Are Teachers Overpaid?

Pawlenty in Plainview

 On Thursday April 29th, 2010 Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) spoke to the Plainview City Chamber of Commerce about budgetary issues. One of those issues was education spending and teacher pay. As Pawlenty put it, public employees are “over-benefited and overpaid.” As a supporter of Tim Pawlenty in the past I had to do a double take when I read his comments in the Rochester Post Bulletin (Click Here for Full Article).   Certainly our public school teachers aren’t overpaid and over benefited at my district are they? With the average salary at around $45k per year I would certainly say that isn’t an acurate portrayal of our staff wages. Taking into account the teacher contract is roughly 9 months out of the year that equates to roughly a $60k per year job on average. By no means is that something I would find unreasonable for an educated employee to earn.     

Perhaps teachers are over benefited. Last time I checked teachers at my district get two paid personal days per year and dental insurance. Health insurance is at such a high premium many staff cannot afford this supposed benefit the district provides. Having worked in the private sector I was appalled when I came to work for my school and found my premiums to be this high. I hardly call that a benefit of employment.           

 There are those teachers that aren’t worth what we pay them, then there are those that are worth a lot more than they what we pay them. To say, in general, teachers are overpaid and over benefited simply shows a lack of understanding of where this state currently is and where the rest of the country is. The problem with the state budget is not due to the education system. If Mr. Pawlenty doesn’t feel teachers are worth what they are getting paid, what does he think they are worth?     In the article Pawlenty indicates he would like to link teachers’ pay to student performance. The question is, “How do you determine student performance?” If you say test scores you obviously don’t understand education as much as you think you do. Test scores are only as good as the questions on the test and the group of kids taking the test. I am in favor of performance based pay but I don’t think it should be the states job to determine who does well and who does not. There are plenty of performance based pay programs out there. Allow districts to determine their method and have it approved by the state. Then simply monitor it and ensure it is working. It isn’t as hard as some make it out to be.      

Mr. Pawlenty should have done more research before he blamed teachers of being overpaid and over benefited. The majority of Americans still think teachers are overworked and underpaid. Yes, many don’t understand the job teachers do and think it must be great to have summers off, but remember, teachers don’t get paid for those 3 months they are not on contract. Teachers volunteer a lot of their time to their districts and their students. A teachers’ job does not end at 3:05pm when the students are released. They are public figures just like politicians. They must make certain sacrifices in privacy and free time just to be a teacher. Often teachers must play the part of local politician and role model to children. Most in the private sector do not have to maintain any type of license to keep their job which puts teachers above many private sector jobs in terms of education and qualification. For those reasons I feel teachers as a whole are NOT overpaid or over benefited. It would appear, teachers in my district are UNDER appreciated by our own governor who was supposed to be an advocate for education.             

 Mr. Pawlenty has chosen to blame education for the states’ budgetary issues. Mr. Pawlenty quizzed our district superintendent on whether or not district employees received a salary increase this year. The district did approve a two-year benefits increase of $200k, which averages out to be about a 1%-2% wage increase for each staff member for two years. With the private sector typically expecting at least a 3% hike in pay each year I believe the teachers have done their part to reduce the burden on the state and the district. Cost of living increases affect public sector employees just as much as private. There is no reason employees shouldn’t be able to expect wage increases. Our district has cut $1.3 million from our budget including some staff members. When you look at the big picture it doesn’t seem as though Mr. Pawlenty has a true grasp of what that picture is supposed to look like. As someone who typically runs on the conservative side, I would have to say Mr. Pawlenty has seriously strayed from rational politics and moved into a realm in which, even his strongest supporters cannot ignore his blind tactics anymore. Tim, you need to get a clue on education in general before you generalize education.


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