Posts Tagged ‘economics and education’

Nickels and Dimes and Pennies; The Real Cost of a Teacher.

February 27, 2011

So I started to think about teachers as the CAUSE OF ALL ECONOMIC PROBLEMS IN THE U.S. today ( At least this is the image that is being projected today). I considered my salary and whether I was ripping off the taxpayers in California… who pay about $9,000 per student a year for each student’s education.

(Source: I decided to examine this question through several lenses.

Lens One

Using high-end figures for my analysis, my salary and benefits would equal $100,000. For clarity and simplicity I have used rounded numbers for this discussion. To begin with I teach 200 students a day for 180 days. When I divide $100,000 by these numbers I come to a daily cost of $2.78 per student per day. Now since I have reached the top of my district’s pay scale, most of the teachers at my site earn less than I do. But let’s err on the high side and say that on average teachers at my school cost the tax payer $2.50 per class for each student’s teacher. Students at my school have 7 classes a day so the teachers’ salaries (including all benefits) would cost the taxpayer $17.50 a day or$ 87.50 a week or $350.00 a month. I am paid 10 equal payments throughout the year which means $3,500.00 is the cost of a child’s teacher at my site for an entire year.

 Question …where is the other $5,500 spent?

Is a child’s education in my class worth a parent passing up a Starbucks…or a Big Mac…or a trip on the Metro? Is the cost of a day of education for a child worth a pair of movie tickets…or two margaritas…or having someone clean half your house?

Sidebar: Considered another way… the amount of money my district receives for 11 of my 200 students would cover the cost of my salary and benefits for a year.

Now let’s return to my data. You could say I cost each parent of each student in my class $2.78 a day. I spend 45 minutes instructing that child. This does not include the time spent planning and researching and grading any assignment your student is given. It does not include the hour and a half minimum I spend every day after school working with students who need extra help or a place to work or to access the technology or supplies they need in order to complete their homework. Also be aware that I have the same educational experience as a lawyer. I have a BA, a credential, a CLAD certificate, and a MS. That is 8 years of college level work. I have 36 years of experience. I belong to professional organizations, read current literature, and attend conferences to improve my practice.

Question…Which doctor, lawyer, accountant, or therapist would  you expect to provide 45 minutes of services at a cost of $2.78?

Lens Two

Next I considered my salary through another lens. How much does each student cost the tax payer for the hours I work?

Once again I will use the $100,000 figure for my salary and benefits and the 200 figure for my number of students. (My actual student number is 197 by the way).  If I add up the actual hours I work the average would be 10 hours a day. For the purposes of this discussion I will not include my weekend hours.

Next I did the math.

100,000/10=10,000 salary divided by months

10,000 /4= 2,500 cost per week

2,500/5=500 cost per day

500/10=50 cost per hour

50/200=.25  This is the cost to the taxpayer per student per hour for me to prepare, instruct, and evaluate  a child’s learning.

Question… How many minutes at a parking meter is that or how many minutes on a dryer at a Laundromat?

By the way if I completed this process using my 7 hour contracted day the cost comes to .33 cents per student per hour.
My Conclusion

I am a bargain for the taxpayers and for the children that I teach. As we work as a nation to improve economic conditions let’s not nickel and dime the education of our children. That would be “penny wise and pound foolish” (Burton).

Apples to Apples

February 13, 2011

Apples to Apples

Let’s compare apples to apples. This is what I think whenever I hear one of those dire comparisons between the public schools in the United States and India…or China…or Japan…or Finland.  Without exception the US stats pale in comparison. But are we comparing the same populations?  Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit a high school in Shanghai. It was impressive. I observed diligent students in well run classrooms; computer use by all students; high college entrance rates.  Definitely this was a high performing public school.  Or was it something else? As I passed other schools in Beijing where students hung out of third story windows cleaning the outer panes, I wondered would these young people soon be in high schools. The group I was with did not visit these schools, but I learned through conversations and observation that they would not. I learned that the school I observed in Shanghai was more akin to a prep school in the US than it was to any American public high school. Not only were young people winnowed out of schools into the workforce as early as middle school age, entrance into elite public high schools like the one I saw in Shanghai required a substantial payment. Yes there are scholarships available to needy students, but the majority of poorer students will enter the workforce or attend inferior high schools that limit college opportunity.  In more ways than one they were being hung out to dry.  How many of these students were included in the PISA and TIMSS results? How many of these students took the test.?

American schools educate the entire population into high school. There is no active institutional winnowing into career paths. American schools educate the entire barrel of apples. We do not hand pick a few golden ones. And yet the beauty of educating everyone through high school is also our greatest challenge. Meeting the needs of a diverse population; ridding our system of the passive filters that limit opportunities for some while enhancing opportunities for others; developing competent and passionate educators with high expectations for all; achievement gaps; digital gaps…the challenges are many and in these economic times they might seem insurmountable , but it must be achieved if this democracy is to remain vibrant. 

I am proud that we educate all of our students. I am proud that anyone at any point in their life can reenter our educational system. I embrace our “all apples” approach and as an educator I am determined to address the challenges educating everyone poses because the alternative of education for a select few  is the true danger to us as individuals and as a society.

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post has a recent article that addresses a similar idea. It is an interesting read.

What are your thoughts?

Bored Board…or…when good men(and women) do nothing evil will prevail.

February 17, 2010

This weekend all the teachers in our union were alerted that job cuts would be on the school board agenda and enjoined us to attend the meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 pm, to present a united front. A familiar scenario I am sure in these tough times. Although the room was packed, SRO at some points, about half were parents. Many of them were familiar faces. I only saw one face from my school whose job is in danger.

Now I know we all have busy schedules and I am certain some teachers whose jobs are at risk have legitimate reasons for not attending, but I found it concerning  that more were not there.  In total about 10% of the teachers at  my site attended. I also found it concerning that two board members had absolutely NOTHING to say! One even got up and left the room several times…cell phone perhaps? (How much does this person really care about the students?) Finally at 10pm the topic we were all here for came up…the three board members who seemed to have voices (one seemed simply to be making talking points for  a future campaign run for higher office)…talked about hotlines for savings ideas, tie breaking mechanisms for firing, increasing class size, etc…all familiar territory. Nothing new was garnered, except  a proposal to make one of the ways the district would break a tie (2 people with the same amount of senioritiy) is how well the teachers incorporate technology in their rooms. Does this mean I will be getting that Smart Board I have been asking for? Why do I doubt this? Is it fair to decide someone’s fate on something not everyone in this district has equal access to? Who will be the determiner of effective use of technology integration? What is their experience with technology as  an effective instructional tool…hmmm… the digital divide expands  into teacher practice.

No one acknowledged the proverbial elephant in the room. Why is seniority the only inviolate indicator of keeping a teacher? Why are ineffective teachers going to be retained while those who have consistently demonstrated their effectiveness being let go? What would it take to revisit this age old tenet that allows for rubber rooms in NYC and teachers whose repeated missteps cost the district tens of thousands (probably more) in lawyers fees to fire? Tenure needs to be modified…not abandoned, but modified. The current economic crisis in schools underscores this. The economic crisis in my district is only further evidence that the tenure system is broken. Our students would be better served if the 5 teachers at my site whose jobs are most at risk are kept and 5 less effective teachers who shun any PD or research based approach are released. This is the elephant. Will we continue to ignore it and thereby feed it until it crushes the children and profession we so believe in?

I write this as I listen to a talking head on the morning news tell us how the stimulus package has saved jobs, especially those in education I wonder which disticts have benefited? I do not know of many…hmmm…I am reminded of the “Emperors New Clothes”