Teacher raises; an opinion. Politicians sadly mislead the public.

Excerpts from “What Will Teacher Raises Buy Students?” New York Times

An interesting, thought provoking point of view. Well worth reading.

The problem talking about teachers (or many other public employees) is emotion. The public reacts without regard to all the facts and consequences.

First, there is a wide difference in teacher pay across the country. One size does not all. In NJ many teachers earn over $100,000 for example. In general teacher pay reflects the income of families in their communities. The public does not seem to equate teacher compensation with the taxes they pay; mostly property taxes that people love to complain about.

But here is the real question to be addressed. Teacher pay is not teacher compensation. Teachers and many government employees receive a significant portion of their compensation in benefits, i.e. pensions, health benefits and retiree benefits. These benefits were negotiated by their unions and state politicians in lieu of direct pay. Sadly, in many cases, these promises have not been adequately funded. The true cost of non-cash compensation is buried in taxes and long-term liabilities. Interestingly the NYT article does not mention non-cash compensation.

Should teachers receive higher pay while keeping their generous non-cash compensation that typically far exceeds that available to their fellow citizens?

More objectivity is necessary to make good decisions.

Democratic presidential candidates have generated headlines with multibillion-dollar plans to raise teacher salaries. Kamala Harris set the bar by proposing to give public school teachers an average raise of $13,500. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are among the major candidates that have since followed suit, both announcing ambitious platforms to elevate the teaching profession at town hall meetings.

These lofty, well-meaning proposals are sure to pay dividends for presidential hopefuls jockeying for the endorsement of teacher unions and the votes of a growing number of Americans who support increasing teacher pay. Seventy-eight percent of the public agrees that teacher salaries are too low. Support for increasing their pay jumped to 49 percent from 36 percent, in the wake of widespread teacher strikes in the past couple of years.

But if our ultimate goal — as parents, students and voters — is to improve student outcomes, then an across-the-board raise for teachers is not the best approach, nor will it address the structural issues that have eroded the status of the teaching profession…

Past research has suggested higher salaries are only weakly related to performance. Unconditional raises will not create new incentives for veteran teachers to be more effective, nor will it provide the support necessary for doing so.


One comment

  1. Administrative cost at some of the nations larger school districts has gotten out of hand and resulted in higher costs at smaller districts. Example – Missoula, MT school superintendent makes way more than the governor of MT salary of $111,000. In 2013, the board gave Superintendent Alex Apostle a 13 percent pay raise, boosting his salary from $155,000 to $175,000, followed by a raise to $185,000 in 2013-14, and $200,000 in 2014-15. The 13 percent increase angered teachers and district employees, who only received a 2 percent increase. When asked why the salary was so high one local official said we have to offer these salaries to attract and keep talented people. The district rethought their salary calculations when they hired Thane following Apostle’s departure in 2015. So much for keeping talented people (overpaid public employees). The salary is now down a little to $183,000, still to high in my opinion when Montana’s average household income is just $53,386. I also think Congressional pay is too high considering what they do and do to us.


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