Teachers Are the Problem

by Adam Hammer on April 8, 2011

You can't fire me. I'm union!

FULL DISCLOSURE: My mom is a public school teacher.
MORE FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a high school drop out.
EVEN MORE FULL DISCLOSURE: After dropping out, when I was a 17 year old community college student, I worked as a tutor for $8 an hour through my school. During that time I tutored a former 2nd grade-recently-turned-3rd grade public school teacher that didn’t know her times tables. She made more than $8 an hour to teach kids math that she didn’t understand. The tutoring service at this college was free. She didn’t have to pay me. Every 2 weeks taxes were taken out of my paycheck to cover her salary and pension. And I was the one teaching her. She reminded me of most of the teachers I had had growing up – under qualified.

On with my argument…

We’re broke. From California, to Wisconsin, to Ohio, to the Federal Government, we’re out of money. Eight percent of our federal budget goes towards paying the INTEREST on our national debt. We haven’t even touched the principal and almost a dime for every dollar of tax revenue goes to another country. No wonder we don’t have health care.

My solution is to go back to our capitalist roots. Stop depending on the government for everything and start using a “let the market sort it out” approach in more areas of our life than fast food and beer.

Let’s start with education. Privatize the schools. Teachers will make more. Students will perform better. And parents will have more say in their children’s future.

I read a post online called “Teacher’s are just babysitters…pay them like such” posted by a teacher that I can only assume feels like they are under paid. Once you get past the author’s poor grammar in the title or the word “teachers” misspelled in the first sentence (go ahead, check out the link), this teacher has a point.

The idea is to pay teachers $3 per hour per student per day. Which comes to about $54k a year. In case that teacher I tutored in college is reading this that’s 3 dollars x 5 hours a day x 20 students per classroom x 180 days a year. Hit the equals button. There you go. We’re multiplying!

Pay them like baby sitters. Ha ha ha. I mean, that’s all they are, right? That’s funny. But let’s get serious. This teacher isn’t posing a solution. They’re asking for more money from the government. And they don’t even take into account the other costs associated with running a school. Selfish teacher.

We don’t have to pay them like baby sitters. We could pay them more like hair stylists – letting them set their own prices guaranteeing the best ones get paid more and the bad ones fall by the wayside.

I say parents pay $3.50 an hour per child as a starting rate. Take a dollar off the top to cover operating costs of the school (29%) then let teachers decide how many students to accept in a classroom and after they’ve built up a “clientele” and a reputation, they have the option to raise their prices. And since my classroom sizes were closer to the 30 student range, let’s up the student number to 25 per class.

Let’s take a look at how that’d play out…

$2.50/hr x $5 hour day x 180 day/year x 25kids in a class = $56,250 STARTING SALARY. That’s more than teachers make now WITH NO UNION DUES.

Part of what’s crippling our under funded budgets are the benefits and retirement packages for teachers. A fresh out of college, 23 year old teacher, making $56k has more than enough to cover their own medical insurance. In California, I was paying $65 a month as a 28 year old SMOKER and I wasn’t making CLOSE to $56k. Since the implementation of “Obamacare” my insurance has gone up to $108 but that’s still more than affordable if I was making $56k.

At a starting rate of $56k I would also have plenty of money to save for my own retirement. I wouldn’t have to count on a government funded pension program. Anybody whose job it is to impart knowledge, should know to save some money for retirement. If they don’t know that much, they shouldn’t be teaching.

There go the expensive benefits packages. Now what about teacher pay? $56,000 isn’t all that much.

The teachers could raise and set their own hourly prices. They could charge what they’re worth according to the market. They could charge whatever they want on a per student basis as long as people will pay. They could keep the $3.50/hr base rate for low income kids. They could charge more for the problem kids. They could even pay the $1/hr per student as a tax-deductible, charitable donation for kids whose families just flat out can’t afford to pay. Whatever they want! It’s their business. They’ll make what parents are willing to pay.

Let’s say a teacher proved to be worth $6/hr with 25 students, they’d be making over $95k a year after the 29% commission back to the school. If that’s what they want to charge and people are willing to pay, so be it. Good teachers should make more money.

Conversely, a teacher with a poor reputation and a bad standing in the market, could have NO demand and eventually lose their job all together. Wow. Firing bad teachers? As it stands now, they basically have to punch or diddle a kid for this to happen.

I wonder if the author of that article considered they might be out of work if their pay was based on performance.

