Friday, September 14, 2012

That's not enough for you?

As I've been watching coverage of the teachers union strike in Chicago I haven't been able to get out of my head is why the reporters covering the issue are inadequately bitter.

I prefer neutral reporting, don't get me wrong, but when a group of people who make $71,000 a year on average, collect a generous heap of benefits and enjoy a crazy amount of time off take to the streets to say they want more I don't understand why the impoverished ink knights writing about the issue aren't disgusted with the situation.

Maybe it's because too many times I've driven to schools with a car older than the students inside and had to park between gleaming modern wheels and the occasional Toyota Prius. Maybe it's because they get 12 weeks off every year and I've had at least two days of work each week since I started my current job in May 2011. Maybe it's because everyone in the nation swoons over the idea of a teacher layoff while I silently watch my industry implode. Maybe it's because it's easier to break out of prison than it is to fire one of them while I have no such protection. Maybe it's because about a third of the teachers I've interviewed over the years are simpletons. Whatever it is, I don't pity them.

Nationally, the average elementary school teacher makes $51,380 and the average high school teacher makes $53,230. That should sound like untold riches to the average reporter who makes $36,000 and only a trickle of the non-monetary forms of compensation like time off, gold-plated health care plans and other benefits.

I realize teachers are not as wealthy as the bank executives, investment brokers or business owners that journalists normally seethe over, but they certainly aren't middle class. If two average teachers marry, their incomes will be in the top 15 percent of household incomes, while a two-journalist household will fall a little short of breaking into the top third. Again, this does not include benefits.

So tell me fellow reporters, why don't you see these union protesters for what they are: a greedy, privileged cabal? I realize president Barack Obama is uncharacteristically prevented from taking sides on this issue because he has ties to both sides, but you don't share that problem. As much as we love the good work teachers do, how can we let them go on about how it's in the children's interest to pay them even more when they already have it so much better better than we do?


  1. Love this post, mate.

  2. It could be that teachers are far more important than journalists, that journalism is not that difficult, that some journalists only have to work 2 days a week, that teachers work after hours at school as well as at home, that...

  3. Listen liberal Michael, no one is denying that teachers are important but their importance doesn't does not give them a blank check, nor does it automatically entitle them to a 25% pay increase next year, especially in a district where teachers make gobs of money already and the school department is bankrupt.

    The sticking point at the moment, while 350,000 children go without schooling, is teacher evaluations. The union wants none. Tell me in as condescending a tone as you can manage with a keyboard, how the students are served by that.

    No one pays taxes to hire teachers, we pay taxes to educate children. If the 29,000 teachers in Chicago don't want to work for what is far more than just compensation, there are plenty of others who will. Hell, for pay and benefits approaching $100,000 on average, I'd probably consider a move.

  4. M-Hawk, compensation package is not a measure of their value to society, but the amount of resources needed to fill the position. If it's hours on the job you care about, everyone in my office works more hours per year, including at home, than any public school teacher in the country and receives less pay.

    Let's be consistent. If a journalist is going to be bitter about a hard-working business owner or corporate executive's salary, then when the same person hears the phony pity story from Chicago they should quickly do the math and realize they have it worse.

  5. Hours on the job was just one aspect of my post. I also pointed out that their jobs are more important than yours. In other words, that could be part of the reason you don't see journalists - other than yourself - comparing apples and oranges.

    But as for hours on the job, I went about polling my high school teachers back in my days roaming the Cony halls. I asked them what they thought their pay would be per hour if they broke it down that way. Most of the answers were between 8 and 10 dollars.

    I've already answered the issue you raise in your second paragraph in the above post, but I'm going to repeat myself for your sake: Insofar as journalists are "bitter"* about CEO salaries and not teacher salaries, one reason is that the two jobs are not the same. You are comparing apples and oranges.

    *Another reason for this lack of perceived bitterness could be the fact that we don't all watch FOX Noise as much as you clearly do, so we aren't all necessarily aware of every made-up slight the LIBERAL LAMESTREAM MEDIA!!! has made against you patriotic conservatives in the past 3 hours.

  6. Are you sure liberal Michael? School teachers have a more important job than journalists?

    Why than did our founders see fit to guarantee the freedom of the press? I see nothing about the "freedom of academics" or any entitlement to a socially funded education. We need only look to the Hitler youth to see the most well known bad example of what can result from government control of the youth. I'm not saying that public schools are the equivalent, just so we are clear on that point, just giving an example.

    For my part, if I had to choose between having journalists and teachers, I would pick the journalists every time. Thankfully no such choice will ever be presented to any of us, that would be preposterous. In reality the importance of the two professions can't be compared. Compensation can be, but as conservative Michael pointed out, compensation is a function of the difficulty in filling a position.

