If You Think Teachers Are Overpaid…Just Wait!

teachers are overpaid

“When it seems too good

You know it might be untrue.”


Dinosaur Feathers

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards on Friday, July 29 and suggested that the starting salary for teachers should be $60,000. Experienced teachers, he said, should have the capacity to earn about $150,000. Bet those remarks were well received.

Just a week earlier, PayScales’s annual report regarding median mid-career salaries of college graduates was released. According to the report, which analyzed data of graduates who had more than ten years of experience in their fields, graduates of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, have a median income of $126,000 per year, highest in the country. What looked like great pay on July 22 doesn’t even come close to what teachers should earn, according to Secretary Duncan’s comments a week later. Hey, kids, wanna earn lots of money? Forget about engineering and science. Become a public school teacher. You’ll leave those guys from Harvey Mudd, Princeton, and Cal Tech in the dust.

As a retired educator, I am comfortable saying that teachers make a decent wage but are not typically considered to be among the highest paid professionals. The median pay for Harvey Mudd grads with ten years experience in their field is $126,000. If Secretary Duncan is to be taken at his word, he wants experienced teachers to earn nearly 20% more!

I wasn’t there when Duncan made his remarks. I suspect there was wild applause. Talk about playing to your audience by making comments that have no basis in reality. At the same time Duncan was speaking, Congress and President Obama were still deadlocked and our country was on the brink of default. As I write this, there is still uncertainty regarding the passage of the bill that was agreed to last night by party leaders and the White House. If we are lucky enough to not default, significant cuts will be made. Government will be leaner. Schools have already made dramatic cuts in recent years. As a consultant who provides staff development workshops, I know what a struggle it is for schools to access money in the current climate. Budgets are unlikely to loosen in the near future. That’s our current reality.

But why let reality slow you down when you can win friends in the field of education by suggesting things that have less chance of happening than a snowball’s chance in hell?

The policies of Secretary Duncan repeatedly demonstrate that he is no friend of teachers. Even more alarming is the fact that he appears comfortable to curry favor by making remarks that any reasonable person knows is unrealistic. When someone suggests something that seems both unrealistic and too good to be true, beware. You are about to be snookered.