At $3.50 per hour the base cost for the parents would be $3,150 a year + a partially refundable book deposit of, let’s say $300. You pay $300 a year for books and get back $200 if all the books are returned in good condition. The extra $100 would go towards purchase of future books WHEN THEY’RE NEEDED. Not every year. We have no reason to buy new math books every year for our students. Math has changed NEVER. We’d only have to buy new books to keep up to date with ever changing history or when our language updates. Like when we add words like “refudiate” to the dictionary.

She would have made an excellent public school teacher.

$3,150 might sound like a lot out of pocket. But It’s less than half of what you’d pay in taxes if you made $50,112 (the median American income for 2010). And we’d use this as a tax write off in conjunction with taxes going down all together. Overall, it should cost you less than you pay now. After all, you’re no longer paying for a school board and superintendents and every other level of education bureaucracy your taxes cover.

Since we’re shaking things up, let’s also get rid of grades. No more 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. The kids work at their own pace. When they finish their coursework, they move on to the next level. The smarter kids aren’t held back. The dumber kids can get the attention they need. Parents can choose to keep their kids with the teachers they like for their entire school career. Teachers can take advantage of their demand and raise their prices. Kids could finish school early, making the whole experience cost less for the parents. Everybody wins, even the dumb kids!

And get rid of school districts. Let parents choose all around what’s best for their kids no matter what they can afford in the way of housing. I had a teacher that really encouraged me to develop my writing skills. Writing is now how I make money. The rest of them were forgettable at best. Except the one that called me “faggot” in front of the whole class. I learned that schools get paid money based on attendance, so I decided this “faggot” was gonna drop out. In my system, that guy would’ve taken a major hit on his paycheck. Currently, he’s probably enjoying his retirement thanks to your tax dollars.

I bet if all parents had to cut a physical check every year for their kids education, they’d make a little more effort to see their investment pay off. You know, like the ones that send their kids to private school? Maybe they’d stop taking their kid’s education for granted as some sort of government hand out. They’d also take the responsibility of raising their kids into their own hands instead of leaving it up to the same government that was so skilled at handling Hurricane Katrina.

And let’s be honest, if you can’t afford to pay $3,150 a year for your kid’s future, you shouldn’t be having kids. As it stands now, these parents poor choices affect everybody else’s pocket book without any say on their part. While irresponsible parents get a tax credit, those of us with no kids have to pay for their kids to go to school. Until the kids drop out that is.

As far as the 29% commission back to the school, this would cover a dean, janitors, nurse, secretary and operating costs. At the base model of $3.50 an hour for 25 students in 20 classrooms, that’s $450,000 a year. It would go up from there if the teachers were performing well enough to raise their prices. $450k might be light. I don’t know what it costs to run water and electricity at a school. But I also know that every school I went to had far more than 20 classrooms and it was more like 30 kids per class, not the 20 our author put in their example. So $450k may also be a drastically low estimate.

The schools, of course would be non-profit. I’m sure the water and power companies could work out tax credits for donating their utilities to the schools. In that case, $450k might cover it.

School lunches also might be an issue. But this could be remedied by treating the schools like any other corporation with multiple store fronts. Some locations make up for the lack of revenue in other locations. The revenue of a school with 150 classrooms could carry some of the overhead of the schools with 20 classrooms. Or, an even better plan, feed your own kids.

I don’t have ALL the details worked out, but I think this could be a good jumping off point to getting teachers paid what they’re worth – the good AND the bad – and actually taking control of our own futures instead of relying on a government that focuses more on reelections than its own citizens. I wish I would’ve come up with the original “Babysitter” idea all on my own, but like I said, I’m a high school drop out.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Edwards April 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm

I think this is a great ideal. But why not weed out all the good teachers form the “babysitters”? What I mean is we have teachers who inspire kids to wanna come and learn. Then we have teachers who show up to basiclly get a pay Check. I can understand we all have bills to pay;but not at the expense of the kids. the whole system is jacked up. They should prove that they really want their jobs. Sad to say but true. I do not think that teachers who just give busy work should be in charge of teaching tomorrows youth. These are the people teaching america’s leaders and we pay them;well most of them not even a portion of what the deserve…that a problem. The highest paid teachers are those in china making around 85$ an hour
Why is that well because they are all college graduates with masters in their chosen field. They did not hire a bunch of people who got “certified”. I see it like this teachers who are motivated to teach and love it do better than the BABY SITTERS. So ditch them and hire those that wanna be their.

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linda alvarez July 28, 2011 at 8:03 am

The reason most teachers feel its like babysitting is because of the way accountability has interfered with creativity. The great inspirational teachers you seek will burn out quickly with the over preparation for state tests and focus on data not creativity.

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What May 5, 2013 at 8:59 pm

This is, quite seriously, the dumbest thing I’ve read in a long time.

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