Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book review: "Teachers Have It Easy"

Over the past week, I've been reading Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers by Daniel Mouthrop, Ninive Clements Calegari, and Dave Eggers. The book is one of the most powerful arguments for paying teachers more that I've read, but it has the potential side effect of scaring readers away from the profession of K-12 teaching.

The case for paying teachers more is relatively easy to make, and the authors make it very well. However, whether the book overstates the severity of the monetary challenges K-12 teachers face is a debatable question. It is indeed a crime that public school teachers in some districts have starting salaries in the low 30s, but in other metropolitan areas, the median salary for teachers is in the 60-70k range, and that is a different story. The reader is left with the impression that it is nearly impossible to make a decent living as a teacher, and that doesn't seem accurate to me.

According to the U.S. government's Bureau of Labor Statistics' May '07 occupational outlook data for secondary school teachers, the top five metropolitan areas for teacher salary at the secondary level are:

1. Nassau / Suffolk, NY - 78k
2. Ann Arbor, MI - 75k
3. Lake County / Kenosha County, IL/WI - 71k
4. Chicago / Naperville / Joliet, IL - 69k
5. Santa Ana / Anaheim / Irvine, CA - 68k

The top five states for secondary teacher pay are New York, Illinois, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey.

Of course, these numbers mean little without factoring in the cost of living; CNN Money has a useful cost of living comparison calculator here.

With that caveat, I highly recommend Teachers Have It Easy. You can order it online here.