Sadly, the assault on teachers continues. The latest attack, prepared in the guise of a research paper by The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, concludes that public schoolteachers are overpaid to the tune, nationwide, of about $120 billion. That probably comes as a surprise to the 40 percent of so of Texas teachers who have taken second jobs during the school year to make ends meet for their families. But if you are going to spin a yarn, as these conservative “think tanks” set out to do, you may as well make it a whopper.
If you want to read the whole report, it is linked below. Warning: do not read it if you are easily offended or have high blood pressure. The bottom line is that the report is simply another attempt to justify attempts to strip the most experienced teachers of the pay they have earned, reduce or eliminate teachers’ pensions and retiree health care benefits, and undermine unions.
The report says that public school teacher salaries are comparable to similarly skilled workers in the private sector but concludes the big differences in compensation are the “more generous” fringe benefits, including greater job security, afforded teachers.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. This is an attempt to justify the attacks on teacher benefits, collective bargaining and other employment rights carried out earlier this year in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states – and to encourage additional assaults across the country.
“Teacher compensation could therefore be reduced with only minor effects on recruitment and retention,” the report says.
Says who? Texas teachers are not getting rich on their salaries. And, job security for thousands of Texas teachers flew out the window when Gov. Rick Perry signed the current state budget slashing $5.4 billion from public education funding.
“Generous” benefits? Retired teachers in Texas haven’t had a benefit increase in a decade. Most retired teachers in Texas don’t quality for Social Security, so their teacher pensions are a large part of their nest eggs. And, retirees also pay a significant part of their own health insurance premiums.
Despite the academic jargon used by the authors, the effectiveness and production of a teacher simply cannot be determined in terms of dollars and cents by using test scores. And the value of a teacher cannot be based, as the report suggests, on the same “market rates” that apply to insurance clerks, software designers or other private sector workers.
Private sector workers are supposed to help their employers make a profit. Public school teachers are charged with teaching children how to learn so they can build the future, an enterprise that can take years to produce a return. When teachers open that door of opportunity to their students, those young people acquire the skills they need to help their future employers turn a profit or become entrepreneurs themselves.
The report also claims that college teacher preparation curricula are less demanding than many other fields of higher education study. This observation is used as an argument against salary schedules that pay higher salaries to teachers with advanced degrees.
This insult cloaked as “analysis” is just another way of resurrecting that old, discredited taunt, “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” And, that, of course, is preposterous.
That line of flawed “reasoning” ignores the fact that many teachers who obtain advanced degrees do so in science, English and other specialized fields in which they teach. Not every teacher is a rocket scientist, but every rocket scientist received basic educational training from a teacher. And that is priceless knowledge gained from a teacher who was not overpaid.