Teachers are often called “glorified babysitters” by those who devalue the efforts educators. Due to this common preconception by both cynical politicians and an uninformed general public diminishing the actual work put forth by teachers there is a meme in circulation taking the babysitter comparison to heart.
The meme uses some very simple, rounded numbers that include no citations and the math works out something like this
8 hour day
190 days per year
25 students per class
380,000$ expected salary to babysit students
That seems pretty extreme. Granted, the idea of teachers being babysitters is a pretty extreme idea in the first place so a bit of hyperbole might be in order. But, let’s try citing some real world numbers and come up with a calculation that is a bit more tangible.
7.25$/hr Federal Minimum Wage
6.5 hours of “instructional time” (time between the school bells) according to the Center for Public Education
180 “instructional school days” (days when students are in class) documented by the ETC
25 Students Per Class (retaining the meme’s number because it is closer to the cumulative primary and secondary school average of 24.2 documented by the USDOE-NCES. NCES breaks it down as 21.4 primary and 26.8 secondary while OECD calculates an 27 student average per public school class)
179,437.50$ expected salary to babysit students
When using these more realistic numbers still actually produces a fairly high expected wage, especially when compared against these numbers
55,000$ average annual teacher salary according to the NLB
59,039$ is the average income for all earners in the US according to the Census Bureau
However, suppose we decide that there are some fundamental issues with the underlying calculation in the meme. Such that:
- There is an economy of scale or other valuation of resource allocation at play that would negate the per-student wage breakdown during allocated “instructional time” hours.
- Not all of a teacher’s time is spent on strictly on “instruction time.” Teachers contractual requirements which should be calculated into their wage distribution include non-instructional time such as mandated administrative tasks (eg, staff meetings), mandated professional development, required participation in extracurricular offerings, etc.
This would reduce the salary to the more standard concept of per-hour worked basis that matches what we’re more used to calculating work value at.
While we are leveling that playing field, lets also qualify the following pieces of information when referring to “Teachers” from here on out:
Public School Teachers are generally required regulatory, statutorily or contractually to have a Bachelor’s Degree, or, in rare cases equivalent certification in certain jurisdictions, in order to receive their accreditation or license to teach in any given district. So we should compare populations beginning with minimum education level equivalents since Teachers have a minimum level in order to enter the field.
- We are looking at the available information for full-time, licensed, Public School Teachers K-12 since this is what is most available in the public record. It dos not include private, charter, parochial, GED programs or other alternatives to public primary and secondary school educations as well as pre-and-post primary and second education even if publicly funded (eg, Pre-K, AP, etc), and doesn’t include adjunct, assistant, associate or supplemental educational staff (eg. Classroom Assistants or Teacher’s Assistants such as for special needs, ESL, etc), administrators, social workers or other professionals in the Public K-12 system.
Bachelor’s Degree Recent Graduate
50,500$ starting salary for a recent Bachelor’s Degree recipient averaging the very similar National Association of Colleges and Employers, National Center for Education Statistics and Collegiate Employment Research Institute reports.
38.5 hours per week average according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.
7.7 hours per day (eg 9A to 5P w/ unpaid breaks) when dividing the BLS hours number against a 5 day work week
48 weeks per year average according to Bureau of Labor Statistics
240 days worked per year when dividing BLS weeks number against a 5 day work week
1,848 hours per year worked when calculated out
27.35$ hourly starting wage for an average Bachelor’s Degree recipient
10 hour per day (eg 8A to 6P) when averaging self-reported surveys such as from Glass Door,
50 hours per week when multiplying Survey hours against a 5 day work week
50 weeks per year assuming a 2-week vacation with absolutely no other time off
250 days worked per year when dividing the weeks assumption against a 5 day work week
2,500 hours per year worked when calculated out
20.22$ hourly starting wage for an average Bachelor’s Degree recipient
23.785$ hourly average of the two Bachelor’s Degree recipient calculations
38,600$ starting salary for a new teacher according to the BLS.
6.5 hours of “instructional time” (time between the school bells ie 9A to 330P) according to the Center for Public Education
180 “instructional school days” (days when students are in class) documented by the ETC
1,170 hours per year worked when calculated out
32.99$ hourly starting wage for teacher
You’re probably thinking that looks pretty good compared to the average Bachelor’s Degree recipient. However, the presumptions on hours per day and days per year are woefully incomplete as factually teachers are contracted or legislatively mandated or otherwise required legally to work time beyond that of “instructional hours.” and as such it is the combination of instructional and non-instructional hours that they are being paid for. So, let’s do a simple correction here:
9 work hours per day using the NEA and the UTF both estimates of the instructional hours and required administrative hours (ie 7A to 4P)
192 mandated work days based on a summary of public contracts aggregated through BLS reporting
1,728 hours per year worked when calculated out
22.34$ hourly starting wage for teacher
10.5 work hours as estimated by independent researchers, union self-reporting averages and other calculations of contractually mandated plus situationally required plus volunteered time spent.
210 work days based on an estimation by the UFT, NEA and independent researchers as a calculation of contractually mandated plus situationally required plus volunteered time spent
2205 hours per year worked when calculated out
17.51$ hourly starting wage for teacher
19.925 hourly average of the two Teacher’s salary calculations
19.37% premium an average Bachelor’s Degree recipient earns compared to Teacher
or alternatively speaking
-16.22% less in wages are earned by a Teacher compared to an average Bachelor’s Degree recipient
Even if we were to add in that ridiculously inaccurate, extreme hourly wage interpretation for teachers that leaves off a portion of their paid hours worked it only brings the three calculation average to being in-line with an average Bachelor’s Degree recipient.
Arguably, teachers are starting out well below their peers in other professions so it only stands to reason that with experience they would likely continue to lag behind their peers in wage increases and related financial advancement.
59,124$ is the average income for 33% of earners in the US who possess a Bachelor’s Degree according to the Census Bureau.
58,950$ average annual teacher salary according to the NEA (which, you’ll note is higher than the BLS rate cited above).
At first blush, it would appear that experienced accredited teachers earn roughly the same as their Bachelor’s Degree peers on average. However, it should be noted that according to the NCES 74% of teachers possess additional certifications beyond their Bachelor’s while 56% of teachers possess a Master’s Degree or higher while an additional estimated 10% of teachers posses multiple Bachelors degrees (eg BA Teaching + BS in Biology).
69,732$ is the average income for 18% of earners in the US who possess a Master’s Degree according to the Census Bureau.
84,396$ is the average income for the less than 10% of earners in the US who possess a doctorate, professional or other advanced degree according to the the Census Bureau.
Unfortunately, teacher’s average salaries aren’t typically broken down by degree type, so it’s difficult to do an accurate comparison of experienced teacher’s value to that of their equivalent non-teacher by education level value.
92,920$ the BLS calculation of the average of the top 10% of teacher’s salaries.
Generally, there’s also no distinction here between years of service, level of education, teacher’s specialty, physical location of the district (remembering it’s effect on Cost of Living), etc. which could all be factors in producing these salaries.
125,750$ BLS calculation for the average salary of the top ten highest paid mid-career Master’s Degrees (eg