There have been some rather controversial yet entertaining posts on teacher pay in the PF blogger world of late. First, Evan at MTJM threw some fuel on the fire by venting about Why Teachers Anger Him. Well, with my wife being a teacher and seeing first hand the various myths and misunderstandings about teachers, work hours, pay and stress that continue to propagate amongst people unfamiliar with the role, I did a post on In Defense of Teachers. Similarly, Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff shared her insight being the spouse of a teacher as well in A Teacher’s Reply. (sorry Evan, it’s the gift that just keeps on giving).
Well, anecdotes and opinions aside, today, the NY Times had a piece on how a Kindergarten teacher is worth $320K as calculated by the present value of ADDITIONAL future earnings of your child into adulthood when they have a strong kindergarten teacher. This of course does not even account for the benefit of quality of life, longer life expectancy, better fiscal management outcomes, etc., over peers that have lousy teachers.
In essence, while previous studies had focused on test scores and scholastic achievement through primary schooling, for the first time, a major study (and seemingly well controlled) was conducted to track 12,000 children in a planned experiment from the 1980s. Now that they’re into their 30s and the data set was so large, meaningful data could be gleamed by comparing their adult outcomes with their Kindergarten teacher experience.
- Children who learned more in Kindergarten were more likely to go to college than peer group (normalized for other background noise)
- These students were also less likely to become single moms and dads
- They exhibited better retirement/savings behaviors
- They earn more money
- They earn about $100/percentile per year improvement over average. So, if your child had a top tier teacher/test score of 90 percentile, your child could reasonably be expecting to earn $4000 more per year than an average student and the effect tends to grow over time.
- Based on these outcomes and considering the financial impact of future earnings, it was calculated that the value of a top kindergarten teacher is $320,000 per year. That’s about 4-6 times what most of them make, depending on location and experience.
The key takeaway here isn’t the number; that’s actually a bit of a silly anecdote to me with many assumptions built in. For instance, when I was in a sourcing role and saved $5 Million for my company on a single deal, I didn’t expect to get paid $5 Million that year, or even see anything different than my typical income – since that was my job!…to save money. So, a teacher’s job is to teach and do it well. This isn’t an argument on whether teachers should get paid more, but rather, people should take note of the key financial and net economic benefit teachers provide to society now that there is more firm data tied to it. To naysayers who consider teachers to be high paid babysitters, the data is tough to ignore. They matter.
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