33 Comments

  1. Honestly I don’t see what’s wrong with a teacher having the potential to earn that much after 30 years of service. I’d take my job in software development over being a teacher any day-i just don’t have the aptitude. And I want my school district to offer competitive pay to attract good teachers. It’s frankly ridiculous that there’s people who think folks with masters degrees should be working for free.

  2. If you look at the ‘purpose’ of education in society (especially in today’s world) . . . add on top of that meeting the serious needs (and ills) facing today’s kids . . . teachers (it is a “profession” after all — i.e., ethical standards, licensure, post bacc training) should be beginning their careers in the six figures . . .

    But thank goodness for all of us (and our kids), the vast majority of teachers don’t go into the profession for the money . . . it’s a calling to help others. Can you say the same thing about other “professionals” in your life?

  3. 100% yes, after 30 years they should make more than that (like all things location plays a big role in this). Do people think teaching is easy? The patience alone to interact with kids all day is worth a 100k! Not a chance I would make it a week.

    I don’t get why people are resistant to others doing well, teachers put in the time, are highly educated, and do a tough job. Why wouldn’t we want them to be paid?

  4. Yes! People can complain all they want, but when it comes down to it, they could not do the job we do every day in the classroom. I work at a great district, and live in the same town, so I hear the complaining all the time. It’s a shame that people have an issue with how much we’ll make at the end of our careers, when that is a starting salary for many people in tech fields.

  5. Ha, I just read the title and mentally said, “Yes, they should!” 🙂 You make great points and I agree that you get what you pay for. If teaching paid better I’d be teaching science right now instead of drilling oil wells. Mrs. SSC took a 6 figure paycut to be a university professor for goodness sakes and she could actually make more as a highschool teacher.

    It’s amazing how underpaid advanced degrees become when you go into Academia. Even when she got finished with her Phd, she was offered a tenure track spot at CalPoly and had to turn it down because she couldn’t find anywhere to live near that university (within an hr drive even). It was crazy.

    Teachers should definitely be paid more than they currently are.

  6. Hey, Penny. I’m very conflicted on this. On the one hand, I want great teachers like yourself to be paid well. On the other hand, however, I just don’t trust big education. Case in point. In my old school district of Plainview, Long Island, the per pupil cost is now more than $25K. A class of 20 kids, then, brings in approximately $500,000. Where is that money going? If the classroom teacher only got 50% of that sum, he or she would be making $250K per year. And it’s not only the poor allocation of tax revenue that bothers me. Here’s a short list of those additional concerns.

    College teaching programs are not very selective. Their students are typically in the bottom 50% of student ability.

    Teachers and their unions don’t believe they should compete for education taxes. They believe any money collected by the state to educate children belongs to them. If they really had confidence in their abilities, teachers and their unions would welcome vouchers (i.e., competition).

    As far as I can tell, public school curricula are weak on patriotism, freedom, financial literacy, skill development, and the notion that no one race or ethnicity has a monopoly on evil.

    There really isn’t much that is taught in our public schools that can’t be learned rather cheaply via internet (providing one is disciplined, of course).

    Sorry for the semi-rant, Penny. I want our teachers to be paid well. But I can’t support our public schools and its current business model. And it’s not just because our public schools are dominated by a progressive ideology. I’m a libertarian and I agree a lot with progressives on social issues. My beef is that progressives get the schools they want, but conservatives and libertarians don’t. If we had vouchers, and progressive, conservative, and libertarian schools could compete for students, I’d be a much bigger proponent of public education. Anyway, that’s my pathetic two cents. Thank you for another great post, Penny. There are a lot of great underpaid teachers out there, and their plight needs to be voiced.

  7. It never made sense to me why they didn’t make more, for goodness sake’s they are literally teaching the leaders of the future how to read and write (or is type these days?)!

    I don’t think I even have to go into the fact that every time there is a tragedy at a school, without fail, there is a story about how a teacher ran towards danger (with zero regard for their own self) to protect the students.

    I am Corporate America guy and I am in favor. Great post. Already sent to my teacher friends.

  8. Uhm, your neighbor is a terrible person. Teaching is one of the toughest jobs out there. I have absolutely NO problem with paying more taxes so teachers can make a livable wage (and have, y’know, affordable benefits). I come from a family of teachers and I know how hard it is. There’s so much thankless work.

