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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