Teacher Pay

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My posts on funding Christian education have drawn more attention than I was anticipating. Next week I want to write in greater depth about teacher salaries, but wanted to make just a few quick comments here.

First, it should be taken as a given that a Christian school should remember that it was the Lord who taught that a laborer is worthy of his hire. Underpaying people on purpose is not an exercise in discipleship. The goal of every school board should be to pay their teachers a respectable and generous wage for their services.

Second, it should be obvious that because a school is the kind of service industry it is, the greatest costs associated with the school will be payroll. How much you pay the teachers, and the way you pay them, will have a direct impact on your funding model — which, as I mentioned earlier, is usually either tuition/donation and full tuition. Raising the price of tuition, depending on where you live and how many people live in that area with you, will either lower demand or change the nature of the demand.

Third, money is at the center of this (not surprisingly) but if schools make it just about money, they will not only change the nature of their school, but also the temptation will be set for the wrong kind of teacher. Charles Murray points out in one of his books that teachers historically have been highly honored, but not paid handsomely. In recent years, in the government school system, teachers have unionized, formed themselves into a profession, and been paid very well . . . and are generally despised. An ed degree is frequently ranked down there with a degree in underwater basket weaving.

And last — with more on this to come in the near future — a good school that is operating creatively can figure out ways to provide a very generous income for teachers who are motivated to teach for the right reasons. For just one example, if having your children enrolled in the school is a condition of employment, and tuition of 4K a year is waived for teachers’ kids on top of that, a teacher with four school aged kids can realize 16K in soft benefits. That would be just one example.

And like I said, more to come.

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Matt
Matt
7 years ago

Doug, would you say more about the condition of employment that teachers must enroll their children at the school. Why is that necessary? Are there any conditions to the condition?

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

As a public school teacher for seven years, my experience was not one of being despised. Quite the opposite, I found that my position gave me more respect than I had ever gotten before. To be fair, it was my first professional position ever, but it was eye opening to see how so many adults who were older than me were looking up to me and expecting me to have the answer. I feel like teachers are way underpaid, to be honest, for the work they are expected to perform. The problem is that many in my former profession expect… Read more »

kyle s
kyle s
7 years ago

I’m not sure whether the public school teachers in this video feel despised. It’s more likely they don’t feel anything at all. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/28/a-video-that-shows-why-teachers-are-going-out-of-their-minds/

RonH
RonH
7 years ago

I’m glad to see the economics of classical Christian education getting some play here.  I’d dearly love to put my kids in such a school, but here in the Dallas area I’m looking at around 10K per kid (I have three).  It’s just not feasible (and for comparison: 30k/year invested at 5% for 12 years is almost a cool half-million…).  My wife’s been involved in two start-up classical schools in the area that simply couldn’t survive.  In our market, classical ed is a luxury good, pure and simple.

David Douglas
David Douglas
7 years ago

Thanks, Doug. //It looks like the 3rd point got swallowed up in a cut/paste that did not paste.  That may have been the most critical point.  But I appreciate the clarification now in the on-going series.  Looking forward to it.

Roger Keane
Roger Keane
7 years ago

Paid “very well” is a bit of a stretch.  I know it varies from state to state and place to place, but here in my most definitely NON-unionized school system, a teacher with 10 years experience and a master’s degree would make about $45,000.  I realize that’s not poverty, but “paid handsomely” is pushing it when the median, not the mean, masters degree wage earner makes about $20,000 more than that.

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

RonH, You have landed directly on the problem with classical Christian private school education. It is usually well-above the price that most can afford. The teachers are paid modestly at best, if not poorly, and therefore the quality of teachers is modest at best, if not poor. Classical schools either become a haven for the elite, which has happened in many areas, or they go out of business. So then what happens to the droves of children in evangelical churches? They go to the public school which systematically tries to destroy the worldview of their parents, and it seems recently… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
7 years ago

Roger, the average master degreed worker also works a full year and probably many hours of overtime on his salaried job. I was a science teacher in the 80’s. There is a lot of extra work for the first years. Once you get that mastered the workload drops off dramatically. My salary was 11k. But I knew that going in and so I believe it would have been wrong to complain about my pay. If I wanted more I could have gone into the private sector which I eventually did.

carole
carole
7 years ago

BJ, I was glad you mentioned homeschooling at the end.  One thing to remember is the plethora of online options now.  Logos, Roman Roads, Veritas…  there are so many options available. This is the way  education is going even at the government schools (of course they just heard about Khan, and as always are many years behind).  Also, I don’t think that a low salary necessarily means poor teaching.  There are those who see it as a ministry.

Roger Keane
Roger Keane
7 years ago

Well, Jeff, not to hijack this thread and make it about the teacher pay debate, but let me do this: I am a band director.  For the above mentioned salary, I have 205 contract days, plus 9 all-day Saturdays in the fall (fall camps and competitions), 9 more in the spring (all-state, all-region, etc.) and usually a few days of work in the summer, let’s say 5.  That’s 228 days.  If someone works all year minus weekends, let’s say 4 holidays, and 2 weeks of vacation, that’s 365 days minus 118, which is 247 days.  So at the end of… Read more »

carole
carole
7 years ago

Roger, do you mind if I ask what you have your Masters in and how long it took to get it.  I mention it because there are many teacher’s with an MA in Education, that took one year to earn with frankly very little effort.  My point is not all masters are of equal weight.  Teaching is hard, very hard if you do it well, but what makes it hard is not the intellectual effort it requires, in my opinion. Btw, in Ca you would almost double your salary.

