, while teachers’ salaries increased by only 2.3%.Teachers' weekly wages have grown far more slowly than those for these comparable occupations; teacher wages have deteriorated about 14.8% since 1993 and by 12.0% since 1983 relative to comparable occupations.
Yes, no matter how you slice it, teaching pays less than any other profession that requires the same amount of education and training.
Those are national numbers, so let’s look at some New Jersey figures. According to TeacherPortal.com, a starting teacher in New Jersey can expect an average yearly salary of $38,408. To put that in perspective, a family of four living on that salary is considered a low-income family in New Jersey, and they would be able to receive state assistance.
If you deduct the cost of health care under the new Pension and Health Care Reform Law, you would deduct about $5,000 annually. Also 7.5% will automatically get deducted for the pension. Also according to the College Board, public four-year colleges in New Jersey charged an average of $9,298 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. So using that math, a teacher would pay $37,192 for a four-year degree in Education. A loan for that amount payable over 10 years with 6.8% interest would cost $5,304 annually. Now we are down to $25,223 left over for food, clothes, shelter, transportation costs, and out of pocket teaching supplies. What else could those greedy teachers possibly want????
Oh, one more thing…the average garbage collector here in Hammonton, NJ earns $45,000 annually with pension and benefits.
Myth #2: Teachers get a free pension.
I love it when I hear people say, “Teachers should contribute to their own pension.” In case you don’t know this yet, teachers do pay for their own pension, and always did. Teachers pay 5.5% of their salary into the state pension plan. Yes, the state does contribute. If you are coming from the private sector, this is just like a matching 401K with one big exception: the pension fund has been used like an ATM for past governors, and hasn’t been properly funded by the state. Because the politicians messed up the pension fund, now the state workers have to pay more to fix it. Teachers will pay 7.5% into the fund, and police and fire fighters will have to pay 10% of their income. If your private sector corporation told you they would match your 401K contribution, and years later, you found out the CEO was lying to you the whole time and he spent the money promised to you on helicopter rides to his son’s baseball games, he would most likely go to jail, right?
Myth #3: Teachers only work 7 hours a day, 180 days a year.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “U.S. teachers average 1,097 hours per year on instruction, the most among major developed countries.” The article goes on to say,
“Including hours teachers spend on work at home and outside the classroom, American primary-school educators spend 1,913 working in a year. According to data from the comparable year in a Labor Department survey, an average full-time employee works 1,932 hours a year spread out over 48 weeks (excluding two weeks vacation and federal holidays).”
So much for that, huh?
Myth #4: Unions are too powerful.
This is easy. If unions had any effect, the Pension and Health Care Reform Bill would have never of become law. Period.
I know this will never change the mind of the “teacher haters” out there. Trying to battle ignorance, illogic, and delusion with research, data, and factual information is extremely difficult. Just look at the people out there who believe the world was created 6,000 years ago. When you show them a fossil, they simply say that God put it there 6,000 years ago.
But the facts are still the facts. Teachers work hard. They are not overpaid. But for GOP politicians like Governor Chris Christie, hurting the middle class is good politics, and that’s why millionaire donors from Iowa want him to be President.
According to Cornell University’s ILR School, the number of union members peaked in 1979 at an estimated 21.0 million. Union membership has been in a decline ever since, and so have middle class wages, while the richest 1% has increased their income by 240% since that time, and have managed to pay less and less federal income tax. But somehow the current economic condition is all the fault of the unions. It’s the working class and their outrageous benefit packages that cripples the economy. Again, trying to battle ignorance, illogic, and delusion with research, data, and factual information is an extremely difficult task, which is why education is so important.
Comments are closed on this story.