Why Aren’t Teachers Paid More?

Everywhere you look, people are always saying how important education is and how valuable teachers are to their communities and to the future of our great country, the good old U.S. of A. In order to compete economically on the global stage, we must assure that our youngsters do not fall too far behind their counterparts in Europe and Asia in math and science skills, and blah blah blah. I don’t have to give you the links; such lip service can be found all over this wonderful Internet.

If teachers are really as important as they are cracked up to be, why are they paid such a small fraction of what they ostensibly are worth?

I am a Yankee fan. I know, I know: many of you are booing right now. I’m aware of you Yankee haters. But I can’t help my allegiance to the boys in pinstripes. I grew up in New York watching and cheering on players like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford. I can still picture in my mind old number 37, manager Casey Stengel, his frame slightly bent, slowly walking out to the mound, careful not to step on the chalk of the foul line, to bring in ace relief pitcher Luis Arroyo. Anyway, my favorite Yankee today is Derek Jeter. (Oh, come on, you can’t boo Jeter; he’s such a nice guy.)

All right, now I’ll get to my point: Jeter’s 2010 salary is $22,600,000. And he’s not even the highest paid member of the club. That distinction falls upon Alex Rodriquez, A-Rod for short. He earns, before taxes of course, $33,000,000. That’s thirty-three million dollars in one year! And I’m pretty sure the team provides him with a health plan of some sort, although I did not look that up. But I’ve seen those “trainers” in the dugout, and the TV announcers say that they do such things as rub the players’ feet and ice down pitchers’ aching elbows. That sounds like a pretty nice health package to me. (If I want to ice down my carpal tunnel wrist after grading a stack of freshman essays, I have to do it myself.) And by the way, the lowest paid player on the Yankees makes well over $400,000 this year.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “median annual earnings of all postsecondary teachers in May 2008 were $58,830. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,600 and $83,960. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,850.” Since I am an “adjunct instructor” at two community colleges, which means I work part-time, as around 65% of us do since not too many are hired full-time anymore, I’m pretty darn close to the bottom of the list. Let’s say I make $33,000 per year.

If my basic math memory is intact, a million is a thousand thousand. That means I would have to work a thousand years — a millennium — to make the amount of cash that A-Rod pulls down in a single season playing a little boy’s game in some of the most luxurious sports facilities on earth: major league baseball stadiums. Sometimes my classrooms don’t even have heat in the winter.

Yes, I am convinced that teachers are valuable members of their communities. Follow the money, right? Isn’t that the old saying? Follow the money.