Nationwide, the estimated average public-school teacher’s salary is now $58,950.
Not a bad salary I would say, and the salary is 20% lower than similar college degree which is not to bad considering one have more time off than other jobs (summer vacation etc).
Would be more interesting if there was a lack of people wanting to work as teachers but the article didn't say anything about that.
Teaching is not a 9 to 5 job with 12 weeks of vacation a year.
The median salary in San Francisco is about $70k per year. How many developers would accept that as a salary in SF these days? Yet you would still claim that teachers get paid well.
(Runs a few calculations on a napkin ...) Exactly half.
Many teachers get $0 or a pittance for supplies and have to spend from their own salary so other people’s kids to have access to learning activities and materials.
They’re spending their days dealing with a room full of emotionally selfish brats. You think they grade all that homework from 8-3? Nope. Many spend dozens of hours working outside the classroom.
Meanwhile, I’ve worked with dozens of coders who contribute jack squat, but earn &100k+.
Coders who often could be replaced with a few git clone ops and a Squarespace front end if companies weren’t obsessed with re-inventing the wheel, or over fetishing their web ui which really just follows one of 6 common looks.
Quite simply our economics around who gets paid are effed.
There are few tech folks that couldn’t be replaced by thousands of other workers who are just as capable at churning out CRUD app after CRUD app
Smart and capable people that might be interested in teaching the next generation if the pay didn’t suck given the expectations put on them
I can not describe in words how much I hate this utter false narrative.
Stop giving money for this bullshit and it instantly stops within 24 months. Period.
It only continues because of wording like "have to" in these sort of posts. No, they don't have no. If they didn't, schools would pick up the insanely trivial cost of these items. This is not a source of school funding issues. 99% of parents can figure out where to get an extra $50 over the course of a school year if they care even a tiny little bit.
The 80/20 rule you describe holds true almost everywhere in life. 20% of the people on the planet do 80% of the work, that's how it always has been and always will be. Unfortunately compensation will never properly align.
> Smart and capable people that might be interested in teaching the next generation if the pay didn’t suc
This has almost nothing to do with the pay, and everything to do with how shitty the job is. I'd educate smart motivated kids with parents who would kick their ass at home for a very marginal salary - it's fulfilling and interesting. Public school in the US as it's practiced today? I'm not sure you could offer me enough money to do such a thing. I'd rather retire today than take such a job at 4x my current pay.
Perhaps solve that last paragraph of mine and we could actually fix education in this country.
Edit: tldr; we agree for the most part but I'm much more militant in nature :)
"...shortening school weeks and enacting emergency certification for people who aren’t trained as educators."
"This year in Oklahoma, a record number of teachers were given emergency teaching certifications, despite no traditional training."
"The pipeline, meanwhile, is drying up. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of new educators completing preparatory programs fell by 23%, according to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. And once teachers make it to the classroom, attrition is high: at least 17% leave the profession within the first five years, a 2015 study found."
UK metrics: the government tends to plan on a 9% per year replacement rate for most public sector jobs. We have around half a million teachers in England and Wales, so that is 45,000 extra newly qualified teachers each year. Not sure what the numbers are like in the various states in the US. Remember that employing a cohort of teachers with a lower qualification level is going to give you a support and in-service training need that lasts for 20, 25 years or so.
Mind you, 17% leaving in first five years is actually pretty good. Much higher in UK. Could be the fact that the occupation is more accessible to people with children keeping people in as alluded to early in the article.
Time off: the summer holiday isn't pure holiday as such, and a lot of what you do as a teacher happens outside the classroom. Being able to decide when I do the extra work is nice, but the work still has to get done.
I know a bunch of people will jump in here and lecture about supply and demand, but the fact is the American economy is weirdly bimodal where essential services (public education, bridge repair, public transit) are cut to the bone, while you pay an exorbitant fortune to people doing nonsense jobs targeting ads or moving numbers around in Excel.
A key concept in teaching is what we call 'differentiation', the idea that different students will need a different approach. A good model for HN people here would be (say) a computer game. If a game is too easy, you get bored. If the game is impossibly challenging, you give up. A well designed game that develops you has to be pitched at the right level for you. Individually.
English differentiates by student response to a common task.
Maths differentiates by topic.
So, the English teacher can (for example) set a title for a piece of writing and the whole class can work on that for say half an hour, and each person can feel that they have done their best. The teacher has to mark the pieces and that is where the differentiation comes in: one student might have shown really good progress by producing sentences organised into paragraphs, another student might have explored a metaphor and developed a simile, but might have been 'phoning it in' compared to their previous performance. Marking a class set of work and providing feedback to each student is where the time goes.