    If it went strictly on this nebulous concept of societal importance the highest wages would probably go to soldiers or perhaps farmers, ranchers and the like.

  7. "Why than did our founders see fit to guarantee the freedom of the press?"

    So your argument is that the importance of something is dependent upon government action regarding it?

  8. Mr. Hawkins, I think you should check the math before you give out teachers' opinions as to how much they make per hour. The numbers don't match.

    If a teacher makes $10 per hour, on average, at an average wage of around $51,000 per year,[1] they would have to work 5100 hours. If they worked 52 weeks per year, they would be working 98 hours every week (5100 hours / 52 weeks = ~98 hours per week). Alternatively, that's 14 hours a day, every day of the year.

    Instead, teachers work 5 days a week (excluding marking, lesson plans, and extracurriculars) and get around 13 weeks off each year (excluding holidays and varying by jurisdiction). Ten in the summer, one in the spring, and two around Christmas. So they work not 52 weeks per year, but 39. Assuming for a second they do all their marking and lesson planning during the weeks they teach, they're working 18-hour days for seven days each week for 39 weeks . . . IF they're making a wage of $10 per hour. (5100 hours / 39 weeks = ~130 hours per week. 130 hours per week / 7 days per week = ~18.5 hours per day.)

    I'll be generous in what I think teachers actually work. If they work five 12-hour days each week they work - not an unreasonable estimate for a new teacher who hasn't got a stable lesson plan yet and who's taking on extracurriculars - then that's 60 hours per week for 39 weeks. That's 2340 hours per year (60 hours x 39 weeks). At $51,000 per year, that's making almost $22 per hour. You can play around with the estimate of how long they work each week if you like,[2] but the reasonable numbers come nowhere close to a wage of $8-$10 per hour.

    Either your teachers were grossly underpaid compared to the national average, were bad at math, or just made up a number when you asked.

    I have no intention of joining your debate on the merits of journalists siding with or against teachers or about whose job is more important, but the numbers you gave. Ow. They hurt me.

    [1] See Mr. Hartwell's links above for the stats. I used the rounded-down elementary school wage for simplicity.

    [2] At 70 hours a week - presumably a teacher making their first lesson plans - it would be around $18.50 per hour. A teacher making their first lesson plans hasn't gone up the payscale very far (starting wage in Ontario is $39,000), but even at that wage for 70 hours per week, that's $14 an hour. At the de jure numbers - 6-7 hours per day, five days a week, 39 weeks per year - teachers make $43.50/hour on average. (30 hours a week x 39 weeks per year = 1170 hours. $51,000 / 1170 hours = ~43.5. If you substitute 40 for 30, it's ~$32/hour over the year.)

    tl;dr: Your numbers are insanely off, Mr Hawkins.

  9. Or I took that informal poll in 2004 when the average was 41,000 for the whole state. "The whole state" being important because higher salaries and higher concentrations of teachers will be located in southern Maine, thus skewing the numbers upward for my teachers in central Maine. Moreover, many of the teachers at my high school came in around 6:30 and didn't usually leave until 4:30 or later. Many of them also doubled as coaches for various sports, thus giving a few go-getters even longer days, plus the occasional weekend, depending on the sport. Not to mention the fact that about 15-20% of the staff were people my older brother no longer recognized (he graduated four years earlier). And that doesn't even include lesson preparation or grading.

  10. For them to be making $10 an hour at that average wage, they would have to work 4100 hours. Over 39 weeks, that's over 100 hours a week. Even at a wage of $30,000 a year, they'd have to be working 77 hours a week, or over 6 12-hour days.

    Btw, the hours they spend at school but not teaching a class or doing an extracurricular? Often spent on grading and lesson plans. So yes, that time you mentioned does indeed include (some of the) lesson plans and grading, unless in Maine teachers continuously teach from 6:30am to 4:30pm with no break.

  11. Great work Hortensio, comment on the month.

  12. Hortensio - Many of them were new teachers, but none of this really matters. The point stands: They were not highly paid individuals. Moreover, their jobs were more important that that of journalists - especially journalists who only work 2 days a week.

    Hartwell - I'm glad to see you at least don't run away when someone says something that doesn't challenge you.

  13. M-Hawk, I'm always glad to respond to legitimate questions and criticisms, but you routinely pretend a message meant something else and when you receive an answer you ignore it and repeat the question over and over.

    No one has to talk to you on here, and you shouldn't expect serious replies when you are rude and repeat the same things over and over. I haven't banned anyone on here, but your attempts to start flame wars are not welcome here and I am requesting you stop posting here.

    In this thread you're at least trying to make a point - a point that is nonsense because you are relying on bogus data from a high school student and making things up like journalists who work two days a week. Even if that were true, those journalists would most likely not be working 35 hours a week total and would not contribute to the pay average presented above.

