When I hang out with my friends who are teachers, I always offer to pay for whatever it is we're doing. I've been in their shoes so I know they're not exactly rolling in dough. Even U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that teacher salaries should start at $60,000 and educators should have the opportunity to earn up to $150,000 in merit pay.
This statement was good news for a profession that has a hard time attracting and keeping top talent because it can't compete with the private sector. Except, it turns out, there's one teacher that disagrees. According to Michael Bromley, a Washington D.C.-based educator, today's teachers are way overpaid.
Nevermind that according to PayScale, first-year teachers are only earning a median salary of $34,635. Once you take out deductions for taxes and benefits, you're not making much. In my last job as a teacher, my net pay was around $1,800 per month—and I bought supplies and materials for my students out of my check. Even when you factor in the pay increases you get for staying on the job, last year the average salary for the nation's 3.6 million teachers was only $55,350. But, as Bromley writes in a guest column for Education Week, "teachers are over-paid. Truly, we are."
And, says Bromley, since teachers frequently say that you can't put a value on the job they do, it makes no sense to say that they're underpaid. "To argue that teachers are underpaid defies logic and means nothing: based on what? Oh, teachers are socially important, so they should be well-paid," he says.
With that kind of logic, I can't help but wonder how we'd measure the worth of any public servant. Are firefighters, police officers, and teachers not valuable because, unlike investment bankers, they're not producing profit? But Bromley doesn't stop there—he even has advice on who teachers should marry. "Go for investment bankers, physicians, lawyers, you know, people who actually work for a living," he writes.
So is he serious? Education Week commenter "lscott" notes the similarities between Bromley's remarks and Jonathan Swift's 1729 satire, A Modest Proposal. However, instead of recommending that starving Irish people eat their children as Swift did, Bromley gamely suggests that districts fire half the teachers and pay the remaining ones more money.
What makes it difficult to discern whether this is indeed satire is that in the current education reform climate, even smart thinkers like Bill Gates have made these kinds of suggestions. And, there are too many people who cling to the erroneous notion that teachers are just whiners who go home at 3:00 p.m. and spend their summers lounging by the pool. I suppose they just turn a blind eye when excellent teachers leave the profession because the paycheck is too small to make ends meet.
Whether satire or totally serious, let's hope that Bromley's readers assume that when he makes his outrageous suggestion that teachers are overpaid, he's actually mocking that very idea.