Friday, October 12, 2012

Does it pay to become a teacher?

In light of much discussion of the now-ended Chicago Teachers’ Strike I draw your attention to a short article published by the New York Times reporting on this year’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report on the state of education around the world ( ).  It makes a subtle and nuanced point about teachers’ income in the US.  And just because one large city strike is over doesn’t mean that more conflict isn’t on its way in coming years.

In my words, here’s the point… Teachers may in fact make a decent middle-class living.  We often have job security (though you would never know it California), great vacation time, good benefits (at least as good as most nowadays), and an amazing retirement program.  But in order to increase our income, particularly in public schools, we must invest in more and more degrees – costing thousands.  To keep up with the cost of living we spend more.  Meanwhile our similarly educated peers in other professions make far more money.  And I would suggest that we work as many hours as they do in a year.  True, we have lots of time off….but notice the hours we put in during the year.  As I write this I am finishing a day that will top out at 14 hours.  I don’t often work those hours any more, to be honest.  But for my first 10 or twelve years I averages 50 hours per week stretched out over 52 weeks.  That means I had many70 hour weeks while making 67% (according to the OECD) of what my similarly educated peers were making in their positions in other careers.  Granted, we knew we weren’t going to get rich doing this job.  But as many public school teachers are facing cuts in budgets, freezes in salary, increased student loads, increased demands on our time, re-training for new expectations and metrics, and increasing demonization and scrutiny by the media, pundits and politicians, all non-educators – well, I hope you can see why many teachers are a little annoyed.  

If you want to create jobs, improve the economy, decrease corruption and crime, improve your communities, and restore the United States to its place as beacon to the world, invest in education, invest in teachers.      

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