You’re Probably Overpaid

A recent study released by some outfit called the Manhattan Institute proves conclusively that teachers are way overpaid.

According to their research, the average teacher earned $34.06 an hour in 2005, “36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker”.

As you might expect if you’ve ever taught, the think tank folks left out a few details about a teacher’s workday.

The cherry-picking data analyses of the Manhattan Institute relies on governmental data that calculates teachers¹ work hours by examining union contracts or school district employment rules. The vast majority of teachers work more than 49 hours a week, with many after-school hours of lesson planning, parent conferences, home visits, school events and meetings with colleagues. In addition, in any given year approximately 25 percent of America¹s teachers attend summer education programs to improve their skills or learn new content. Unlike what is found in most professions, teachers often pay for their own professional development.

The reality in all this is that good teachers work many hours outside that “contract day” and are drastically underpaid to begin with. The bad ones really are overpaid.

But the same could be said of doctors, lawyers, accountants, hair stylists or any other job category used for comparison by the statisticians.

(Don’t give me the crap about the free market penalizing the bad eggs. The shoddy products and poor service provided in far too many places these days shows that’s not happening.)

If we want to attract and keep highly qualified teachers (real ones, not as defined by NCLB), we need to pay them appropriately, a view shared by a growing number of business leaders.

And we should differentiate between the best and worst to better compensate teachers who do the best job of educating kids.

However, we first need a way to identify them. Something other than the incredibly artificial measure provided by standardized tests.

teacher pay, work hours

6 thoughts on “You’re Probably Overpaid

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  • February 1, 2007 at 9:14 pm
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    Manhattan Institute has been around for a long time, and they’ve been anti-teacher (and anti-teacher’s union) for as long as I can remember. Bleh.

  • February 2, 2007 at 7:23 pm
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    Where I work, there are bad teachers. Where I live, there generally are not.

    I live in a suburb that pays teachers well more than we get in NYC. They get hundreds of applications for each position. NYC is lucky to get one, or two.

    Also, they routinely lower standards to artificially stimulate supply, and Governor Spitzer has just suggested another “alternative” certification plan. They have an 800 number, subway, newspaper and bus ads, they recruit from every corner of the galaxy, they get special dispensation to recruit and retain teachers who fail basic competency tests, often dozens of times, and they then complain that too many get tenure, as though they themselves were not granting it.

    And then they talk about merit pay, as though merit held any significance whatsoever to them.

  • February 3, 2007 at 7:42 pm
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    You think public school teachers are overpaid — private schoolers are even more — so why do private schools still exist? Because they are allowed to have strict discipline, more flexible curriculum, and allowed to expect a lot out of students.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am pro public school, what I am not is pro-bureaucracy — I believe that teachers need to be allowed to teach — but the sad reality is that many of my friends spend more time filling out paperwork than grading student papers. They have to justify this and prove that and demonstrate standards with 3 decimal points for each lesson plan. They are micromanaged to a fault and if they would be allowed to teach we would be amazed at what happened.

    Very often it is the best teachers in public schools who have problems with administration and it shouldn’t be that way. They have problems because they want to teach and shun paperwork. Recently one of the best teachers I know at the local middle school took a sidetrack in literature with his 7th grade class into Shakespeare and didn’t add to his word wall. He got in terrible trouble. That is a shame and those are the things that money cannot compensate for. I’ve always believe you hire the best and then spend your time removing barriers, not being one.

    So, yes, pay could improve but I think most teachers would like to see better discipline, more parent involvement, less paperwork, and more responsibility to create their own lesson plans as well as some time to do exciting things in the classroom and not just get ready for the next test!

  • February 3, 2007 at 10:13 pm
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    Take what Vicki Davis said and put it into all caps for me. I spent my younger years as a legal administrator and paralegal so let’s just say I’m used to forms and mountains of paperwork. I’ve completed more paperwork and justified myself on form after form more as a teacher than I ever did for the biggest courtcase I ever assisted with.

    It really rankles me that I’m judged on one set of test results and a 15 minute window into my teaching skills that serves as a yearly observation.

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