    This post said that factually, teachers do get paid more than journalists, and journalists are bitter about people who make more, so why aren't they bitter at the wealthy whiners in Chicago?

    It doesn't matter whose job is harder or who "deserves" more, as journalists don't apply that same standard to other people who earn more like CEOs and business owners.

  14. I routinely ask you to explain quotes. Often you simply say 'Here is what I think and here is a quote that backs that up.' The quote usually says something entirely different and you are unable to explain. Saying "refer to the quote" is not an answer, hence why you get deserved repetition.

    As for "flame wars", I have implied one insult and made another which had a significant point behind it. The first was that I need to repeat the same thing two different ways in order for you to get it. (I then repeated myself.) The second was that you perceive bitterness amongst journalists where it does not necessarily exist. That is, I questioned the very premise of your post because you had not established it anymore so than the GOP has established that the President is actually a socialist or and more so than the Democrats have shown Romney to literally not care about poor people. It's part of your perception, not a fact. I will try to be more clear in those sort of points, but I'm not going to be nice-on-demand. If you wish to continue to use that as an excuse to avoid defending your positions in detail, then so be it.

    "In this thread you're at least trying to make a point - a point that is nonsense because you are relying on bogus data from a high school student and making things up like journalists who work two days a week."

    My point still stands: Teachers work long hours at less pay than they probably deserve; I suspect they work more hours than the average journalist, but no one here has established how many hours journalists actually work. The best we have is your word about your office. I can counter that with my word about the Kennebec Journal's office - an office where my father has worked for ~25-30 years. (Or I can point to the amount of work it took me to put out 6-8 of my own articles in my own publication. Or how much time was required of me to write for the Capital Weekly in the past.) As for the two days a week quip, I'm flattered that you have stolen my rhetoric about 'making things up' - that tells me it was effective against you - but you should refer to your OP. You said you have worked at least two days a week every week since May 2011. Presumably that means there have been times when you have only needed to work 2 days in a week.

    "This post said that factually, teachers do get paid more than journalists, and journalists are bitter about people who make more, so why aren't they bitter at the wealthy whiners in Chicago?"

    Yes, and I responded with a number of points. One is that you are comparing apples and oranges. People, including many journalists, do not feel that teachers are grossly overpaid; even if teachers are paid more than they should be, it is not anywhere near the extent of CEO's and business owners. You have ignored this point.

    (By the by, it's uncivil for me to point out that you need the same point repeated to you over and over, but it's a perfectly gentlemanly thing to call Chicago teachers "whiners"?)

    "It doesn't matter whose job is harder or who 'deserves' more, as journalists don't apply that same standard to other people who earn more like CEOs and business owners."

    What matters is that CEO's and teachers are performing different tasks with different end goals in mind. They are not the same job and they do not deserve the same compensation. Moreover, one of these groups has far more sway with tax policies, regulations, and other laws that impact the lives of everyone else than the other group.

  15. I see your misunderstanding. If I was a teacher in a position for 16 months, I would have on average about 16 weeks of vacation. So far as a journalist I have had zero. I have had the occasional 4-day work week around holidays, which of course involves longer days to plan for the holiday. Last April after 11 months on the job I was able to use three of my six vacation days for the year which gave me a two-day work week. You misunderstood that.

    As I've said several times, it doesn't matter if it's rational for teachers to make more because it's rational for CEO's to make more, but journalists are still bitter about that. This is about consistency.

    I don't feel you add anything of value to conversations here as you leap to conclusions and behave uncivilly. I don't understand your obsession with me, we've met in person twice about two years apart and we don't run in the same social circles.

    Some times I wish to engage with readers about nuanced points, but you want to drag any conversation to the basics. It reminds me of the "Why was I sent to the blog" page on Feminism 101. Sometimes feminists want to discuss feminist issues without having to justify third wave feminism to opponents.

    By the same token, sometimes I want to discuss greedy unions without hearing an uninformed lecture about how teachers are underpaid.

  16. I'm going to agree with Hartwell, regarding your presence in discussions here, Hawkins. As a regular YH&C reader (even though I don't comment much for lack of time), I must admit that it is rare that I see you even on topic. You may be using the same words (E.G. "teacher", "salary", "journalist") but you're talking about completely different subjects...and rudely so.
    It would be one thing if you made excellent points rudely, or irrelevant/incorrect points politely. But, to make irrelevant/incorrect points rudely accomplishes only one thing and that is to cheapen the blog's discourse. Not that I have any authority on the matter, but I wouldn't mind at all if you picked one of the three following options.
    1) Manner up.
    2) Research up.
    3) Get out.
    The first two are much more preferable but I'll take the third if you can't handle the them.
    This is a great blog with great debate. You muddy it.

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. My goodness, Hawkins, this is just childish now. You're out of control.

  19. ...Abner...Damn phone.