The Wisconsin teacher strike has ignited another debate about America's supposedly underpaid teachers.
Let's talk reality here.
According to the MacIver Institute total teacher compensation in Milwaukee is $100,005 a year. Salaries average $56,500 and benefits are $43,505. It's a strange salary to benefit ratio, but unions have been pushing benefits over salaries for decades. It was their choice to do this.
Teachers work less than 37 weeks a year. They get 10 weeks off in the summer, 1 week at Christmas, 1 week for mid-winter break, 1 week for spring break, and 11 holidays. The leaves 1472 hours for work. $100,005 / 1472 hours is $68 an hour.
Over the last couple of years, I ran a little consulting firm. When I needed people, I brought them in as 1099 subcontractors at a straight hourly rate. No benefits whatsoever. Over the last two years, the average hourly rate I've paid is $65. That's less than the Milwaukee teachers make.
There are three important differences as well:
First, I live on the west coast, where the cost of living is much higher that it is in Wisconsin. Computer programmer rates are much lower in the Midwest than they are in Seattle. The average teacher in Wisconsin makes significantly more per hour than the average contract programmer.
Second, I hire people who have quantitative college degrees, like Computer Science where they go through 4 semesters of calculus, linear algebra, and statistics. I don't hire people who have worthless teaching certificates or degrees in "Phys Ed".
Third, if the people I employ don't do a great job, my customers won't pay me. They certainly won't bring me back to do more work. On the other hand, teachers get "tenure", which makes it impossible to terminate them no matter how screwed up their product (your kids) become.
The sad fact is that America's poorly performing public school system has little to do with lack of funding or poor teacher compensation. The schools don't perform because the unions care more about their own power than they care about our kids. That's the bottom line.