It’s the Old Teachers, not the Beginning Teachers, who are Well Paid

By 05/24/2010

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When ­ Florida’s governor, Charlie Crist vetoed the merit pay for teachers bill that had passed the state legislature, the governor explained his actions by saying  “the people spoke, and they spoke loudly.”  But Steve Brill, in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine story, says that it was “a ferocious lobbying campaign by the state teachers’ union that generated more than 100,000 e-mail messages and phone calls to Crist’s office.”

So who is the teachers union in Florida protecting with all of its political power? Is it the poorly paid, beginning teacher whose salary teacher unions work hard to enhance and protect?   Or is it that of the old-timers who, like old-timers everwhere, capture organizational power and use it for their own purposes?  To find out, I took a look at the 2010 salary schedule in Dade County, Florida’s largest school district, which serves the Miami metropolitan area, as part of my preparation for the conference on Merit Pay, which Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance is sponsoring on June 3-5.

Here is what I found:

Teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree and have one year of experience earn $250 more than a beginning teacher (see attached table), and those with two years experience earn $500 more.  After three years of experience, salary jumps by $1,000, and over the next nine years, additional increments of about $300 are awarded annually.   At 13 years, however, salary leaps by over $4,000, and at fifteen years, the increment is up again by $3,000.  Other sizeable shifts upward come later, the most spectacular being the nearly $10,000 salary increase that comes in the 21st year of experience. By that 21st year, a teacher with a B. A. degree is earning 77 percent more than a beginning teacher with the same credentials and no less than 62 percent more than a teacher with ten years of experience.  The compensation differences are undoubtedly larger if one were to figure in the present value of the teachers’ pension.

Vigdor finds much the same thing in North Carolina school districts.

Is a 20 plus year teacher 62 percent better than a teacher with ten years of experience—or do unions, in their negotiations with school districts, sell out the young teachers for their own purposes?  For some answers, come to the PEPG conference in June.

Comment on this article
  • Dan Callahan says:

    That is a terrible salary schedule all around. You speak of these contracts as if they’re completely dictated by the union, and that they don’t have to negotiate with their school boards to get the contract in place. Since I’d wager that most of the teachers in a urban district are closer to the bottom of the scale than the top, the school district agreed to something that looks like that because it keeps costs low.

    Also, I’m pretty annoyed, because I would be very interested in attending that conference, but surprise surprise, ti’s scheduled for a time which pretty much guarantees that many actual teachers won’t be able to attend, since we’re teaching. I’m all for looking for solutions to setting up good pay systems that are fair to the taxpayers and the teachers, but when policy discussions like these are set up at a time that’s specifically going to exclude teachers, it makes it seem an awful lot like people don’t even want to try and engage us in any sort of meaningful dialogue.

  • John MacLean says:

    This is a misstatement. Neither old teachers nor new teachers are well paid. In fact, they are both inadequately paid.

  • melody says:

    I think it was Vigdor (maybe) who also did a paper showing teachers’ salary increases were backloaded towards the end of their careers, in contrast to most other professions that have big pay increases earlier with flatter gains later on.

    The current backloaded scheme does not help teachers. If anything, it ties some into the profession who would like to get out, but won’t because they put in their dues, earning their meager, early-career salaries, and now they’re hanging in to get what was promised them. Certainly young people entering the profession would like to see more of the money up front.

    When these systems were set up, it was the state that benefitted. The usual budgetary smoke and mirrors — the backloaded salary schedule allowed states to kick current costs down the road. But now, the piper must be paid.

    We could talk about transitioning over to a system like other professions where the big increases come earlier, but the transition period would cause lots of budgetary pain. States would be carrying both the older expensive teachers and having to pay younger teachers more. Not many would relish the idea of swallowing that pill.

  • Joe says:

    The teachers in my District only have a 10 mos union contract. How can teachers expect to pay 12 mos worth of living expenses with only 10 mos worth of income (salary)? Maybe States should consider funding schools for 12 mos to correct the salary discrepancy.

  • Ron says:

    Unfair system for beginning teachers.

    Unions have always sold them… especially in Miami Dade.

  • Lisa Brown says:

    $38,500 for a lousy bachelor’s degree is overpaid, let alone $68, 225 for a failed product. And to be paid this for ten months “work” is obscene.Teachers complain they work so many hours in a day. Welcome to the real world. The the rest of us do it too, but we don’t whine about it. It’s the way the world works.

    Bring on the charter schools with accountability, Race to the Top and merit pay, disband tenure, good scores mean better pay and make teaching degrees mean something other than a degree that only the stupid gravitate to. I’ve had education majors in my class and they were by far the most ignorant, uninformed students.

  • Dean says:

    There is no such thing as a union in a right to work state. The teacher’s associations don’t even have the right to strike.

  • Jazmine says:

    is that for all of the U.S. or just there? im doing a project on making my own Amendment which will be “At a certain age, teachers should be imposed to retire.” and this chart would help me a lot, if i knew if it was for the whole U.S.

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