Reckoning Time For Public Schools

Next time someone tells you public schools are "underfunded," laugh your behind off.

They're underfunded, mainly, because teachers are "underpaid," but two recent newspaper stories put the notion to rest. One reveals what teachers really earn, while another details public school administrators pulling down a quarter-million dollars annually in retirement.

Perhaps the only underpaid people in public schools, the stories prove, are janitors who mop up the revolting bathrooms.

Underfunded And Underpaid?

Teachers, the Washington Times reports, are quite well paid.

"When hourly and annual work data are incorporated into the analysis," the paper quotes two economists, "the evidence points to teachers being adequately paid in relation to other professionals…. [A]nalyses done by groups like the AFT and NEA that call for pay increases do not reflect this aspect of the teacher compensation puzzle."

Teachers make about 8 percent more than the average worker, and in 1992, made 18 percent more. "In hourly terms," the paper reported, "teachers earn more than architects, civil engineers, statisticians, biological and life scientists, university-level foreign-language teachers, and editors and reporters."

Teachers work about 38 hours a week, some 190 days a year, and fringe benefits typically exceed those of the private sector. They rarely face lay-offs.

In other words, unlike most jobs, teaching is not only lucrative but also dependable.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reports on a public-schools retirement rip-off, citing the example of one principal.

"Before his current contract, he was paid $190,525 a year. By the end of the contract, he'll be up to $346,000. Plus, he can get a $20,000 bonus in each of his last four years. That adds up to a guaranteed minimum salary of $1.36 million over five years, and as much as $1.44 million."

"[The] pension will be at least $221,250," the paper reports, "but it will be $232,500 if he gets all the bonuses. And the pension will automatically increase by 3 percent a year, every year, once he turns 61."

And that's not all: Administrator perks include "a second pension, the right to cash in vacation days every year, cars for personal use, even a mortgage."

These facts belie woeful tales about "underpaid" teachers and "underfunded" schools.

Failed Schools

And the facts invite the obvious question, from taxpayers: Do schools deserve the money they get?

Answer: No. If the purpose of education is imparting knowledge, then the public education system in America is an abject failure. Neither its managers nor teachers deserve another penny.

If we learn anything from our failed schools, we should learn that unlimited access to the treasury is no guarantee of success. Indeed, it has guaranteed chronic malfunction. Public school budgets always increase. Yet we repeatedly hear about kids who can't read in 12th grade, who don't know basic facts of history and who cannot add and subtract.

A high-school student from 2003, sent back in time to 1950, would fail a fifth-grade history or English test.

Reckoning Time

Our kids enter adulthood addled and ignorant, but teachers' unions ask for higher salaries. For what? To create another generation of idiots?

Government fashioned them with everything it spends on teacher pay, retirement packages, "Head Start," dumping phonics, new math, "phys-ed," sight reading, the information superhighway, "teen living," filthy sex-ed disguised as "family life," and now something called "no child left behind."

We've paid the bill. Reckoning time is here.

July 16, 2003

Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.

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