The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Monday, July 11, 2005

Teacher Pay

The Express-News has an article today about teacher pay in Texas, how we rank against the rest of the country, what sort of jobs teachers take during the summer and why they take these jobs. The average nationwide salary for a teacher is $47,000. In Texas it's $40,500, which ranks us 33rd in the nation for teacher pay. A quick glance at teacher salaries in 3 of the 13 million school districts Bexar County has, shows us that our teacher's are doing fairly well in respect to the state average. A 1st year teacher with a Bachelor's degree can look to earn $35,000 at Harlandale ISD, $36,500 at SAISD, and $38,653 at NEISD. A teacher with a Master's degree can earn a combination of $500-$5,000 more in these three school districts, depending on which district you're in and your experience.

The teacher pay problem is more severe back east in larger cities with a high cost of living, and in rural areas. But what really confuses me is the idea that teachers aren't really being paid a 'living wage' as I've heard it argued on some other blogs. If I'm a teacher for Harlandale ISD right now with a Bachelor's and 15 years experience, I'm making $41,207. The per-capita income for San Antonians is $17,000, the median household income for San Antonio is $36,000, and the median family income is $41,000. Which would mean, by myself, I would be earning $207 more than the city's median family income, before whatever income my spouse brought in. Even if this is my first year teaching, fresh out of college that's $35k a year. That's fantastic money for a recent college grad in my book. And while I understand no one's getting rich on these teacher salaries, there are hundreds of thousands of people in San Antonio making much less than this a year. Heck there's a whole slew of families who make less than one, newbie teacher makes a year. So let's stop with the 'living wage' hyperbole.

Now, my mom's a retired teacher (29 years for SAISD), I've got 3 aunts who are teachers-one of whom is finishing up her PhD and making the move up to administration- 3 or so cousins who are teachers, and even an aunt who's a school nurse. In 29 years my mom taught summer school a grand total of three times and never held a summer job of another type. Out of these nine family members, if my memory serves me right, the only ones I can remember having ever worked summer school or a summer job are those who teach in a rural school district, which is where this discussion needs to be aimed at. A new teacher would probably make $10,000 less in a rural school district than an urban one. That's where this fight needs to be directed to.

We can help our teacher's out by not making them pay for eye and dental benefits, not making them dig into their own pockets to buy reams of copy paper and the like, and making sure we're not screwing them over on their pension and retirement benefits. Raising teacher pay is another way to help them out, and there's a compelling argument to be made for raising teacher pay, but let's not couch it in a 'teacher's are living hand-to-mouth' rhetoric.