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

Carole, Ultimately homeschooling is the default position of the bible. Honestly, the Word does not seem to indicate anything other than parental responsibility for education. However, as a church (corporately speaking) one of the reasons we are losing the worldview battle is a serious lack of education. Churches have turned to entertainment instead of education. I am just not sure what the proper response should be.

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

Jeff, you prove my point about keeping good teachers. Had there been adequate compensation comparable to the amount of work performed and the level of education required you would have stayed a teacher. I did the same myself. I left for better pay, plain and simple. But if we want the best teachers, the most professional, the most well trained teachers, we have to pay them as much or more than they can make elsewhere. Or the marketplace will take them away. You can only lean so far on a person’s goodwill. Also, every teacher that I knew who was… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
7 years ago

It was more than the money. Those who have taught know the frustrations of the government educational system. These  well documented and need no redux here. No insinuation Observation about hours worked. You are correct. There is some correlation between hours and quality. As we know the mechanism for weeding out poor educators does not exist.

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago

I am proud to say that the classical Christian school that my children attend is growing thriving and is not a haven for the elite. It is probably one of the most affordable schools in the country. The average family that attends the school is not what you would call “well off” and even the families with numerous children are able to send all their kids to the school. I believe that this is because our church sees it as their duty to help parents educate their children in the ways of the Lord. My husband and I relocated our family across the country for this purpose. We have learned so… Read more »

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

Jeff, you are spot on. I realize that my comments about teacher pay are perhaps oversimplified. I stand by what I said, but you are correct in saying that there are ridiculous hoops in the governmental system. I actually received an email from the State Educational Psychologist in Virginia (where I taught) that gave guidance on questioning in the classroom. That guidance was that we should not ask questions directly to students and we should avoid calling on them by name. The fear was that they would be embarrassed by the attention. I hope that sounds as silly to everyone… Read more »

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
7 years ago

Carole, I agree with you about Masters in education; unless they are specifically for special ed ESL, or administration (such as education finance), the degrees can be a little squishy unless they are in a subject area.   Have you home schooled your sons?  I realized that I have never actually met a child who was home schooled (other than kids on movie sets doing online programs or independent study).  One of the other reasons I decided it was not for my daughter was that our academic interests run along the same lines, and neither of us is particularly disciplined or… Read more »

David C Moody
David C Moody
7 years ago

Pastor Wilson, this is all very well said.  And let me add, in agreement, that the love of money is the root of all evils.  If people are working just for the money, they might be willing to do anything.  They are quite willing to sell their souls for the world, or a mess of pottage.  The limits on how we make our money must always be set by God’s Word.

Paulette Murphy
Paulette Murphy
7 years ago

Jamie: AMEN! The classical, Christian school we attend is not elitist either, even though the annual tuition is around $9,000. We have families at our school who qualify for welfare, families without heat in their homes. We also have a lot of active military and full-time ministry families. These families aren’t even near being the top wage earners. Additionally, the ethnic diversity exactly matches our community–the same percentage of non-Whites. We have been at the school for 12 years, three children, having been one of the founding families. There were only four years of those 12 when we “could afford… Read more »

carole
carole
7 years ago

Hi Jill, RC Sproul jr, I believe, has gone on record stating he believes it is a sin to send your children to government school.  I am not sure I completely agree, because I do want a safety net for women who have been abandoned or are young widows with children and are forced to work outside the home.  I am blessed to be in a position where there is nothing I can conceive of happening that would force me to place my child in the hands of the welfare education department. I even keep my credentials current, just in… Read more »

Luke Nieuwsma
Luke Nieuwsma
7 years ago

Pastor Wilson,
I definitely think you are right that a teacher motivated solely by money would definitely be teaching for the wrong reasons. But after teaching in a classical Christian school setting, I find it hard to believe that this is a problem that many classical Christian teachers are facing. Rather, the comments on this blog seem to echo the much larger problem-which is that schools have a real challenge actually paying a salary that a man could provide for his family with. Do you see The money scenario happening a lot in the ACC S? God bless your evening, Luke

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

Jill, I realize that you addressed your question to Carole, but as a homeschooling Dad I thought I might share my experience. The interests of the parent, whether academic or not, are what makes homeschooling valuable. You have the ability to pass along your excitements and skills very naturally. My father was a skilled bricklayer and mechanic, yet he was not able to pass that along to me very well. He loves them to this day and I was an adult before I was even passingly interested. The freedom to go places and try new things is what keeps homeschooling… Read more »

Dave
Dave
7 years ago

As a former teacher at a classical school, I can say that salaries provide some tough choices both to administrators and faculty. I started teaching fresh from grad school (an MA in classics). As a teacher, I made enough money to cover my bills and save a bit; the salary wasn’t half as bad as I feared beforehand. For a single man with no debt, it was plenty. The calculus changed when I married a few years later. My wife made significantly more money than I did, and it soon became clear that my salary would not be enough to… Read more »

carole
carole
7 years ago

Jill, I didn’t address your concerns about engaging with other minds.  I’m glad BJ did.  Homeschooling is growing by, I believe, 8% a year.  Folks in the educational business know it. There are so many classes, the trouble is deciding what you have time to do.  All museums offer homeschool programs, art studios, nature reserves etc.  These all meet on a regular basis.  In addition, communities with 100s of homeschooling families have started co-ops.  We also have a large speech and debate program here (run by a our local Christian attorneys). The problem that concerns me is the parent who… Read more »