Cap teacher salaries to save money

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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In less than a week, the voters in Oak Park will be asked to approve a property tax increase to support the school system. Education is vital to economic success and necessary for a high-functioning democracy. Personally, I support a lifetime of learning. I hold a master's degree and I am active in adult education and literary groups. But when it comes to funding education, has Oak Park gone overboard?

The average salary of a District 200 teacher is $95,931. The number of teachers making over $100,000 per year is 108. If we capped teacher pay at $80,000 the district would save $5.5 million. OK, maybe a mere $80,000 is not quite enough for 9.5 months work, so let's cap pay at $100,000. That would save the district $2.8 million.

The numbers for District 97 are not quite so bloated. The average salary is $76,526, with 75 teachers making over $100,000. If we capped pay at $80,000 the savings would be about $4 million. If we capped pay at $100,000 the district would still save $1.8 million.

I agree that education is important to our future and should be well funded. But I have yet to hear a good explanation why giving a raise to a teacher with 25-plus years experience who is already making over $100,000 helps to educate children. I know, I know, we need to attract the best, the brightest to this field. But does it not make more sense to pay beginning teachers more, have smaller class sizes, and pay for real world experience rather than give raises based on the criteria of how many years someone has kept the exact same job? Under the current system, if a career researcher from Argonne National Laboratory with a Ph.D. from MIT wanted to become a teacher, he or she would start at the bottom of the scale (adjusted slightly up for education). How can you attract talent if pay is determined by a matrix, and the only criterion for a raise is that you did not die on the job the year before?

Public service was a career that traditionally paid less than corporate jobs, but offered job stability and a good pension. I am hard-pressed to think of many careers in the private sector that offer an average salary of almost $100,000 for less than 10 months work and, once tenure is achieved, practically no chance of ever losing the job.

Oak Park does have an excellent school system. But if property taxes continue to increase, the only people who will be able to afford to live here are medical doctors, tax attorneys and Oak Park public school teachers.

Rick Piwowarczyk
Oak Park

Reader Comments

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20 yr resident  

Posted: March 4th, 2012 10:56 AM

we're talking about 344 teachers... not the us army. this community is wealthy enough to pay 10-12k more for some of the best teachers in the state.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 11:14 PM

MD rates are based on at will market rates, not collectively bargained rates. The appropriate comparison should be at will teachers salaries with collectively bargained teachers salaries. When you take away the crutches of collective bargaining, you will see that the average teachers salary will be lower. K-5 teaching has a low barrier of entry, so those salaries will be lower for the average teacher. As you move to middle school & beyond, specialization & value add affects salaries more.

Facts? from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 12:46 PM

@Just the Facts. You're kidding, right? The avg salary at OPRFHS is almost $100K - which includes driver's ed and PE (admin more than $150K). Teachers start earning much sooner than MD's, have much less serious education (and why does a DrEd/PE teacher need a MA?), less debt, and 99% are incapable of even getting in to Med school. The MD works much longer hours and doesn't get summers off. Most also don't have pensions at age 57 for over $100K. That seems "reasonable" to you?

Just the Facts from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 11:03 AM

Rick, so lets compare apples to apples. $175k, that would be the average salary for an MD in Illinois. Keep in mind the average salary for a teacher in Illinois is about $58K so about a third of an MD. Seems reasonable to me.

Rick from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 10:46 AM

Mr. Hurtado, Does the average MD really make $800,000? I quick on-line search revealed to me that the average MD in Illinois makes around $175,000. Please share your source. The point is that teachers and school administrators are making corporate salaries or greater. Also, consider 10 years of graduate work for an MD against 0-2 for most teachers.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 8:45 AM

@EJ, 4 schools failed AYP lst yr, yet almost all certified teachers received raises. Our minority students have consistently lagged behind their white peers in test scores, yet all most all teachers & admins received their raises. Teacher eval does not include measures of student outcomes, yet they still receive raises. There is no evidence that teachers with MS degrees are more effective than those with just BAs, yet MS teachers receive higher salaries & raises.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 11:58 PM

The last sentence of Piwowarczyk's letter illustrates the fallacy of his argument. Medical doctors probably make, on average, 8 to 10 times more than OP teachers make. Seasoned tax attorneys make at least 4 or 5 times more than teachers make. Lumping teachers in that group is indeed laughable. When it comes to attracting good teachers, don't you think an applicant looks to earning potential over time, and not at just the starting salary?

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 3:07 PM

Mr. Piwowarczyk: You have presented the heart of the matter in a thoughtful, respectful, rational manner. Thank you and amen. It's not about the kids, the arts, teacher bashing or anti-technology Luddites -- it is about a calcified, self-perpetuating structure that consumes ever more - of ever scanter - resources. I've got nothing against 21st century approaches. As long as they're not held hostage to the appetite of a 20th century dinosaur.


Posted: March 30th, 2011 3:02 PM

for teachers working 25 years and making over 100k, starting pension will be around 60k. Figure living 20 years on avg in retirement, teacher will earn with COLA minimum of $1.6mm during retirement. Sign me up Baby! All about the children.....

Taxpayer Also  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 2:51 PM

Last line-lol. Right on. Finally a voice of reason and a comment on the REAL solution to this problem. Look, I am a bleeding heart liberal and have been all of my life. But something has to be done and we just cannot afford these salaries any longer.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 2:44 PM

Fiscally - guess I would ask what your criteria is for corresponding increases in student achievement. If it is the ISAT score, then how can the fact that the percentage of students passing the test has either increased or stayed steady in the low to mid 90s not be viewed as comparable?

FiscallyFrustrated inOP  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 2:24 PM

Great rational approach to the basic problem: growing wage and benfit obligations without corresponding increases in student achievement. Unfortunately this makes way to much sense for the highly emotional "yes" crew who prefer what their hearts tell them rather than their minds.

Taxpayer from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 2:13 PM

Well put. I work for a major corporation. They froze pay across the board. Other controls like jacking up sales quotas are used all the time to manage salaries downward. That is true for millions in this country and many citizens of Oak Park. It happens all the time. Those are all 12 month jobs and many are 50 hour a week jobs. Those are the people the District wants to squeeze with new taxes and if you dare say anything about a teacher's salary you are attacked for it.

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