Opinion
Education Opinion

Put Teacher Salaries in Proper Perspective

By Walt Gardner — September 09, 2016 1 min read

By now, everyone knows the arguments on both sides of the debate regarding teachers’ salaries. Yet I wonder why so little attention is paid to putting the issue in proper context (“Teachers Are Working for Uber Just to Keep a Foothold in the Middle Class,” The Nation, Sept. 7).

Consider the situation in California. Public school teachers in the Silicon Valley or in San Francisco have to devote an ever increasing portion of their paychecks to their rent or to their mortgage. The latter assumes that they even qualify. Renting is equally impossible. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is now $3,500. Yet the San Francisco Unified School District ranks 528th in teacher pay out of the 821 districts in the state. How far will a salary of $70,000 go under the circumstances?

Yes, teachers can always move to less expensive areas. But what about their students? When exemplary teachers leave, how likely is it that their replacements will be as effective? And if they are, how long can they afford to stay before the same mismatch forces them out? Yet we hardly ever hear about this issue. Instead, the opinion pages of newspapers are full of op-eds maintaining that teachers are overpaid (“Public School Teachers Aren’t Underpaid,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 8, 2011).

The average public school teacher salary in the country was $56,000 in the 2012-13 school year. That compared with $69,000 for nurses and $83,000 for programmers. (“What If America’s Teachers Made More Money?The Atlantic, Feb. 18). Yet nothing is said about the cost of living in connection with those salaries. It’s little wonder, therefore, that teacher turnover is so high. Dedication does not pay the bills. I’m not talking now about the other factors that also cause teachers to flee.

When teachers have to take second jobs to make ends meet, I say something is terribly wrong. The so-called gold-plated pensions awaiting teachers at the end of their 30-year careers in the classroom mean very little. They’re hardly as generous as depicted, and they don’t pay the bills while teachers are still teaching.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Branding your district matters. This webinar will provide you with practical tips and strategies to elevate your brand from three veteran professionals, each of whom has been directly responsible for building their own district’s brand.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. school districts are using hybrid learning right now with varying degrees of success. Students and teachers are getting restless and frustrated with online learning, making curriculum engagement difficult and disjointed. While
Content provided by Samsung

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read