In my maths class, some students just need different work to other students. Some students will finish a lot quicker than other students. So my work is more on identifying and producing resources, skill development exercises and enrichment activities than the marking. Mind you, the marking still takes time. As a concrete example, how long do you think it would take to mark a worksheet like ?
The coming in early and working late, as well as the occasional weekend is something that a lot of other professional jobs do as well, without a ten week summer break.
I'm sure it depends heavily on the district, but the "teachers are the hardest workers!" tagline always seemed like an easy story to tell to (justifiably) ask for wage increases.
"gasp They have to grade homework at home!". Well, yeah, I have to take office work home as well as the United States has no labor laws preventing that.
Lesson plans change frequently and aside from some macro-level planning, re-use is quite difficult from year-to-year. Some children also have individualized lesson plans that require more attention.
> The coming in early and working late, as well as the occasional weekend is something that a lot of other professional jobs do as well, without a ten week summer break.
Again, they are not off the entire ten weeks. They have work obligations to fulfill during the summer. Furthermore, during the school year, teachers work just about every weekend and not 'the occasional weekend'.
Within the planning process, you often have to allow for significant changes in the syllabus content and mode of assessment.
There is usually staff training provided by school management, and career progression in teaching is linked to taking on extra responsibility.
Now, a very interesting question is why do we have the long summer holidays still? Lets face it, a very small proportion of the population work on farms these days. Changing that would have to be a big bang change of course. The whole system would need to move over to a new school year in one go, which is probably why no government has done it yet.
I'm also, looking back on a 30 year career, beginning to wonder if a more 'industrial' approach to curriculum design might be useful. Why not simply devise a national curriculum and produce standardised lesson plans and schemes to go with it? In the UK we have the national curriculum bit but teachers are still scrabbling around for resources and activities.
That's what we do in France. In most cases, it works rather well.
The main problem is that it means that every change has to be synchronized nation-wide, which is time and resource consuming. Also, since it's national, it can quickly become a national cause, both for the government (who sometimes decide to change the curriculum for purely political reasons) and for some parts the opposition (« No, that's not how you do Sex Ed! », or such).
Also, we're not too good at handling edge cases (e.g. students with special needs, gifted students, students in places where most parents don't speak French).
Are your teachers noticeably less busy by the way?
To catch up with what is common in Western Europe, the pay needs to at least double to 80k USD and more for teachers of upper secondary classes.
What do you mean by this? It seems that the USA pays very similar to what Western Europe pays their teachers (ignoring outliers)?
Edit: as noted by a comment bellow, this is only the budget at the Federal Level
For education expenditure, US spends about $1.1T, of which only $0.11T comes from federal gov't and $1T from state/local gov't in FY2018. It's pretty much ALWAYS been the case that local/state gov't's pay for education expenses (often tied to property taxes).
The national defense budget for FY2018 is $0.87T and comes out of the federal budget only. Comparing the two at federal level makes no sense.
But the fact that the US Federal government always find money to feed its military while cutting the other departments  (including education) doesn't change the underlying fact that Education has a lesser priority than the Military in Washington DC.
If your argument is that education should be a constitutional right, and thus funded by the federal government, then that's a different argument than simply "finding the money." Is that the argument you're making?
Countries like Finland, South Korea which routinely rank top in various international tests and studies spend far less and achieve much better results than the US, so the problem here isn't just about funding.
A quick googling says there's 50.7 million public school kids in the country, you're saying we only spend ~$1,300 per kid? Yeah, that's clearly wrong, you're either making that number up or are quoting the wrong number. And that's not even taking into account any university or adult education spending.
The Department of Education is administered by the United States Secretary of Education. It has under 4,000 employees (2018) and an annual budget of $68 billion (2016).¹
More info at the Education Departments website.²
I don't think that's the right number though? That's just what the Education Department spends each year administering education? The FY 2019 Education Budget Fact Sheet² goes on to say:
"The Budget supports $129.8 billion in new postsecondary grants, loans, and work-study assistance to help an estimated 11.5 million students and their families pay for college
So there's clearly more funds being directed to education than just the $68B.
Additionally, the US spends more than almost all OECD countries 
Please don't spread misinformation.
(a bit up it says she's in Raleigh, N.C.)
Not to question this woman's problems, but can someone shed some light on what the situation there is that would make a salary like that 'low income'? The median house price is 234k according to Zillow, so I would imagine rent being; what; 700 to 1000? I want to feel for these people, and I'm not claiming they are making things up; but when I see articles like this, they usually have examples that make me scratch my head a bit.
