What Are Teachers Worth?

I found this commentary from talk show host Laura Flanders interesting, it is posted over at the website Common Dreams.org and asks what is the worth of a teacher? According to a study published in the NY Times a ” stand out” kindergarten teacher is worth $320,000 a year.

It’s to bad that teachers here in NJ are being made out to be the evil scapegoats by Governor Christie and local governments, who see them only as the reason for the continually rising property tax rates in many the municipalities and a drain on resource rather than the true professionals that they are, who care for and nurture the minds of our children:
What are teachers really worth?

That’s the question, as the Senate puts off a vote on $10 billion for state and local governments to prevent teacher layoffs. Senate leadership wanted the bill to be deficit neutral—a line never applied to war funding, where no spending’s too great because we’re killing for peace. Estimates are that it costs $1 million per soldier per year to keep troops in Afghanistan. But enough of that.

Last week, David Leonhardt at the New York Times cited a study that showed that teachers can make a huge difference in the lives of children as early as kindergarten. The study found that a “standout” kindergarten teacher is probably worth $320,000 a year—that’s the value that good teachers can add to the life of their students. When researchers left standardized testing out of the equation, they found many more benefits added by teachers.

Of course, this study plays into the idea that every individual teacher’s responsible for the performance of the kids they teach, regardless of socioeconomic status, home life, class-size. Listen to Diane Ravitch on this program for more on that.

But it also brought to the front page of the Times the idea that our teachers, far from being laid off because of Senate politics, should be paid better and given more support.

If we can’t find $320,000 a year for kindergarten teachers, perhaps we can at least find a way to keep them from losing their jobs entirely. Scratch that. If we can’t find a way to pay living wages for kindergarten teachers, who are we ? And just where in our picture of “national security” do we place our kids?

17 Comments

Filed under CommonDreams.org, Laura Flanders, NY Times, Teachers

17 responses to “What Are Teachers Worth?

  1. Someone should alert the stupid mayor in Middletown about this article….and also the three newly elected BOE lackey comrades of this mayor!THEY ALL NEED A LESSON IN COMMON SENSE !!

  2. you say: "teachers here in NJ are being made out to be the evil scapegoats by Governor Christie."I don't thing you have this right, Mike. Christie has always been indicting the NJEA … not teachers. It is the NJEA propaganda machine that is trying to paint this as Christie vs. the teachers in order to rile the masses. My family is full of teachers, and I still believe that it is about time someone stood up to the bully union that is all about promoting itself instead of being what its members want it to be.

  3. Anon 9:03the NJEA and teachers are one and the same, you can not differenciate from the two when the bulk of the rhetoric falls onto the teachers at the local levels.This past year if I were a teacher, knowing that my contract was up at years end, I wouldn't have accepted a freeze request. As far as I am concerned a contract is a contract, you honor it until you can change it at the barganing table.

  4. The article says … "If we can't find a way to pay living wages for kindergarten teachers, who are we?"The Middletown teachers certainly make living wages and then some. Here are the AVERAGE teacher salaries for some of the elementary schools in Middletown:Nut Swamp $84KHarmony: $79KNew Monmouth: $79KNavesink: $78KRiver Plaza: $75KVillage: $73KI believe that teachers are worth these salaries … but they can't then complain that they do not make enough.

  5. Anon,I agree with you, but using Average salaries are a little misleading because s few higher salaries skew the numbers. A better indicator would be to use Median salary which would tell us how many are making above the average as opposed to how many are under the average salary in a given school or town.

  6. Good point, Mike. I just took the 1st school on that list (Nut Swamp) and calculated the Median Salary.It is $87,725You are right about the higher salaries, too. There are 9 teachers there making over $95K, and 5 making over $100K. teachers can't complain about these numbers especially considering they have their job guaranteed for LIFE along with free family health benefits for LIFE.

  7. Compared to the average salary, the median for Nutswamp seems high, but I'll take your word for it.I agree with you, for many teachersin Middletown they are making an a decent living and shouldn't complain to loudly. I do believe however they had the right to complain with what went on earlier this year, there is a contract in place and it should be honored. Changes need to be made at the bargaining table, not in public opinion polls.

  8. Anyone who thinks a teacher has a job guaranteed for Life has to rethink their opinion. Ask the unemployed teachers ,as a result of the crackpot ideas of this governor, how much guarantee they have.All tenure guarantees is a fair hearing if a teacher finds themselves with a problem. As for benefits it's time to align benefits with the private sector (the taxpayers asked to pay for these benefits).Most private sector jobs require participation in Medicare as a prerequisite to the provision of secondary health benefits by the employer of the retiree.The rhetoric sounds good,the reality is a different story !!!All that has been accomplished so far is to vilify the teachers,let the corrupt,doubling dealing politicians off the hook and point the finger at everyone except the government that created this mess. All of government is at fault whether it's the republicans or the democrats. They seem to compete to see who is the worst!!!

