At Work

Before you join a march for higher teacher pay, you might want to . . .

take a step back and look at the big picture. Like the scheduled days of work. Remember, most professionals work more than eight hours a day, including many teachers, so the claim of working over eight hours is not a valid argument.

Most important, consider total compensation.

When cash and non-cash compensation are considered (along with the area’s cost of living) teachers are not underpaid. They typically have employee benefits, especially retirement and medical benefits significantly superior to private sector workers and taxpayers.

Oklahoma has been in the news as the result of a teachers strike where teachers were earning an average $45,276 before winning a $6,000 raise in a state where the median household income was $51,424 in 2017. In addition, Oklahoma was contributing 17% of payroll to the teachers pension trust. A good pension plan averages about 8% of payroll.

If teachers want to change the mix with higher cash pay, that is a valid issue for negotiations and should be pursued. Simply adding more to the total package generally is not valid.

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8 replies »

  1. Your argument is not valid, IMO. Average salary of $45,276 does not tell the whole story, it means 1/2 make less than that. So, you think teachers should make less than the median household income of $51,424. And students should use nine year old textbooks. My son works at a paper mill in OK and makes $75,000 per year with overtime without a union,no college degree, but teachers are overpaid in OK.

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    • Household income is the combined income of everyone in the household. With a $6,000 raise even the lowest paid single teacher will make that or very close for less hours work PLUS AND A BIG PLUS, a great deal of non cash compensation that most private sector workers do not have. Teachers are not underpaid.

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      • “Teachers are not underpaid.” – Just your opinion. What happens when states cannot pay the teacher pensions, or medical costs? The retirees will just have to live with the cuts, that are coming. Then, we will all agree that teachers are underpaid.

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      • Nothing I said is opinion. It’s based on facts. To my knowledge no state has forfeited on pensions or medical benefits. It’s true many government pensions are underfunded and guess why that is? They are unaffordable. Where does the money come from to pay for these benefits? From taxpayers, very few of whom have pensions or any retiree benefits.

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      • Not yet. Columbus
        Starting in 2019, retired cops and firefighters will no longer receive health care benefits through the Ohio Police & Firefighters Pension Fund but instead will receive a stipend to buy coverage on the open market.

        The OP&F board of trustees voted this week in favor of the major change as a means to preserving the health care fund for the next 15 years. It will impact 58,000 current and retired police and firefighters.

        If they can do it to retired cops and firefighters are teachers next?

        There is no guarantee future retirement benefits will be anywhere close to what is promised today. That is why I discount them when comparing income levels.

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      • You need to keep this in perspective. First, they have retiree health benefits; most Americans do not. Second, trust still pay most of the Medicare premium; virtually no employer ever did that. Third, trust contributes to a surviving spouses premiums and Medicare; again private employers never did that. In other words they built up such generous benefits they are unaffordable and their trust is being depleted. The 2019 stipends are quite generous as well over $12,000 a year for a couple not on Medicare. No doubt this will not increase as fast as health care costs, but at that level the retiree was paying little or none of the cost before the change.

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    • It is true that there is no guarantee future retirement benefits in the public or private section. In 2013 IBM put its retirees on the medical exchanges and they were not the only ones to do this. Pensions do go bankrupt once in a while. All my retiree plans have a disclaimer stating that the company has to right to change them.

      I agree that you must look at their total compensation package and not just what is in their paycheck. Teachers only work 10 months a year. If they work in another profession, they could earn another 20% by working 12 months a year and in most states be on the level of other college graduates. As for vacation days, there are people who work out of union halls that don’t get vacations. Independent contractors may charge enough to pay for their own benefits but when they are between jobs, they do not get to collect unemployment which some union hall workers get to do. So you must look at everything. Ask somebody without a pension plan what a pension is worth if they had to save all that promised money on their own.

      Every workers agrees to work for wages and a benefit package. If they don’t like it they can quit. Some people only work for wages while others will take less pay just to get medical or pensions.

      I agree that some states pay their teachers too low, while others overpay, even for the cost of living for that area. An example would be where Arizona teachers are commuting into California to earn 50-60% more. Sooner or later the supply and demand will raise Arizona teachers or California pension plans will go bankrupt.

      In New Jersey, teachers net take home pay is going down because they are finally having to contribute to their benefits and their raises are not keeping up. But I don’t know anybody in the private sector with raises that are keeping up with the cost of medical insurance. I also think that the teacher’s complaints about underfunded pension is very valid. All employees have a contract and agree to work for “x” dollars and benefits. By not funding the pensions, governments are not truly paying the agreed upon compensation so in that sense the teachers are getting short changed.

      I also think that teachers think too highly of themselves, as a group, because they are dealing with “your children”. The military can take an idiot off the street and have them repair complex machinery and tactics and are taught by fellow soldiers that do not have master degrees. But that rant is better for another posting.

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