  9. Be glad you’re in a state that has a remote inkling of what teachers are worth, Penny, even if your Neighbor Lady is clueless. I don’t think she’d be nearly as happy if she was dealing with the utter crap the parents of NC students see get thrown at our kid’s schools.

    As a North Carolinian, I never have to worry about teachers making 6 figures. At the moment, the public school teacher salary scale maxes out at a ridiculous $50K, well below market rates for a college grad with 30 years experience in their field. In addition, my state has decided to eliminate the pensions of new state hires and eliminated any bonuses/salary hikes for grad work. Oh, and they’re squeezing out elementary school specials (art, music, foreign language, etc) to pay for vouchers for schools that don’t have nearly the same accountability or standards.

    I’m pissed at my short-sighted, overly-ideological, gerrymander-protected, vote-suppressing legislature and what they’re doing to education (and other things) in my state. Good teachers are fleeing to other states and fields and fewer new ones are in the pipeline.

    My kid’s teachers do an amazing job with the resources they are given. My kid does things in second grade I didn’t cover til 4th. Despite what Mr. Groovy says, she gets financial literacy lessons each year, along with Spanish and coding (all pretty good life preparation) and there’s no way we could give her the same learning support doing homeschool on the internet (and Jon and I both have Masters degrees.)

    • Hey Emily. I think you’re giving way too much credit to public school teachers. Most parents don’t know the first thing about ballet. But to circumvent this ignorance, parents who want to introduce their children to ballet go out and buy ballet lessons for them. Likewise, if there’s something you, Jon, and the Khan Academy can’t handle–such as Spanish and coding–you, either by yourself or in conjunction with other parents–could buy the appropriate lessons/tutoring. And you and Jon could easily afford whatever tutoring Little Bit needed if you were given a voucher equal to your district’s per pupil cost. Buying education, and seeing that your child is taught the knowledge and skills that you value, really isn’t hard. Our current system only complicates and obfuscates that truth. If teachers really want to make $100k a year, they should champion a more entrepreneurial education system (i.e., vouchers, start-ups, online tutoring, blogging, YouTube courses, etc.). They shouldn’t cling to a factory-based education system that was developed in the 19th century.

      P.S. Even though we look at things from the opposite sides of the political spectrum, and you often kick the crap out of my half-baked ruminations, I still love you (in a noble way, of course). You’re one of the most thoughtful and kind bloggers I know. Cheers.

      • I love you back, Mr. G, and I know we’ve argued this particular issue several times. I will probably never get you to support the public education system, and I will never stop defending it.

        I know from just supervising homework that there’s a lot more to teaching and fostering a good learning environment than most parents can be expected to provide. Good teaching is a skill. It is hard, not something any and every parent can be expected to do.

        Learn from Youtube? Please. I can’t get my kid to do a 4-problem math worksheet without 20 minutes of drama first, but my kid’s teachers know exactly how to get her and 20 other kids to settle down and write stories and poetry, recap what they’ve read, etc.And after a lifetime of doing that job? Yes, public school teachers deserve to make 6 figures.

        For a cautionary tale of “entrepreneurial education,”: take my ex-sister-in-law. She pulled my nephew out for home schooling at the beginning of 2nd grade through one of those online for-profit charters. He’s on the mild end of the spectrum and struggled with his teachers when they made him do his work. EX-SiL can’t handle making him do the work either, and now he’s 11 and can’t read beyond what he could read at 7. That online charter still gets the money because he’s enrolled, though, even though he’s now 4-5 years behind his peers. He’s not a stupid kid, but he has been allowed to be illiterate and ignorant, and NC taxpayers have subsidized it.

        And public schools are required to handle the education for EVERY kid. No matter their background or abilities or resources. That’s an amazingly complicated task. Privatize it (or worse, part of it) and you end up with the problems we have with the for-profit prison system. The young healthy easy- to -manage ones go to the private system, the ones that are more expensive or problematic to handle stay with the public system but now the public system has fewer resources to handle them. The public option will be guaranteed to look worse because its job is harder and more complicated.

        Look, yeah, some kids might get educated no matter what you throw at them, and some do better with private options and homeschool. I don’t want to mandate public school for every kid. But I don’t want to raid public school funds to provide those options any more than I want to subsidize someone’s private pool membership or gated community security. If a parent wants a different education option for their kid, then the parents, not the taxpayers, should pay for it.

