Teach Your Children Well

My grandmother taught in an elementary school in New Jersey oldteachimmediately upon graduating from college, and she retired just a few years ago.  Her experience was warm, encouraging and incredibly rewarding.  Nowadays, when my family and grandparents meet for dinners at the convenient Italian restaurant located midway between Westfield and Monroe Township, NJ, she has the most to say about the American education system.

In our conversations, elementary school teacher salaries are the most popular topics.  While my grandmother received a relatively more generous compensation package in teaching for over 35 years at Robertsville Elementary School in Marlboro Township, NJ, she noted the uneven and neglected pay system for educators nationwide.  According to Salary Wizard by salary.com, an IBM subsidiary, the median expected salary for a typical teacher in public elementary schools is $51,816.  In digging a bit deeper, public school teacher wages are widely varied geographically across the U.S., with South Dakota earning about $34,000 annually, while California and New York hitting roughly $70,000 annually, according to a 2012 NSF report.  Also, teaching salaries have only rose 5% between 2000 and 2010, in constant dollars, which are adjusted for inflation.  In comparison, and still relatively mediocre, real wage growth in the U.S. has risen nearly 10%, or double that of teachers, over the same period.  Productivity has soared to 25%, which means average workers and teachers are working longer and harder in their daily jobs.

While one can pour over endless mounds of statistics about average teachers’ pay and conditions, it is clear that America’s educators of our future contributors to society are underpaid, underappreciated and disincentivized to enter this noble field.  Future teachers explore far and wide to find suitable working locations to meet the needs of themselves and their families.  As teaching young people is such an honorable and selfless career, I feel both proud and saddened that my grandmother dedicated her entire life to helping young people learn and succeed.


5 thoughts on “Teach Your Children Well

  1. Great digging into statistics. I am not sure the productivity measure is relevant for teachers. What does it mean to be more productive? More kids in a classroom? That would actually run counter to evidence of good outcomes.

    Lots of people think teachers should be paid if students perform “better.” WHat does that mean though? Would you disincentivize teachers to go to the schools with lowest achieving students? But, as a society, don’t we need best teachers in schools with neediest kids?

  2. I think this is a really important topic and one that has been the topic of discussion at my family’s dinner table often as well. (My oldest sister has a teaching degree and is searching for a job in New Jersey.) It does seem unfair that educators are often underpaid while most cannot argue that their jobs are among the most important in our society. Without competent and passionate teachers, how could students learn enough to go on and be successful in other, also very important, careers? Thanks for posting this!

  3. Scott,
    It also amazes me to know that America’s educators are receiving such little compensation for such important work. It is always great to hear about teachers, such as your grandmother, who dedicate their lives to expanding the knowledge of today’s youth. Your use of outside resources provided great support to your argument that teachers of today need to be more justly compensated. Although our country is currently attempting to improve the educational system, it must find ways to keep teachers interested in not only teaching “elite” students, but also those who are less fortunate.

  4. I think this topic is related to ethic reasoning as well. Teachers, considered to be one of the most ethic-needed jobs, is an essential part of today’s society. However, most teachers’ rights are not protected today. This does not only happen in States, but also other countries. Teachers, with the faith in education, should be rewarded in a reasonable sense. I believe that most teachers are not educating only for money, but more for their passion in education. However, it is always hard for people to survive in such industry with their passions. Reasonable compensations should be given so that no one would give up this career path simply because of they can no longer afford the opportunity cost. The authority should see the long-term profits instead of the short-term overall.

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