"Teachers Are Underpaid, You Pay Too Much For Public School & They Rob The Kids To Finance It" may sound inflammatory, but it's true. Does it sound confused? Does it read like some terrible hodgepodge of republican and democrat talking points? I assure you it's not. It's a sad truth. Perhaps you've noticed our system seems set up to give us all the worst ideas of both sides. The education system we have here in the US makes this comically obvious.
My wife and I chose what we thought would be a hard road homeschooling our daughter in response. We saw how much public schooling ruined my own desire to learn. I envied the curiosity my homeschooled wife still had for everything. I never wanted my daughter to grow to hate learning. It took years to reignite my passion for it. I lost years of self discovery and personal growth. I wish that on no young person.
If this is the type of outcome you can expect why would anyone send their children into this system? A burning need to expose the kids to bullying, pedophile teachers or schools shooters. Is that the potential socialization I keep hearing so much about? Maybe people send their kids to school based on a big lie. Maybe that lie coupled with the inadequacy school fosters in adults to is specifically to perpetuate itself.
We're Number 1: The Big Lie
Are teachers underpaid because of outcomes? I'm told we're number one so that cant be. Search for education rankings by nation on google right now. You'll get lots of articles telling you the US education system is number one. Why wouldn't we be? We spend more on our children's educations than all but 4 other nations. In the race of academic supremacy we should be lapping other countries. The undefeatable combination of American grit and immense wealth bringing home the gold every time.. Sadly, click through the links above and you'll notice an almost immediate repudiation.
"Ironically, despite the United States having the best-surveyed education system on the globe, U.S students consistently score lower in math and science than students from many other countries. According to a Business Insider report in 2018, the U.S. ranked 38th in math scores and 24th in science."
We're fifth in spending but 38th in math and 24th in science scores and that means we're number one. That math doesn't add up to me. Dig into their methodology. What you find is their standard is how far and how many people go through the system. By that standard our prison system is failing until every American is in prison. The value of a system can never be measured by how many people participate.
A notable exception is when we're talking about entertainment. Entertainment is about killing time. The more time you invest the better. Is school a form of entertainment to the government? By government standards the value of education is in your child investing their time. Is that how you value education? I know my standards are different. Still they run the "We're Number One Headline." Using it to convince parents its worth investing in public school.
Why Do You Say We Overpay For Education?
If teachers are underpaid how can you say we overpay for education? In Austrian economics we focus on incentives a lot. Believe it or not, incentives direct all actions. Incentives help us understand what each side of a transaction is trying to get out of an arrangement. It is important to understand there are incentives on all sides of education.
As a parent I know what my incentives are when choosing my child's education. I want my child to learn how to parse information. I want my child to get a leg up on a proper income as an adult. I want them to learn how to better themselves. What I want competes with what administrators want. This competes with what industry wants. We all compete with what special interest groups want. Think of it this way:
I desire a system that creates an independent adult that can grow and mature and do better than I did in life.
Industry desires a person that does well with following instructions and showing up. The longer you last in our system the more obedient you are. At least this is what credentials signal to employers. We all know people rarely get a job in the field their degree is in.
Administration desires students do well enough to warrant accolades for the school. If we have to lower standards to get higher grades then so be it.
Special interests desire as much of the time your child is captive as they can get. They want to nudge them as often as they can in whatever direction serves them. This serves the governments desire to "entertain kids."
What Do You Mean They Rob The Kids To Finance It?
If you're like most people you have a life to lead and can't be moonlighting as your nations comptroller. You have your own money to worry about. You have your own family who needs things paid for. I can't blame you if you you believe your government pays for services with tax money. I won't blame you if you don't care. I wish the people elected and appointed to care would do their jobs but they don't. Because of their failure our nation has a pretty insane credit card bill.
If this is your first time hearing this: our nation runs a deficit and taxes only cover a part our yearly bills. This leaves the government with two options. They can borrow or print new money. If they borrow it adds to the credit card bill we seemingly have no intention of paying off. If we print it makes every other dollar in circulation lose value. In my circles we call this the inflation tax.
In either case one thing is certain. Your kid's money will be worth less if not worthless and they'll start life with a negative balance. My own public school education made sure I understood none of this. What I understood was democrats do nice things for people and republicans blow stuff up. If this rings a bell the system robbed you of your education as well as your wealth.
A Better Vision For Teachers
I hope I've illustrated how teachers are underpaid. What's my solution though? Fair question. Let's start with a number.
This is the number our federal government spends each year. This gives us a good place to start. Let's do some easy math from here. What do you think is a reasonable class size? Five students sounds like a nice round number to me. If the money follows the students then a teacher now has a $74.4K per year with summer vacation. That’s considerably more than my last salary position working 60 hours a week in the banking industry. This sounds like a very manageable small business. Not to mention, imagine the versatility in a system where each teacher is their own school.
If this were the setup I'd signup to be a teacher tomorrow. But it's not. Instead our teachers work in rooms with over 20 students. So teachers bring in around $300 thousand a year. Where does all this money go? I don't need to preach to teachers. We both know it's not going into classroom resources. Instead it goes into the ever growing bureaucracy. The administration. Remember also that $300K is what a single teacher brings into a school. I don't see many one room schoolhouses these days. How many administrators should there be for how many teachers? How much should they make? Should they make more than the actual educators?
If It Were That Easy We'd Already Do It That Way!
The truth is, no we wouldn't. Governmental organizations have an inherent problem with incentives. The generally have no competition. In the education arena they get to dictate what their competition has to do at every step. This makes the alternatives less then competitive.
Another point is, no one wants to be jobless. People in government funded positions don't have to turn a profit. They don't make revenue in he first place. The natural incentive is to work hard but never actually solve an issue. This generally causes your budget to inflate but makes sure you don't need to look for a new job.
When focusing on incentives one thing seems obvious. Government schools will always devalue educators in favor of bureaucracy. This brings us back to the articles title: Teachers Are Underpaid, You Pay Too Much For Public School & They Rob The Kids To Finance It.
You can dismiss this as the rantings of a homeschool dad. I'd prefer you take it as an observation from an outside perspective. I have no gain either way. I want you to see teachers are underpaid because the system is corrupt. My only motivation is seeing teachers empowered to inspire the youth. Many of my college friends became teachers. Some of my own family members have struggled with the system as well. I've listened to the problems for decades. The bottom line is: the system only works for bureaucrats. It fails students and teachers daily. My vision might not be the answer but what exists currently definitely isn't either.