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Teacher Pay is Kamala Harris’ New Pander

Teacher pay is the new way to pander. At least if you are Senator Kamala Harris. She is proposing an average 23% pay raise for teachers nationwide with a price tag of $315 billion over the next 10 years.

Let me begin by saying I have several teachers in my family. I love teachers and think they deserve to be paid well. However, I think all decisions related to education need to remain as local as possible. And there is no doubt, this move at the federal level will come with strings attached. From Politico:

But the massive plan, if Harris is elected, would be sure to meet resistance. Once Washington allocates major funding for teacher pay, lawmakers on both the left and right would call for conditions on that funding, perhaps including accountability metrics for teacher performance or other qualifications, said Rick Hess, a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who spoke about the concept without knowing the specifics.

“I don’t know that it’s being proposed as actionable legislation so much as a marker,” Hess said. “Republicans, in particular, are nervous about once you open that barn door, just how involved Washington winds up getting in local education decisions and deciding who gets hired, how they get compensated.”

We saw the types of “incentives” that accompanied the implementation of Common Core. The encouragement contained much more stick than carrot. As does most regulation coming from the Department of Education. The “incentive” is usually keeping your federal funding. Which in and of itself is an abomination.

The dollars lost in the collection at the federal level through disbursement to the state level could raise teacher pay if just collected at the local level. Instead dollars go to pay the salaries of bureaucrats and the administration of programs that do nothing to improve classroom education.

How much more money could school districts budget for teacher salaries if the administrative burden of federal programs was lifted? Perhaps rather than consulting with states about how they can increase teacher pay, the staff at the DOE should take a machete to their programs that have done…..nothing. From the National Assessment of Educational Perfornace.

Scores were actually going down for high school students until the assessment was “revised”. Massive investments in complying with a federal educational bureaucracy with no significant gains. Color me shocked. And the scores in 2015 went down again and it appears they have done another revision.

Then there is this little gem:

Teachers in highest-need schools, which disproportionately serve students of color, would see their pay rise even further. The campaign would not provide an exact number, but the idea is to help boost recruiting and retention in these schools.

The “highest-need schools” in urban districts like Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles are some of the highest paid teachers in the country. Let’s look at New York City:

Please keep in mind, teachers work 9 months a year. Annualized, the 1st year teacher’s salary with a bachelor’s degree would be $75,615. Add an extremely rich health plan as described above, no contribution health plans and a pension and you are probably looking at an average of 45% of salary. A teacher’s total compensation, what an employer actually calculates, could be as high as $109,641.75. The teachers in these schools also have union representation more often than not, ensuring pay is brought up at least every few years.

Now let’s look at pay in one state that the campaign cited as an impetus of this proposal. According to the West Virginia Education Association, the starting salary for new teachers with a bachelor’s degree in that state for 2018-19 were $34,695. They also contribute to their healthcare plan and contribute 6% of their salary to the pension system.

How about how teachers compare to overall starting salaries for those with a bachelor’s degree? CNN Money reported the average 2018 starting salary in New York City for new graduates was $60,972. Nationwide, it was $50,390. The majority of these jobs are a full 12 months and require health plan contributions and contributions to a 401K for retirement savings.

From the article, this looks like a big carrot for teachers in failing inner city schools with some benefits to teachers generally. And of course, it involves double taxing those who die by expanding the estate tax and increasing taxes on the wealthy. Standard line this primary season, right?

I have a better idea. How about we roll back stupid and ineffective regulations that do nothing to improve instruction. But they certainly bloat the administrative ranks. According to Mark Price at AEI:

  • From 1992 to 2009, students’ numbers increased 17 percent whereas administrators and other non-teaching staff rose 46 percent. And during that time, some states actually lost students yet kept hiring more non-teachers.
  • The New York City public schools system has 250 times as many administrators as the New York Catholic school system (6,000 administrators in the public school system versus 24 in the Catholic school system), even though New York public schools have only four times as many students as the Catholic schools. 
  • The Chicago Board of Education, which has 3,300 employees, is larger than the entire Japanese Ministry of Education.

One other little nugget from the campaign according to Politico:

And the federal government would support programs dedicated to teacher recruitment, training and professional development, particularly at historically black colleges and universities. That means a “multi-billion-dollar investment” in programs to elevate the profession and support school leaders, such as teacher and principal residencies, early-career induction programs that pair new teachers with mentors and master teachers, career ladder models and “Grow Your Own” programs that help increase teacher diversity.

Half of this funding would be dedicated to high-quality programs at HBCUs and other institutions serving minorities, the campaign said.

Wrapped up in an ingenious pander to a group of diverse, mostly female and largely union workforce is a nifty little pile of money that has nothing to do with teacher salaries. Always read the fine print.


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