Should Teacher Salaries Be Published for All to See?

by Darwin on December 23, 2011

The other day, a friend sat down at my wife’s table at a kids’ school function and seemed a bit sad and said, “Well, now that you all know what my husband makes…that’s how my day’s going”.  My wife and the others at the table actually didn’t know what her husband made (until she made mention of it!), but the premise was that the newspaper had just published the salary of every teacher in the entire school district.  Her husband is a teacher in the district and she feels a bit sheepish or upset I suppose that everyone in her social circles, parents of kids her child goes to school with and even older school kids savvy enough to look the information up all know what their teachers make per year.

Rationale for Publishing Teacher Salaries

My wife is a teacher (on leave while home with the kids, but I’m relatively familiar with teacher issues as a result) and personally, it wouldn’t bother me much if her salary were published because with enough digging, one can usually discern roughly what a teacher makes anyway based on years of service, whether or not they have a Master’s degree, etc. from the school contract.  However, it’s not definitively published in a list for all to see.  Secondly, my wife isn’t the sole breadwinner of the family, so what she makes really provides little bearing or insight into our family income.  In the case of this family, the woman’s husband is the sole worker in the family, so now everyone knows what they make.  This seems to be a mixed practice depending on district so I was thinking about what the rationale might be:

  • You Work for Us – That’s a common refrain principals and teachers here from angry parents that disagree with a disciplinary action, a policy or otherwise.  Perhaps there’s been some sort of outcry from taxpayers that since school district employees are beholden to the taxpayer, they deserve to have full transparency showing each and every salary.
  • People Could Figure It Out Anyway – Like I mentioned before, a parent that was nosy enough to try to figure out what a particular teacher makes could probably do so by looking at their tenure, degree, etc. and match it up to the schedule in the school contract which is public record.  This is the tradeoff of being in a union.  While it’s virtually impossible to be fired for cause, you all make the same salary no matter what your performance.  It’s all just based on tenure, level of education and that’s it. So, the argument here might be that the district isn’t really revealing anything that parents don’t already have access to – they simply made it more convenient.
  • Retaliation – Another interesting theory (my own), is that I’m aware that there was a pretty contentious debate this past year over renewal of the contract.  Evidently, the teachers actually ended up having to work without a contract for a while because they couldn’t agree on salary increases and healthcare contributions.  This same drama plays out in hundreds of districts each year, but I wonder if, as part of the new contract, this is something the town felt they “could” do, so they did it, to kind of thumb their nose at the teachers for being difficult during the negotiations?  Not sure, but anything’s possible.  See, I just don’t see the rationale for why this info should be made available to the public.


Why This Seems Completely Unnecessary

I get that public figures of significance, like mayors, judges, police chiefs and other leaders end up having their salaries published.  This is because, yes, the public is paying their salaries, but also to have some level of accountability and a reality check on what they’re making.  For instance, wouldn’t things start to seem a bit fishy if all the local public leaders were making $300,000 per year while taxes kept skyrocketing each year and public services were being cut back?  It makes for a means to compare salaries against other local municipalities to ensure what you’re paying as a taxpayers is reasonable and comparable to others in your locale.  But individual school teachers?  What’s the point?  Imagine a highschool teacher being called out, criticized or otherwise confronted with his salary information in the middle of class by a punk teenager?  I’d be pretty upset, but hey, it’s public info now!  As much as people pretend salary information doesn’t matter and that they’re about so much more than what they make, the reality is that society places a certain value or judgment on people based on what they make. Corporations do a good job of keeping everyone guessing and not publishing salaries of the rank and file (this also helps to deter employees from complaining about what they make by looking around them).  But what value is served by publishing the specific salary of each and every teacher in a district?  While some people could guess what teachers make if they were so inclined, it’s not until the exact number is published that it becomes a topic for routine conversation and gossip.  Seems to be unnecessary to me.

I’m Interested in Your Thoughts on this and other typical public sector employee salaries


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1 Flexo December 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Anti-union interests enjoy publishing teachers’ salaries because it can foment anger with the idea that longevity has a bigger effect on salary level than quality has. I think the salaries and benefits of all personnel paid by tax money should be available publicly, including administrators and politicians, and I think these disclosures should include everything like multiple pensions, tax-deferred income, and other ways to “hide” income reporting from tax payers. There’s no need to put names and salaries in a newspaper other than to drum up controversy, and getting upset because some 60 year old teacher getting ready to retire is earning $105,000 when an ineffective administrator is earning $350,000 or a corporate CEO under investigation for defrauding customers is earning $20 million is awfully short-sighted.

