In praise of the $100K a year teacher

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Citizens and taxpayers, lend me your eyes. Today I come to praise the $100,000 teacher, not to bury him. Like the bird migration to Florida, every fall we are treated to a number of stories of taxpayer outrage that there are teachers in the public school system who make more than a $100,000 per year. Such outrage is ridiculous.

Teachers who make such sums typically have 30 years of experience and a year or two of education beyond a master's — almost as much education as a doctor or lawyer. If you start out making $40,000 per year and receive a 3 percent raise each year for 31 years, you will make more than $100,000. The point: If you have a lot of education and get modest raises for 30 years working in any job, you will make a lot of money. Younger, less educated teachers don't come close to $100,000.

Corporate America is filled with less educated younger workers who make $100,000. Having worked in big law firms, I can assure you that some of them are not particularly deserving. Now the teacher haters will cite tenure as to why educators have their jobs for life, but trust me, in litigating America everyone except white males under 50 has a kind of tenure, as well.

It amuses me that the groups most opposed to teacher compensation are the so-called capitalists. Hey — I've got news — collective bargaining is legal. The good old days of head-cracking Pinkertons are long gone. In this country we don't have a wage board that sets salaries. You get what your employer pays you. How much should an educated, experienced teacher make? An accountant? A checkout clerk? An airline pilot? Jim Belushi? Miley Cyrus? Bears offensive linemen?

Teaching is important work. If we are to have any chance at competing in the global economy with India, China and the European Union, then we will need lots of educated young people. Education is the only way we will ever break the cycle of dysfunction that afflicts so many poor families.

In this country you can choose what you want to be when you grow up (see Obama, Barack). Some people choose to be teachers. Some choose to operate their own business. Some work for big corporations. Some play music or do art. Each job has entry requirements, a salary, fringe benefits, a career and a retirement program. If things don't work, you can quit and get another job. The conceit in all this is that anyone can be a teacher. Absurd. Lesson plans, professional development, meeting parents, and most importantly, standing in front of 30 kids five or six times a day for 180 days a year ain't easy. In fact, very few people have the intelligence, compassion and energy required to be a teacher.

That a few of these men and women, who work 30 or more years at this demanding job and wind up making $100,000, just doesn't seem so outrageous to me.

John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one.%uFEFF

Reader Comments

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Scott Marquardt from Cicero, IL  

Posted: October 18th, 2010 11:02 AM

Perhaps anyone can choose to be a teacher with a guaranteed pension at taxpayer expense, but alas -- not every parent can choose where to send their child to school. But that's the teachers' union's idea of democracy -- "choices for me, but not for thee."That this lopsided "choice" principally affects those whose socio-economic standing will never privilege them with a pension -- perhaps because their employer pays too much tax to the government to fund the public-sector pensions -- well...

Elizabeth from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 6:53 PM

John, as a retired teacher, I must comment. "The product they produce" (sounds like a factory!)is highly dependent on many factors: Has this child recently moved to our town and is perhaps 3 grades below grade leve? Has this child been the victim of emotional abuse? Has this child had the advantage of having highly educated parents who create a learning environment at home? I don't think you realize how much these factors influence children's achievements in school.

Christopher Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 4:59 PM

Mr. Hubbuch,I couldn't agree with you more. I know some kids not long out of college, no masters degrees making $60,000 and greater. Teaching is hard work and good teachers deserve a decent salary. On the other hand while we need to find ways to reward good teachers, we don't need vouchers to do it. Schools should not be treated as a market.

John from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 7:52 PM

If teachers want to be paid fairly, then we must adopt the free market principles (such as those used in Canada) and give every parent the same amount to spend at whatever school they wish. This would create a market for education and teacher pay would adjust ( /-) accordingly and would then finally be "fair" because the market sets the pay. Right now due to political power, our public school system and our teachers receive the same amount of pay regardless of the product they produce.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 5:40 PM

If we see ourselves as creative,innovative, and imaginative people then we must thank our teachers.

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