Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Everyone knows that teachers are notoriously underpaid when the post graduate degree necessary and the importance of the job is considered. OTOH, the Teacher's Union is also notorious for inhibiting smart policies to hire the best teachers. No one wants to pay a failing teacher, but many are happy to pay a teacher bringing out the best in their students. The Unions requires that we pay them the same.

I'm not here to talk about merit pay, however. With so much attention being given to the stability and even increase of government jobs and the salaries and benefits to go with them in this climate, while the private sector struggles, the salaries of these positions are being scrutinized. Teachers are not exempt from this scrutiny.

The thing that made me think about this was what the Rhode Island Superintendent did today.

Unionized Rhode Island Teachers Refuse To Work 25 Minutes More Per Day, So Town Fires All Of Them
A school superintendent in Rhode Island is trying to fix an abysmally bad school system.

Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring. The teachers' union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000. This exemplifies a nationwide trend in which public sector workers make far more than their private-sector counterparts (with better benefits).

The school superintendent has responded to the union's stubbornness by firing every teacher and administrator at the school.

A sign of things to come?
Given the reputation of teachers not getting professional pay, those salaries seemed really high to me.

Having been a teacher 13 years ago and being paid a measly $2000 per month, I looked more closely at what teachers are being paid now. Wanting to compare apples to apples, I took a look at the current salary schedule for the district, in which I worked in.

I recall bringing home about $2000 per month ($20,000 annually b/c that's for 10 months). I think that was about $30 K per year, before taxes and health insurance deductions etc. I think that in the 3 years I worked there, I accumulated about $7000 worth of retirement income, which is about one month's salary per year.

Of course, I was a brand new teacher and was at the starting salary level. If I entered the profession right now in the same district, I'd be earning, $45,450. The maximum I could earn after 5+ years of service is $47,871. It is noteworthy that there is a grandfather clause for teachers hired before 2005 that makes the cap $57,882 after 11+ years of service.

That means that a teacher hired prior to 2005 will be earning $57,882 after 11 years of service, but a teacher at the same school doing the same work will only be earning $47,871 after 11 years of service.

Regardless, these numbers are far lower than the $70K - $78K mentioned in the Rhode Island school district.

The numbers I cited above for the teachers in Burbank Unified School District (suburb of L.A., CA) are for teachers who have a minimal teaching credential, i.e., a Bachelor's degree plus 15 units of post graduate education. As you get more education, your salary rises. In Burbank, the very most you can make in the highest Class VI (75 units beyond a Bachelor's degree) after 24 years is $85,223. At the current increase for Class II (Bachelor's plus 15 units) after 24 years of service would be $45,453.

In class VI, the salary reaches the $70K level after 11 years.

So....that takes me back to Rhode Island. They have a similar system and just as I thought, the $70K salary is misleading. Only 10% of the teachers in Providence, Rhode Island make $70K +. The average salary is about $50K and the entry salary is about $30K.

So....what about the Superintendent's decision to fire all of the teachers because the union couldn't handle the small changes she requested
Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring. The teachers' union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.
I'm only guessing, but perhaps she had to fire them all to fire any of them, due to discrimination type of rules. Obviously, she'll have to quickly rehire many of these teachers back. I have a feeling, however, that she won't be hiring the most experienced teachers who are making the higher salaries. Instead, they'll reduce their costs by hiring the younger teachers at the lower end of the pay scale. Now, there may be union rules about rehiring that would make her hire the teacher's with the most seniority first - I don't know. In any case, she might just get her 25 minutes more to the teacher's day for student tutoring by teachers.


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. Thanks for commenting. I write because it's therapeutic to vent and express my feelings someplace. It's neat to know that someone is actually reading it. : )