  9. You are right, Mike. Nut Swamp is higher than most, except for New Monmouth which is $88,600. There are those who are lower like Harmony at $79,000, and others lower than that.You do have to recognize that the NJEA lives in the world of what you call "public opinion polls". How much money do they spend on advertisements, political donations, lobbyists, etc.? Is it a greater amount than what goes to the kids? The state should provide a strong opposing voice to the union … in order to level the playing field for when municipalities and such have to go to the bargaining table against the unions (who have has all the power in those negotiations).You are right in that a contract is a contract. Do you think that the Keansburg super should have been able to keep the whole buyout ($700K+) … that the state said was not legit? Thanks for the forum, Mike.

  10. Anon 3:22The NJEA is no different than any other Union. They are in exsistance to support and protect it's members. If that includes hiring lobbyist or making donations on behalf of others so be it.The money that they spend come from the dues that teachers pay as members and shoudln't be confused with how much money makes it back into the classroom.

  11. Disgusted,I also happen to agree with you.Teachers have been vilified by Governor Christie and others who wish to score easy points.I agree with your tenure statement, teachers do not have jobs for life. Teachers go through a review process each year to determine if that teacher should be rehired. Tenure is in place to make sure that teachers are not wrongly dismissed by school systems due to personal feeling for or against certain employees.Reform is needed but it shouldn't be forced upon people and should not be expected to happen over night. The problem is not just with the school systems, it is with the entire tax structure that places so much burden on the relience on property taxes.Politicians need to fix the structural problems before vilify people or play with their livelihoods.

  12. Anon,I have no problem with Superintendent pay per say. A school district competes on the open market for the best and or brightest candidate that they feel will do the greatest job for the district.I do not belive that anyone should be able to walk away from a public job with and be compensated richly for it. It doesn't matter if you are an administrator or a sanitation worker. Large 6 figure or more payouts is absurd by anyones definition.What made Keansburg situation so outrageous is the fact that Keansburg is an Abbot district and the money should have went to the kids not the administrator.

  13. A couple of points:(1) I respectfully think you guys are wrong. The NJEA has propagandized Christie as "villifying" teachers. Show me where, specifically, he has done that? The NJEA is doing its job … trying to villify the governor to garner itself more support. This is a game that both sides are playing. (2) Can you tell me what teachers have actually lost in all of this?(3) I do agree with you that "The problem is not just with the school systems, it is with the entire tax structure that places so much burden on the relience on property taxes." Good point — but, unfortunately, we do not have a viable alternative solution.(4) The teachers and the NJEA are NOT one and the same. It operates as if it is in existance to support itself .. and not "in exsistance to support and protect it's members." The NJEA promotes its own agenda, which is not objective and does not represent all teachers. Do teachers really have an option of whether they want to be in the union, and do they really have a say in the way the union operates?(4) To disgusted … maybe we should start doing performance evaluations on teachers (and not based on their students' test scores)?

  14. to mike's 4:46 comment:But I thought you said a contract is a contract. You can't have it both ways.This has been a fun discourse 🙂

  15. Anon 4:58Your right, we can't have it both ways. I am sorry that I didn't clarify my statement.A contract is a contract, it should not be broken after the fact.Keansburg's Superintendent's contract should not have been overturned the way it was.Someone (the State or Town? )should have over ruled that contract years earlier before it was signed. Many people were asleep or looked the other way on that.She served the town in good faith and she took what was given to her, it wasn't her fault that she received such a compensation package.

  16. Anony 4:56Teachers are subjected to evaluation by their department heads all of the time in order to qualify for continued employment… .BTW, I am not a teacher but a parent of two very gifted ones. I can assure you it is not all about money.A teacher's life and profession is not a walk in the park.They have to deal with all circumstances, personalities, the "baggage" kids bring with them (home envirnments) etc. Certainly not under their explicit control.Some families think it's the teacher's job to teach more than what it is a school's obligation to teach and families abandon their own responsibilities for their own kids.It is not a perfect world !!!

  17. Anon 4:561). Christie vilified teachers when he demanded that teachers accept a wage and benefit freeze or else their local school systems would lose state funding. When teachers refused they were scorned in their communities.2). Teachers lost their crediblity within their communities and the trust of many who pay taxes to support local school districts.3). We don't have a viable alternative to property taxes because NO ONE, not Democrats or Republicans, have the intestinal fortitude to change the tax structure. They are many ways to fund school systems that would not rely on property taxes, but they are not politically easy decisions to make.4). The NJEA is no different than any other union in the country, they speak for and stand up for their members. NJ is not a Right To Work State, so if a person seeks a job that is unionized they have no choice but to join that union, people know that before taking the job, it doesn't matter if you are a teacher, fireman, police officer or janitor of an office building. All union members benefit from being in the union whether they agree with the leadership or not, that is why they call it collective bargaining.

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