Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Liberal Rhetoric 101: Teachers Should Earn More!

Liberals and "moderates" especially love to give lip-service to the idea of cutting spending, but never want to give up anything they deem REALLY, SUPER-DUPER IMPORTANT. Because if you can name something really, super-duper important, then the money grows on trees to pay for it. School spending is one of the most prevalent examples.

My sister is a middle school Biology teacher. She has bought into the idea that the problem with schools failing is that we're just not spending enough money. If we just threw enough money at the problem, it would go away!  Apparently if every student had an iPad and every classroom had a SMART Board, such problems as poor teachers with tenure, lack of parental involvement, and students who don't know how to read would just magically disappear.

Of course, they wouldn't disappear. Good teachers can teach with equal success with a chalk board and a 15 year-old textbook, especially in areas like History and English, where the material simply doesn't change that much. Romeo and Juliet hasn't changed since 1998. Neither have the events of the American Revolution. The Battle of Bunker Hill was still the first battle.

Similar to that is the attitude that "teachers don't make enough" based on the intangible "value to society." This mentality suggests that we should pay teachers like we pay business executives, because they're "more valuable to society." Except...

Except companies like Apple, Inc had nearly $156 Billion in gross revenue last year. They sell products that people want or need at a high market value. They have over $156 Billion coming in annually, making it possible for them to compete to hire the best and brightest in our country by offering them high salaries. 

Public schools, not to put too fine a point on it, bring in $0 in gross revenue each year. (Yes, they're nonprofit organizations. Just bear with me.) The employers of public schools are taxpayers. The Median Income of American Taxpayers is just over $32,000 a year. The median teacher's salary is right around $52,000 a year. That means the average teacher earns more than his or her (average) employer, the taxpayer!

Find a private employee who makes more than his or her employer in total compensation? It doesn't exist in the Real World. The idea that teachers should make more than a professional athlete or a movie star misses the reality of the latter two occupations: The athlete and movie star earn MILLIONS OF DOLLARS for their employer and those employers both have millions and earn millions more from that person's work.

While a teacher's work may indeed have greater societal value in an abstract way, that does not change the reality that the employers of teachers (again, taxpayers) do not have the funds to pay based on that abstract societal value, while the employers of athletes and movie stars do. Furthermore, the employers of athletes and movie stars will get immediate, real world returns on their investment that will in fact exceed the initial investment. (For those of you from Palm Beach County, FL, that means athletes and movie stars make lots and lots of money for the people who own teams and make movies.)

Teachers don't directly make money for their employers (taxpayers) so their compensation will necessarily be based on what their employers (taxpayers) can AFFORD to pay them. Considering only 7 states (5 of which are controlled by Republicans in both Governorship and Legislature for the record and the other 2 only have mixed control) do not have a budget deficit, clearly the money DOESN'T EXIST to pay more.

At the end of the day, it's not how much money an employee "should" make, it's how much their employees CAN pay. No amount of calling teachers really, super-duper important will make that money appear.

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