If her predicament is because of student loans she had to take out to get this job, then the problem is really 'degrees are too expensive', and not 'teachers don't make enough', right? Or are excessive (relative to income) student loans an especially big problem for teachers?
The median household income in Raleigh is 55k (first Google hit). She's making almost 20% more than that. Sure, she may have a bunch of expenses that others don't, but is the story then that teachers make too little, or is the story that some people have high student loan repayments, or pay a lot in alimony, or have to help out family, or have debts from previous bad marriages or whatever?
My point is: if I was a PR guy, trying to gain public support for the idea that teachers are underpaid, I wouldn't show off someone who makes 20% more than the median household income on her own. If you're looking to make a point, you find some good examples of the problem you're illustrating; not even necessarily the worst cases, but surely not someone who raises questions for even a sympathetic reader like myself. So then I wonder in this case, what else is there 'hidden' in this story we're not being told but that would change the narrative substantially?
For whatever reason, $69K may not be a livable wage for her and her family. But most people in Raleigh would think, on the face of it, that she's making good money.
But this is an article in Time, not a PR piece. Maybe the author has an agenda, or maybe they're playing it straight. Whatever, maybe Ms. Cooke should have declined the interview.
Compensation is set based on scarcity, replacement cost AND the value of the work performed. For public sector positions, it is impossible to quantify the value so we fall back on the other two.
Whether or not someone had a bunch of kids or bought a too expensive car doesn’t enter into whether their pay is fair.
Indeed, if both of her children are in daycare programs the costs can easily exceed the amount she pays for her rent or mortgage.
Best advice I can offer in such cases - leave the country. Try your luck elsewhere. Teach internationally. Get paid premium.
The profession of a teacher/mentor was once one of the most respected professions that had ever existed. Now look at what is happening to education in the US. Teachers are underpaid, curricula cut and trimmed to the minimum, tuitions in private schools worth a fortune. Public schooling is in danger. How to survive that as a public school teacher? Go on strike? LOL
For the record, I think that thought experiment could illustrate that teachers in America don't have it so bad.
Some numbers : http://ncee.org/what-we-do/center-on-international-education...
(Not my attitude, very much not, but the reality that there are many who think that way needs to be noted.)
In the rest of the US, most people aren’t expected to start a business, they are expected to go to college and get a job.
Pointing out that teachers are highly-trained professionals who are often quite skilled, and who are an important part of what it takes to make a better future, in my experience just does not register very much.
Let’s have a shortage of teachers so that they’re forced to raise wages.
(Son of two teachers)
Why do people choose their job based on something other than money? To ask that is to answer it. (Hopefully)
Else, how would we ever improve working conditions anywhere? I don't think that is going to happen externally.
It won’t force them to raise wages. What a lot of cities are doing are getting teachers from overseas.
In the absence of a strong union presence keeping political leaders in check the shortage is likely to simply lead to larger class sizes, more stressed out teachers and the use of privatization to "solve" the associated problems.
or you will get incompetent teachers
Mind you living expenses are high there but that's probably still quite a decent figure.
My sister was a Jr. High School teacher in South Korea. I was quite surprised how much she was earning as a teacher and, after her retirement years ago, she is collecting now (it's only 10%-20% less than the US average which seems to support the OECD data).
I have the highest admiration for true teachers.
It's really weird. Here in the UK I'm distinctly right of centre, but in US terms I'm a proper leftie. I don't see it as socialism though, it's just pragmatism. Certain ways of doing things, like centralising and consolidating some service provision, just provably and demonstrably from considerable practical experience in many countries over a long period of time works better that way. For other things, most things actually, markets, capitalism and private enterprise work best.
Even the exceptions are degrading rapidly, as I live in one of them.
You made a clear, unambiguous statement. In reality, the healthcare, education, and transport systems of many European countries are fully or partially publicly controlled, and rank highly for many indicators. This seems to directly contradict your statement.
And yeah, you can still lay on your laurels of 5-10 European countries that actually do still provide "ok" education for free, but it's deteriorating so rapidly, that it'll be worse than what we had in Eastern Europe in the 80ies and 90ies in a few years.
Edit: And BTW, the same counts for the other pillars of "socialism" - healthcare, public transportation etc. Show me the countries where government services have obsoleted private healthcare, private cars etc. And no, don't show me countries where they have forbidden them (like Denmark basically forbids private cars) and you'll see that indeed, there is no place on Earth where socialism works.