Teacher Salaries, Second Jobs, and Lawmaker Salaries

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October 24, 2016 by Good Teachers Work Hard

Happy Monday! While some people had the opportunity to enjoy the weekend with their families, many teachers were working…and not just grading papers. Depending on the poll you reference, it is estimated that between 10% – 25% of teachers hold second (and in some cases third and fourth) jobs to pay the bills. The people who are charged with educating our youth cannot always afford to put food on the table or pay the rent without additional help. How is the teaching profession supposed to attract talented individuals when salaries cannot support an individual, let alone a family?

I can already hear the naysayers complaining that teachers are babysitters who get the summers off. Certainly they don’t deserve more pay. For those who still don’t get it, let me explain. Teachers, on average, work 50 – 60 hours per week. Outside of school, they are grading papers, coaching, advising clubs, tutoring, writing reference letters for students, planning lessons, attending parent conferences, and buying school supplies WITH THEIR OWN MONEY. Most people I know in the private sector do not have to buy pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, clocks, filing folders, filing cabinets, and bookshelves for their offices. Teachers work just as much as, if not more than, private sector employees in one year. Let’s look at the math:

Average private sector employee – 40 hours/week  x  52 weeks = 2080 hours per year

Average teacher – 60 hours/week  x  40 weeks  =  2400 hours per year

Additionally, good teachers work throughout the summer. They are preparing new lessons, learning new technology, and creating a safe, nurturing classroom environment for your child.

Other cynics will bemoan that teachers lack the intelligence to handle work in the private sector. I would challenge those people to complete the college classes to become a high school math or chemistry teacher and report back to me.

I am also curious how the misanthropes of the world would handle a classroom of 35 teenagers, some of whom are gang members, some who don’t speak any English, and some who are learning on a 2nd grade level in high school. I’m guessing their office personnel are somewhat more homogeneous, especially because private sector management can pick and choose their employees. Public school teachers must teach all the children placed in their classrooms, regardless of the challenges attached to each child.

Now that it has been established that teachers work hard for their salaries, let’s look at some data. US News and World Report published an article in July 2014 that estimates 10% of all teachers hold second jobs. In some states, that number is as high as 25%. You can reference the article here, which includes a map that defines what percentage of teachers in each state work second jobs. An Education Week blog post reveals that one third of Texas teachers moonlight. In 2015, the Huffington Post reported 16% of teachers nationwide are working additional jobs. The article also mentions that state legislators in North Carolina claim to be “doing their best” with regard to teacher pay. Being an inquisitive person, I figured I’d do some research on how much our state legislators earn.

Of course, each state has its’ own rules regarding legislator salaries. According to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), California tops the list with a state legislator salary of $90,526 per year. Pennsylvania ranks second at $84,012 per year. Curious as to where your state ranks? See the complete list of legislator base salaries plus their session per diem rates here.

And Congress? Forget it. Their salaries exponentially outweigh those of American teachers. According to an ABC News report, the base salary of a member of Congress is $174,000 per year while their average work year consists of 133 days (on average).

In all fairness, I’m quite sure some members of Congress work outside of those 133 days. However, they are not required to do so.

In my opinion, the public outcry about teacher salaries far outweighs the debate over Congressional salaries. This is baffling, since a rookie member of Congress makes $174,000, and a new teacher in Montana earns an average of $27,274. Across the board, the average teacher salary falls below the median household income for the same time period, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau ($52,250). To see where your state ranks with regard to starting teacher salaries, read the data from the National Education Association (NEA) here.

I wonder how many Capitol Hill lawmakers work second jobs.

As I have stated in many previous blog posts, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to fixing the American education system. However, I am very confident that our students will not be outperforming other countries until some incentive exists to pay teachers at a level that acknowledges their content expertise, classroom management skills, and professionalism, while not correlating their salaries to students’ standardized test scores.

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