In response to my recent post on public school teachers salaries, a number of commenters came to the defense of the public education establishment. These are people, mind you, who criticize conservatives in general and private Christian educators in particular for a lack of intellectual facility. They criticize these people, but defend a system which scrapes the bottom of the academic barrel when it comes to staffing teaching positions.
Art, a University of Kentucky science professor and veteran member of the Peanut Gallery here, after trying to ignore benefits in his argument that public school teachallenged me to produce some numbers to substantiate my charge that, relative to the private sector (and their educational achievements) public school teachers are not only aren't underpaid, but may, in fact, be overpaid.
So after a little snooping, here are some figures:
According to the Teaching Jobs Portal, the salary for a first year Kentucky teacher with minimal qualifications (and given the level of academic accomplishment for these people, this is pretty low) is $23,848.
The average annual base salary for a KY teacher in 2009 was $46,417. That's with 15 weeks of vacation per year, and a retirement benefit of 2.5 percent of your salary multiplied by the number of years served. In other words, if you work for 25 years, you will make, for your retirement, over 60 percent of your regular salary.
Oh, and that's a guaranteed retirement benefit. The Kentucky Teacher Retirement System provides what is called a defined benefit retirement program. That means that no matter what the return on investment, they will get the 2.5 percent. Private companies, on the other hand, have almost entirely abandoned defined benefit plans because of what happens in times like we're in now, when market conditions result in underfunded plans. They use defined contribution plans (the most popular being 401K plans) where the benefits is determined solely by the amount your account has gained due to the investment return.
I was a corporate trust officer in the late 80s/early 90s and administered retirement plans for small companies. None of our clients used defined benefit plans, and the few big companies that still had them were in the process of phasing them out because they were becoming unaffordable. Except the big companies forced into keeping them by unions, of course.
And then there are the health benefits. I couldn't find any aggregate statistics for health benefits, but suffice it to say public school teachers get a subsidized health care benefit.
The only numbers I could find on comparative salaries between public and privates were from NCES, which reports that "in 2007–08, the average annual base salary of regular full-time public school teachers ($49,600) was higher than the average annual base salary of regular full-time private school teachers ($36,300)." And that latter figure has got to be overstated. I have dealt with a lot of private schools and none of them has a base salary that high. And needless to say, most private school teachers get no retirement benefits or subsidized health care. Nor do they get job protection. Not only that: public school teachers (at least in KY) get tenure after four years.
Maybe Art could tell us what other private professionals make this kind of money combined with these kinds of benefits. How many of them have guaranteed retirement benefits? How many of them get 15 weeks of vacation time? How many have their jobs are protected after four years?
And we haven't even talked about the sorry state of their academic accomplishment--for people responsible for educating our nation's children no less. That's next up.