        (Sorry to hijack your comment thread, Penny.)

        • Damn it! You’re too smart for me. I have three things to say in my defense.

          1. Vouchers are public education. They are just the educational equivalent of food stamps. Do you refer to food stamps as private charity because beneficiaries redeem them at privately owned groceries?

          2. Public school teachers don’t have a 100% success rate. They send a shockingly large number of illiterates into the labor market every year. And that’s either because they suck or the students they’re trying to teach suck. Either way, all parents of failing students should have alternatives to government run schools. Right now only the wealthy have access to alternatives. Where are the SJWs when you need them?

          3. Since 1983, the year A Nation at Risk report came out, we’ve been waiting for our public schools to turn things around. And they haven’t. Our schools spend more than all but two OECD nations and our kids rank below most of their counterparts in OECD nations when it comes to academic ability. Will sticking with the status quo change this? Isn’t it time to rattle the cage?

          I readily admit that I don’t have the answers. And I see no evidence that our public schools have the answers either. That’s why I want to see more competition and innovation in the education space. The 19th century factory-based model is no longer working. As Seth Godin has pointed out, our schools are preparing kids to be cogs in a world that doesn’t want more cogs.

          P.S. If Penny and Little Bit’s teacher got together and opened a school, and I had kids and vouchers for each of them, I’d be sending my kids to that school.

          • To point one, vouchers are like food stamps if the store wasn’t required to actually give you food. Or only give you junk food even though you wanted fresh fruit. Or, they could even kick you out of the grocery store all together.

            Kids with special needs fall under the IDEA, protecting them in public schools and allowing them to be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment. Get a voucher for private school and those protections go out the window in many instances. Leaving the kids who need protection to not take the vouchers, creating the problems Emily laid out above.

            This extends to a lot of minority kids. We’ve tried it before in different regions in our country and have evidence of these problems.

  10. Sherikr

    I would love for my son to be taught by happy, well-compensated teachers. Seems to me that teachers have enough challenges to take on in the classroom. The LAST challenge they need is to figure out how to make ends meet at home. Thanks for the work you do!

  11. To answer your question, yes, teachers should make six figures, and well into six figures. Our value system in this country is, at times, upside down. I am a lawyer, and my wife is a teacher. I promise that what she does every day will have a longer term effect on our city, State and nation than anything I will ever do. Yet, I make 10 times what she makes. Absolutely upside down (I don’t plan on giving any of the money back though :-). Good teachers who turn out students who can think critically should be among the best paid public servants we have. Just my two cents.

  12. I remember my high school history teacher told us he made 47k after 20 years or so, and my teenaged brain was like, “Whoooa, that’s a LOT”.

    Adult me think that teachers play such a critical role in society, that six figures after 30 years wouldn’t make me bat an eye. However, like any profession, I’d want to know that it was only the “good” teachers that were getting more compensation. But we all know how tricky it is to make THAT happen.

    I know nothing about teaching besides what my old roommate told me. She was a special education teacher here in Brooklyn. She said that there was a special room for tenured teachers who were drunk and terrible. I guess all they did was sit in the room and all day and got paid, anyway. That little tidbit did bother me.

  13. Jover

    Totally should, as should many other public servants who work very hard behind the scenes to cultivate and guide the very communities we serve.
    But then there are the fire district fiefdoms. I just received my estimated property tax bill for 2017 and I’ll be paying nearly 60% of my total tax bill to the fire department. Not to the police, schools, library, mosquito control, hurricane/catastrophe fund, or ALL OTHER GOVERNMENTAL SERVICES combined… Just to the Fire Dept, so that some 22 year old with no formal education can make 6 figures by working “overtime” hours that don’t even equal a typical 40-hour a week job.
    Sorry for hijacking your post. I totally agree with you that dedication to your chosen profession becomes a part of your identity and even a focus of your life outside of “working hours”. And that dedication and excellence should be rewarded.

  14. Erica

    Yes, good teachers should be paid well, and that definitely means crossing the six-figure line. However, and I don’t know if this is the case there, here a lot of teachers are NOT good and they receive the same salary as the good ones. That is an issue for me.

