Stossel had a report about how it is a “myth” that teachers are underpaid. I wrote into 20/20 with this response:
The report about teachers’ pay is missing part of the story.
First, teacher pay relative to others of their (A) education and (B) experience is
declining. You have to compare apples with apples, not just teaching with
another field. Rather than look at averages, you have to compare the
salary of a teacher with a Master’s Degree who has been teaching for ten years
with other workers who have similar qualifications.
You also mention, but barely, that many teachers work additional hours. While I was teaching, I worked 10 hour days, usually taking lunch at my desk to help more
students or plan classes. When I go home, I put in another 2+ hours on grading, preparation, and paperwork. Many weeks, I worked longer hours than my lawyer husband.
On a side note, teachers in upscale neighborhoods often cannot afford to live where they work.
Second, the pool of applicants in Boston vs. available jobs is a misleading statistic. The glut of teachers in one market does not mean there is a surplus in all markets. Also, not all applicants are of equal quality.
This leads to the third point. I am all for capitalism–but public education is a government, not a capitalist system. Schools are having difficulty recruiting bright young teachers–partially due to salaries, but also due to the lack of respect for
teachers in our society today. Market forces are NOT being allowed to work
here. Rather, schools are simply making due with inadequate teachers. Raise teacher salaries and you’ll have more qualified applicants. It will take a while to get the already tenured out of the system, but competition will kick in for new hires. You’ll have better teachers at the salaries they actually deserve.
Of course, salary is only part of the problem. Some highly educated, motivated people DO enter the profession fully aware of the sub par salaries–but retention is low. Lawsuits, legislation, and a cultural change mean that teachers spend hours in meetings, doing paperwork, and documenting various actions. Salaries have not rose to compensate us for this time.
I loved teaching, but I hated the nonsense that came with it. Now I volunteer in a classroom. I would rather teach for free a few hours a week than be underpaid for all of the annoyances that come with full time teaching.