By April Wilson, Contributor
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently proposed to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards that teachers should be paid a starting salary of $60,000 a year, potentially being able to earn as much as $150,000 a year.
As an education major, this sounds like a dream come true. However, as a rational, somewhat educated person, this is the most ridiculous proposal I’ve ever heard.
Secretary Duncan argued that the increase in salary will be an incentive to begin recruiting the best and brightest among college graduates to the profession. He said instead of choosing education as a profession, “they choose fields like law, medicine, and engineering.”
The average annual salary for a lawyer, for example, is $121,380, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while doctors earn approximately $169,000 each year and those in engineering earn roughly between $62,000 and $83,000 per year. Currently, teachers in K -12 average $33,000 to $58,000 annually.
The significant difference between a teaching degree and a degree in one of these fields is often years and years of schooling, not to mention tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars more in the cost of their education.
According to the American Medical Association, doctors who left medical school in 2010 averaged a debt of $157,944. For law students leaving the University of Iowa, the same year student debt averaged over $87,000. The average debt for a teacher with a Master’s degree in Education? Only $49,286, according to finaid.org.
The bottom line is that doctors, lawyers and engineers earn more than teachers because they have invested more time and money into their education and have a very specialized expertise in one area. This is not a fair comparison.
Secretary Duncan also said, “If teachers are to be treated and compensated as the true professionals they are, the profession will need to shift…to rewarding effectiveness and performance.”
While I couldn’t agree more with Duncan about rewarding effective high-performing teachers, he makes it sound as if teachers are not treated as “professionals.” This is news to me. Teachers are often pillars of the community. They receive a great amount of respect and admiration because they do one of the hardest jobs in the world: take care of and impart knowledge to other people’s children.
Teachers have to deal with the expectations of the community at large, and in return, the community treats them with respect and admiration.
There are many examples of places where salary incentives have been offered for students improving test scores and nothing improves as a result. The students still do poorly. The officials and the public are still unhappy and shoving more money in teacher’s pockets does not fix the problem. The schools still fail.
And, unlike doctors, engineers and especially lawyers, teachers are almost solely employed by the public sector. This means that tax revenues are largely what pay their salaries.
In the uncertain financial times of the last five years, it is obvious that we cannot afford to allocate any more money towards teacher salaries.
What would be a better use of education funding is to direct it to where it needs to go.
Schools need to be funded equally. It should only matter that the children in that school, regardless of socioeconomic status, skin color, religious background or any other characteristic, receive the best education we can possibly give them.
The school districts in this country need to spend the money they do have on the students. Make sure the teachers are compensated fairly—without teachers, school would be a worthless endeavor—but make sure the kids all have the supplies, texts and other materials they need for success.
Keep the buildings in good working order. Provide heating and cooling and give them the most recent technology. Help the kids succeed!
Teachers do not teach just for the money. They teach to make a difference. They teach because they want to, they love it and they are good. I believe they deserve a million dollars for what they do, but I don’t think it’s practical.
Any teacher would tell you that you can’t compare an apple to an orange. That’s why teachers and their educations and salaries cannot be compared to those of doctors, lawyers or engineers. Teachers should be compensated fairly, but a $60,000 starting salary for a new teacher just doesn’t make sense.