I came across a Huffington Post article telling about a California school teacher, 9 year veteran, Michelle Apperson, who received a notice that she may be laid off due to budgetary issues. While these notices have become common place, what makes this article noteworthy is that Ms Apperson is the most recent recipient of her district’s Teacher of the Year Award.
My reaction was “This is probably the wrong teacher to lay off, but her complaint lies with her own union.”
Let me explain. In my opinion, school teachers are overpaid. (Let the shouts ring out, the arrows fly, and the oil begin to boil.) My statement is not a value judgment, it is a market judgment. But, let’s play the value judgment game for a minute, and compare teachers to nurses. I think most would agree that the two professions are essentially equal in their occupational contribution to society.
According to O-net, an occupational website that gathers information on jobs nationwide, a Secondary School Teacher, 87% of who have a BA and 13% have a Master’s degree, makes $54,270 on average, nationwide. The same website lists a Nurse Practitioner, 93% with Master’s Degree and 7% with a Doctorate or Professional degree making $65,950 on average, nationwide.
But, wait you say, the nurse makes more than the teacher. How can you say the teacher is overpaid, if both are societaly equal? Let’s make an adjustment for time worked. The vast majority of teachers get summer’s off. That means they work 9 months out of the year. The nurse works year round. Adjust that and the nurse is now making $5496 per month, and the teacher, $6030. The teacher makes about 10% more per month.
But let’s not stop there. 93% of the nurses have Master’s degree, while only 13% of the teachers do. The nurses had to invest much more time and money to get to where they are at. Then there are work hours. Teachers work M-F, 7AM to 3 PM, for the most part. Nurses can have shifts ranging around the clock, weekends, and holidays. Now let’s revisit time off. Teachers have two weeks off for Christmas and New Years, another week for Thanksgiving and another week for
Spring Break. Nurses have vacation time, but must be with their company for many years before they can get four weeks off, and then getting time off around the holidays is rationed, as it is with most businesses.
Are you starting to see why discussing this based on “value to society”, is wrong? It is not a question of how important teachers are to society. Water is essential for life, but you can buy it for pennies. Diamonds could disappear completely and the human race would go on, yet they are expensive. Teachers are vital to society, but their importance is secondary to how scarce they are. There are many more people seeking to become teachers than there are positions to fill. There is a shortage of nurses. In a market based economy the nurse should be making more than the teacher. But, that’s not the case. Why?
The teacher’s union is the reason. It insulates them from what everyone else knows as reality. Faced with a reduction of income, a real world company would eliminate and consolidate positions, and/or cut back on wages. The real world company could also declare bankruptcy and have any union work rules nullified, so it could make the decisions necessary to save the company and the vast majority of the jobs.
But, the teacher’s union makes all of that nearly impossible.Californiaregularly asks the union to take across the board pay cuts to save the jobs of all teachers. The union says “No”. The government asks the people for more taxes. The people say “No”. That leaves no choice but make the lay offs happen. Most states, and California and Colorado are no exceptions, teacher’s unions have negotiated “Last Hired, First Fired” clauses in their contract. So, the 30 year teacher who is burned out and marking the calendar is retained, while the nine year “Teacher of the Year” is given notice. These rules can’t be nullified and states can’t declare bankruptcy.
Let me partially retract my statement. I’m not sure if teachers are overpaid. I think likely they are. But, we have no idea what a given teacher is really worth in the open market, because that market does not exist. The union has seen to that. All teachers, the good and the bad, use the
same pay scale. It is based on seniority and education. How good the teacher is has no bearing. That prevents the good teachers from making more money, and competing against the bad teachers. But that doesn’t matter. The teacher’s union has done it’s job so well, all teachers, good and bad, make such good money there is no reason for any of them to complain. They get good pay, great benefits, and after they reach tenure there job is nearly bulletproof. The only
thing that can get them is a lay off because the state doesn’t have the money.
Their answer is, of course, take more money from everyone else. My answer is “Enough.” I think it is time to give this tax money to the parents of the students and let them decided where to send their children. Get schools competing for those dollars. They will offer a better product for less money. That’s how it works in the real world. But, there is only one way that is going to happen. The voters of Wisconsin figured it out, and I’ll bet you can too. Here’s a hint. It happens in November and Democrats get 95% of the money teachers unions dole out in political contributions.