2 Squeezer December 24, 2011 at 5:58 pm

The teacher’s salary is public record. An individual may have to contact the school board or school district’s administration office and ask for a copy of the fiscal year budget, but all the information is there. I think its rare that people do this, and the teacher is just upset that the information is out there easily for everyone to read instead of having to do a little leg work to get it.

3 Penny December 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Some states make it really easy to get the salary information of every state employee. My research income is available publicly online for anyone know my full name and the state in which I work, and my fiance’s income is online as well. I’d personally feel stranger about my exact salary being known by coworkers at the same level as me than about family and friends, but I understand why they don’t like it. I think having take the effort to look up salaries and doing so on a name by name basis is different than publishing them in the newspaper for people to look at whether they want to or not.

4 jack foley December 26, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I agree, if you do a bit of digging.. you will find out what they are on..

In Europe its common knowledge their wages..

5 Evan December 27, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I believe that it should be public information as they work for the public. But it is the choice of a newspaper to run the numbers and I really agree it does nothing except get people angry lol

6 Drew March 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm

A public school teacher’s salary? OK, if people are asking. A private school teacher’s salary? Absolutely not, unless they wish to volunteer the information.

7 Jim V May 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

If our public education system was functional in the slightest this article would be unnecessary. Where public education works; Finland, South Korea, and Germany are three examples, teachers are drawn from the same elite talent pool as doctors, lawyers, scientists and so on. I’m most familiar with Germany where a national examination given to all 15-year-old’s puts the top 15% on a university track while 85% engage in a 5-year work/study apprenticeship. In my examples, the myth of classroom size promoted by US teacher unions (a monolithic voting bloc that received an outsized part of the 2009 stimulus) is shattered and these qualified and respected teachers teach 30+ students rather than have their talents wasted.

Our so-called system is a ‘train wreck’ for two peincipal reasons: First and foremost is home environment. Are our children being nurtured and cared for? What is the level of parental concern, commitment, and competence? Let’d not sweep this under the rug because we know we have a problem there. Our system of remedial education, the community colleges, should be offering certificate programs in literacy, child-rearing, home economics, and anything else that makes birth to kindergarten (age 5 requirement at beginning of term) as close to fair and balanced as a concensus national effort can provide. The expansion of the teacher’s unions into Pre-k must stop; it’s appealing to “can’t be bothered parents” or in response to financial pressure. I say lift the financial pressure. Humanity is on an unsustainable path with depletion and degradation 30% beyond the world’s capacity to regenerate itself and I believe that shifting 10% of the unsustainable path should be directed at our birth to age five precious national resource. It would be economic activity, an investment and not a cost. This wouls shift $464 billion from unsustainable activity and about 90% should go to families of small children in need while the amount allocated to our calcified educational establishment should be through competitive bidding for add-on income with strict guidelines – teacher training at third-tier schools is out; only top-tier and less than 50% of second-tier schools would qualify. Next, the applicants must have a class rank in the top 30% of their class. I know this class ranking requirement excludes more than 70% of public school teachers and I believe the institutional requirement would narrow the remaining field by more than half with most public school teachers coming from undistinguished schools. A further outrage are the abysmal so-called online master’s degree offerings in education. It’s a racket, a cruel joke played on parents and students.

With the late Albert Shankar, leading light in the public education unionism movement preserved on videotape during a teacher walkoout (immoral and unethical) with a comment that “I’ll care about students when they start paying union dues” it is clear that groupthink, political correctness, sheepishness, and dreams of early retirement pervade our horrendous public education system.

Get the facts or the facts will get you.

8 JayCeezy April 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm

The top countries from the Pearson study are Finland, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom (GB, Ireland, Scotland, Wales), Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, Australia. How do they do it, with virtually no Diversity?

Here is an article about the Chicago teachers who went on strike, for a deal that will take the average salary (no benefits or pension included, just salary) to $100,000. In the US, teachers work 180 days a year, compared to 240 days for a full-time job (1.33 as many days). So a teacher making $100K is paid at a rate of $133K/yr. That is just salary, doesn’t include pension at age 55, full healthcare and benefits, plus union protection. Here are the LAUSD payscales… The Administrator salaries are worth a look, too, most teachers attempt to ‘promote’ into Administration.

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