[Susan notes: The writer makes many excellent points to counter the truly stupid letter from the Cato Institute. A lot of educators have written. It will be interesting to see how many the Washington Post publishes.]
Submitted to Washington Post but not published
While noting that the $49,000 that the twenty eight year old special education teacher in your article was paid was “not bad,” Mr. McCluskey failed to place this in a responsible context. At twenty eight, I would assume that this teacher has had several years of experience and perhaps holds an advanced degree. What is the salary range for similarly educated individuals in the Washington area? What salaries do less educated public sector employees in the same community receive?
According to the Washington Metropolitan Police website, “After 18 months of service, most police officers can expect to earn a base salary of more than $43,375 a year.” This, of course, does not include overtime pay for extra details. The website also notes that police are compensated from the time they enter the academy; thus, they begin collecting salaries before they are fully prepared for their positions. Fire fighters are similarly paid, and according to recent stories in the Washington papers, they, too, are able to accrue double to triple salaries by working overtime.
Teachers not only receive no compensation for working beyond their assigned hours, but they also typically spend thousands of dollars of their own money each year to furnish their classrooms with the supplies that school budgets fail to provide. Whether purchasing books for classroom libraries or buying crayons, rulers, pencils and paper to supplement depleted stores, teachers willingly fill in ever increasing gaps because of their dedication to their profession.
Unlike other public servants, teachers do NOT receive a salary while they train for their careers, and most districts no longer have the money to assist them while they pursue the advanced degrees necessary to allow them to be considered “highly qualified.” Further education is necessary for educators to remain current in their fields and to maintain their certification, and tuition for courses at institutions of higher education is substantial. Furthermore, while other professions have wide ranging pay scales, veteran teachers who are employed for many years cannot look forward to substantial financial gains as they accrue seniority.
I have been an educator for thirty years; I have taught at the elementary and high school levels, and I earned my doctorate nine years ago. Early in my career, the town in which I was employed had to change its residency requirements because teachers could not afford to live in the community in which they worked. I am currently a tenured college faculty member, and I supplement my salary by teaching graduate courses each semester as well as in the summer. I earn less than sixty thousand dollars a year. Just as when I taught in the public schools, I receive no additional compensation for serving as an advisor to student organizations, for staying into the night to meet with students, or for work that I complete over the summer.
Before calling $49,000 “not bad,” I would urge Mr. McCloskey to address these issues and to compare his own salary with that of teachers with similar seniority. I believe that even he would be appalled.
Jeri Gillin, Ed.D.