Recently the The Manhattan Institute, a New York conservative think tank known to open criticize public schools and the teaching profession, released a report claiming that teachers across the nation earned an average of $34.06 per hour in 2005, which was $8.98 more than the average non-sales, white-collar worker. I guess the policy wonks at the Manhattan Institute got nervous when they learned that more business leaders, policymakers, independent researchers, and education economists increasingly agree that teachers need to be paid more and differently. The institute's findings were released the same day that Iowa’s Gov. Chet Culver, a former teacher from Des Moines, called for $70 million more to help increase average teacher pay in his state from 40th to 25th in the nation.
Here are the facts: According to a 2005 report the average salary of today’s teacher ($46,597 per year) is far less than those of the full professor ($94,606), engineer ($78,023), computer systems analyst ($73,269), retail buyer ($64,813), and accountant ($56,102). Over the past decade, the purchasing power of teachers has dropped as well. For example, between 1994 and 2004, for every real $1 increase in average accountant pay, teacher pay rose only 19 cents.
The cherry-picking data analyses of the Manhattan Institute relies on governmental data that calculates teachers’ work hours by examining union contracts or school district employment rules. The vast majority of teachers work more than 49 hours a week, with many after-school hours of lesson planning, parent conferences, home visits, school events and meetings with colleagues. In addition, in any given year approximately 25 percent of America’s teachers attend summer education programs to improve their skills or learn new content. Unlike what is found in most professions, teachers often pay for their own professional development. About 42 percent of America’s teachers also teach in summer school to supplement their salaries.
The institute’s analyses of the work life of teachers is naïve, at best. In 2004, the distinguished members of The Teaching Commission, chaired by former IBM chief executive Louis V. Gerstner Jr., recommended that the nation invest an additional $30 billion per year in teacher compensation, giving every teacher a 10 percent increase and providing a 30 percent increase to the “top half.” More later on what Gerstner calls for in paying the top half of teachers a lot more. Indeed across-the-board teacher pay increases are NOT the panacea for improving teacher supply, quality, and retention. However, the Manhattan Institute teacher pay conclusions are way out of step with both the research data and our nation’s business elites