Teachers underworked and overpaid


Women clocking in, IBM archives

Via Education and Technology, I hear of a study that says teachers may not be undercompensated, with a supporting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, “$34.06 an hour: That’s how much the average public school teacher makes. Is that ‘underpaid?'”. The study comes from the Manhattan Institute, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures, by Jay P. Green and Marcus A. Winters.

My escaped-sewage detector started clanging. Check out the lengthy explanation of methodology in the actual report. Such apologies up front should be a warning.

Of course, this raises issues about all the methodologies of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As I understand it, they report what the employers report. In other words, union members’ work is represented and reported to the BLS by management. Teachers’ hours are reported by administration. In few cases would there be any incentive for the reporting entity to be accurate, especially in reporting off-the-clock hours.

I am reminded of a high school band concert I attended last year on a weeknight, at Dallas’ Morton Meyerson Center (good bands, really — they did the hall proud). Many of the kids in the bands are children of teachers. I had wondered why so many teachers seemed to have a fascination with those odd novelty pens that light up. As the lights of the concert hall dimmed, those pens clicked into action all over the hall. Teachers were at their kids’ concerts, correcting papers. Quickly getting over my guilt for not having brought along papers to grade, I counted as one woman sitting close by corrected more than 150 papers over the next two hours.

How would the BLS count that? How would administrators report it?

And every teacher in this district is held to 8 hours on the clock.

I urge you to go see the report from the Manhattan Institute, and to look at the Wall Street Journal article, and to look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. This is a big issue, and it seems to me that the methodology for calculating teacher hours is seriously flawed.

We know what kinds of policies result when intelligence going in is bad. See the quote from Santayana on the front page of this blog.

6 Responses to Teachers underworked and overpaid

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    6 1/2 hours? You don’t teach, and you don’t live with one. Have you been in a school in the last ten years?

    Long Island sounds enlightened. What’s the average cost of a home there?


  2. I know says:

    The typical Long Island teacher makes $90,000 per year after 10 years of service. That’s working 6 1/2 hours a day for 182 days. After 14 years, they make over $100K. That’s only their base pay. If they do afterschool clubs, sports, library duty — that more money. Their pension is basically 56% of their final three year average. That means most Long Island teachers can easily make $60K per year as their pension, with a Cost-of-Living-Increase every year. The other day a teacher told me they can make three times their pay in the real world. NOT!


  3. […] teachers like bankers? A reader named Sam left this comment, in response to my post on teachers being overworked and underpaid, and I elevate it because it […]


  4. Sam says:

    It would be interesting to take into effect that teaching is one of the few jobs where people expend large quantitites of their own money to do their job. I was a prinicipal in a large urban district before I left education for a private sector consulting job. Part of the reason I left was the paper rationing that occured during my last two years on the job. Our school district limited our teachers to three sheets of paper per student per week in an attempt to cut costs. Even the best, most engaging hands-on learning takes more than three sheets per week. Add in the lunch menus, report cards, and parent letters that need to go home and it would guarantee that our paper supply usually ran dry by March 1 or so and my teachers ending up buying their own paper.

    Could you imagine the uproar that would occur in the mortgage department of a bank if suddenly employees were required to buy their own copy paper? Why is that acceptable for our teachers?


  5. mike says:

    The issue of management understanding worked hours would be true for ALL jobs though, and so would not make teachers any more inaccurate than anyone else. Also remember the very nice pensions and medical plans that are included that you will never find in the private sector.
    Yes you may have to spend 2 hours a night grading papers and preparing for the next day, but that just about equalizes out the summers that teachers get off along with the other breaks. If you are really so underpaid why are private schools paying even less?


  6. Pam says:

    This is an ancient argument, of course, in part an argument on how to value work (remember equal pay for equal work?). A somewhat different but related discussion is tertiary faculty, see Dean Dad’s stuff, too.

    This also ties into your pay for performance discussion. (Quite interesting to hear the current President’s chastisement at Wall St. If pay for performance were extended to the Chief Executive, would he make current minimum wage? or pay per hour would be sky high because weeks on vacation shouldn’t count).

    I would have thought by now there would be agreement on what “work” is for teachers. (I knew a community college director, formerly a high school vice-principal, who confused credit hours at the college level with on-site hours at high school and managed to short-change both types of faculty)

    In the early 70s there was a push for T&E studies (time and effort) at universities. What happened to those? (except that the actual job related time, even for TAs, was sky-high compared to timeclock jobs. No one wants to admit it?)


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