    I think our general lack of willingness to pay teachers well is an extension of our society’s tendency to undervalue caretaking of all sorts. Because any idiot can spend the day with a room full of eight-year-olds and help them to learn what they need in order to be productive, educated citizens, right? (Said with complete sarcasm).

    • You make a lot of solid points, Erica. It’s hard to figure out how to pay teachers differently based on skill, talent, or whatever you want to call it. Our current evaluation system says that at least a quarter of my evaluation is now based on student test scores. So in theory, better teachers = better scores. If only small humans were that reliable in all cases 😉

      • Erica

        Small humans are reliably unreliable :-). I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be judged by my children’s behavior at times. Honestly, despite all outward appearances, I wasn’t sitting at home teaching them to torment each other in public!

  15. The teachers I know are some of the most dedicated employees around. I agree that good teachers, by the end of their careers, should be able to make six figures. However, I think starting salaries, which in my area are $50-60k, are a bit too high. Teachers used to be underpaid, but I think/hope that trend has turned around.

  16. Well, I’ll chime in here as an educator with 28 years of experience. As a classroom teacher, I would never nave made 6 figures by the time of “traditional” retirement – 55. Hell – as an administrator, I didn’t make 6 figures and that was with over 20 years experience as a teacher and with my doctorate (for those of you that don’t know – that required a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree – to be able to teach in NY, another Master’s for my administrative degree and then 60 more credits to earn the doctorate…) I was also working year round.

    I also taught at a college when I left my administrative job (after 23 years in public schools). I taught for 4 years – and the highest pay was 55K (again – with a doctorate.) These were tenure track jobs. I had to keep some side gigs going when I was a college professor.

    We are short of teachers here in NY – and since I was a teacher education professor, I know that it is going to get way worse before it gets better.

  17. I totally think teachers should be earning six figures, even early in their careers. This stuff is HARD. It’s rewarding on so many levels, but it is also EXHAUSTING. You are meeting the demands of so. many. people. at once. In any given semester, I get to know 85 to 100 new students. If we were to think of them as clients, that’s a lot of time devoted to 100 clients to satisfy the terms of agreement. I mean, yikes. I love what I do, but it is WORK. Get paid.

  18. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had – and I was only teaching after-school programs. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the classroom all day.
    I hate that people always seem to pick on teachers when it comes to salaries. I’ve seen many, many people in high paid positions that do eff all all day. Why isn’t anyone complaining about them???

    • It’s interesting to me, too. I think part of the problem is that there is a lot of misinformation out there. And unfortunately, people tend to remember bad teachers just as much as good ones. 🙁

  19. Neighbor lady would have a hard time finding a job in our region. Competition’s tough.
    MORE educators should make sure figures. Most people don’t have the necessary skills to manage a classroom of children nonetheless educate them well. I think if more people saw the inside of a K12 school a few years after they had finished their tenure there as a student, they’d have a different opinion.

  20. I don’t think teachers should ever make less than six figures. It is literally one of the most important jobs in our country. You are raising the next generation of workers, leaders, politicians, and scientists. It is insane that we pay teachers like a second-choice, fall back career.

  21. I think that excellent teachers should make excellent salaries. The amount of training and skill they have is incredibly high. The ability to teach the reluctant is impressive. I saw my family members go through one of those hybrid online academies. They know nothing. If they were forced to attend a traditional school, someone would have seen how little they know. They can pass a test but can’t write an essay. Being the smartest person in a hybrid class made them lazy. She’s about to enter college and I worry for her once she realizes how unprepared she is. As I am not her parent and do not have custody, there was only so much I could do to overcome the bad parenting + the bad schooling.

    Real schools matter.

  22. I think that teachers who are highly qualified, experienced, and show growth in their students should be paid very well – I think it’s very reasonable for the peak to be over 100k. I’m a second year teacher in a low cost of living area, and I make much less than that, but it wouldn’t hurt to make the pay ceiling significantly higher.

  23. As a teacher (college professor) this is a no brainer. Of course we should make six figures. I think my brother who is a middle school teacher should make more than I do, but he doesn’t. I also, like you, am tired of being bashed for my profession. Most teachers I know don’t take summers off. We don’t lounge by the pool. We don’t go on major vacations. I work all summer doing research, teaching, and more advising for actually more money so I don’t have to get a job during the summer. Keep up the good work fellow teacher. I am sure you doing great.

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