my taxpayer-funded salary

writing about my job is not something I normally do here, for two reasons. one is that I believe the details of my students’ lives, however anonymous or small, are also private, and should be shared only privately. the second is that, as I’m sure everyone has noticed, being a public schoolteacher is on a certain level an intensely political act, even if you don’t want it to be, and while I am fiercely opinionated, punditry makes me uncomfortable.

I have nothing against facts, though. and while I understand that I am just one little data point, and that one data point does not a trend make, one data point can also go a long way towards disproving a false hypothesis. so I would like to share some information.

if you watch the daily show and/or fox news and/or almost any news, these days, you’ve heard the argument that teachers make too much money and don’t work as hard as other people:





you know, I’ve been appalled by fox news for a long time now, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt injured by it before. this is probably a failing on my part; maybe I should have been taking things more personally all along. I just want to say a few things, with a few numbers. [I’m doing much of this math in my head before sunrise on a saturday, so feel free to check it for me.]

I started teaching in the fall of 2003. I was unpaid leave for a little while, working on my phd full time (though I was also in nyc public school classrooms continually throughout throughout that time, in supportive and research-based roles), so my salary right now is based on six years of full-time work. (I am actually eligible for more pay than I am getting based on my continuing education credits, but… sometimes people aren’t very good at doing paperwork correctly, and that is all I will say about that. I don’t feel terribly upset by it and someday I will try to fix it.)

it makes my father nervous when I say anything here about money, but I need to do this for the sake of the data. (sorry, dad.) according to my W2, in 2010 I made $57,961.78 before taxes. living in new york city, I pay a fair amount of taxes, and my after-tax income was $39,320.52. this salary does include some hourly overtime pay, for doing things like covering other teachers’ classes, running after-school homework center, and serving as my school’s data specialist and science department chair.

this next part is going to take a little bit of estimation, and I will try to do it conservatively. on a typical school day, I get to work at 8:00 in the morning. I prepare materials (for myself and sometimes for other science teachers too), take the chairs down, maybe do some grading, gather my attendance sheets from the office, and set up my classroom until 9:00. I teach science from 9:00 until 11:45. I have a (daily) planning meeting with the 9th grade science teacher, and then I teach advisory from 12:34 until 1:15. my lunch period is from 1:15 until 1:45; although I am not required to be with students during this time, I always, always am — giving them extra help on assignments, talking to them about whatever they need to talk about, signing out laptops to them so they have a chance to check their email. then I teach my last science class of the day from 1:47 until 2:37. after classes end, I meet with the principal, run homework center (this means actively teaching kids in small groups, in addition to managing the large group of students, usually with the help of other teachers), meet with other science teachers, attend professional development, and/or meet with my grade team, depending on the day. it is usually after 5 pm by the time I am in my classroom by myself. from 5 pm until about 7 pm, I grade student work, plan lessons, make photocopies, clean up lab materials, answer work emails, manage the science department (budget, materials, ordering, trainings, PD, etc), enter attendance and grades into my gradebook, write recommendation letters for students applying to colleges or jobs, enter data for school- or grade-wide projects, and generally catch up on all the administrative, paperworky details that I haven’t been able to think about all day because I was working with other human beings for the past eight hours.

there are some atypical days in one direction or the other every so often, but let’s say that I work 10.5 hours at school, on average, every day. (that helps balance the fridays that I leave at 4:30 for happy hour.) 180 school days times 10.5 hours per day = 1,890 hours of work.

just to be extra, extra conservative, let’s not worry too much about the work I do at home, because that’s much trickier to estimate. some mornings I do an hour of work before I leave for school. some weekends I grade or plan for twelve hours. depending on the season, sometimes I even teach at school on saturdays to help the kids get ready for the standardized test at the end of the year. but some weekends I don’t do any sort of work until 8 pm on sunday and even then it’s just to update a grade team googledoc. so let’s just add an extra one hour of work per school week, done outside of school — an almost laughably lowball estimate, but that’s okay — which means 40 more hours. so we’re up to 1,930 for the year so far.

I also work in the summer. not a ton, but some, mostly doing large-scale curriculum revisions and coming in to school for occasional meetings or interviews if we are hiring new staff. let’s say 2 hours per week in the summer, on average, which means 20 additional hours. 1,950 total work hours for the year.

of course lots of people work more hours than that, but my conservative estimate has gotten me to within about 50 hours per year (or 12 minutes per day) of a standard, 9 to 5, 50 weeks a year job. and lots of people take work home with them and don’t get paid for doing it, which is why I haven’t accounted for very much of my take-home work at all.

so how much is my time worth? if you divide my salary by my total yearly work time, it looks like I make:
$29.72 per hour before taxes,
$20.16 per hour of which I see after taxes. (I like and believe in paying taxes, for what it’s worth. even if way too much of it pays for war machines.)

now! that is not a shabby salary and it is an awful lot better than what I made as a first-year teacher, when the starting salary was below $40K. and I truly feel like I have nothing to complain about–I love my job, and this is enough money to pay my mortgage and my bills–especially considering how poorly paid many of the city’s workers are. new york state minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, so I make over four times more than minimum wage workers. as a single person with no dependents, I get that this makes me relatively well off in this country (but let me remind those of you reading from somewhere outside of new york city that the cost of living here is… high). I don’t feel poor. I don’t feel underpaid.

but does anyone honestly believe that what I do isn’t worth thirty dollars an hour?

Posted March 5th, 2011 in teaching & learning.

5 comments:

  1. RBW:

    Well said. The attack on teachers by Fox News is disgusting, vile, outrageous. Stewart’s program was brilliant in lampooning the utter hypocrisy of that repugnant business. As you know, Finland has transformed its educational system in the past 30 years, with its students now coming out on top of the international surveys, and one of the important things it does is honor its teachers.

    The only people who think teachers don’t work hard are people who have never tried it–you are on stage for hours every day, which is exhausting, and of course that is just the beginning.

    So your Dad thinks it quite fine that you laid these finances out so clearly. I am really, really pissed off by this class warfare being waged by Fox News and the right against unions, public employees, teachers, even as the wealthy gather an ever greater part of the pie.

    Dad

  2. Jen:

    I am so happy Fox packed up it’s toys and gave up on Canada because we wouldn’t let our toady government soften the laws that make it illegal to broadcast news that isn’t true.

  3. Rob Doughty:

    You are spot on Rabi. Unfortunately, unless one is employed in a commercial enterprise and being “productive” in a business sense one gets little credit for the important work they do. As far as Fox News goes, I have never seen a news source editorialize more than they do. It is shameful how many people use it as their primary news source and then spout the rhetoric they hear for the rest of the day. Here in NJ we have our dear Gov. Christie to deal with. My wife, who is enjoying her job, is fearful of the changes he may force on the system, as is every other person employed in education in this state.

  4. rabi:

    thanks for the support, family!

    jen — I suppose it is freedom of speech laws that makes that not happen here? it seems like they shouldn’t be able to call it “news,” at the very least. gah.

  5. Lynne:

    Thank you for sharing – regardless of the financial context here, I love “day in the life of” pieces. And I certainly think you more than earn that $30/hr.

    FWIW, the US FCC used to have a policy (the Fairness Doctrine – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine ) that required controversial issues to be presented on TV, and for coverage of those issues to include information from all points of view. Reagan abolished that in ’87, though. Democrats have expressed interest in bringing it back recently, though Obama apparently opposes it for various reasons – among those reasons, that things like media ownership caps, network neutrality (HA!) and the existence of public broadcasting should be enough. Wonder if his position has changed given recent attacks on funding public broadcasting, huh?