Friday, April 19, 2013

How much would you pay a babysitter?

How much are you willing to pay a babysitter? Teaching is sometimes compared to babysitting, so let’s run with this thought experiment. $7/hour? $10/hour? Let’s go with $5/hr, because there will be other kids around too. So the babysitter is going to have your kid from 8am to 3pm, but they get 30 minutes off for lunch and an hour of personal time, so the babysitter is only really watching your kid for 6.5 hours. That comes out to be… $32.50/day. Assuming that the babysitter is watching a total of 25 kids (about the average size of the class), then that number becomes $812.50/day. And the baby sitter is only going to work for 180 days of the year, so total amount of money that the babysitter would make in a year would be…$146,250. Now, since the baby sitter has had some extra training, and your kid might actually learn something while in the care of the babysitter, let’s pay the babysitter minimum wage in California, which is $8/hr. With 25 kids, working only 6.5 hours a day, and only 180 days a year, the “babysitter” is making $234,000/year! Hot damn, everyone should become a babysitter!

That number could easily be inflated using the logic espoused above. I easily work more than 6.5 hours a day, I usually have more than 25 kids in the room, and I most certainly work more than 180 days a year.

This was an argument, with slightly different numbers, that was posted by many of my teacher friends and others to Facebook, attempting to show that teachers should be paid more. I agree that teachers should be paid more, but not for the reasons they describe.

Let’s break down the argument, and then I will explain why I think teachers should be paid more.

The posting does not take into account the pay for the principal, the assistant principal, the office staff, the counselors, the security guards, the coaches, the janitors, etc. It doesn’t include the costs of maintaining the campus, the technology at the school, paying for electricity/water/waste, classroom supplies (yes, there is usually a little money stored away for these, but rarely enough). Including the pay for these individuals and upkeep of the campus takes a big chunk of that salary away.

Also rarely mentioned by these postings are the benefits that teachers receive. As a teacher, the school district will pay a certain percentage into your retirement, health and dental insurance, etc. These benefits are ridiculously good for a teacher. I won’t put out any specific numbers, but private pay insurance can cost from $100-$400+/month. I don’t pay anything close to that.

Taking into account that many other people need to be paid to support the babysitter, and that the babysitter has negotiated ridiculous benefits, that original $146,250 salary takes a big hit. How big? I will leave that to the accountants out there.

So how much should teachers be paid? Should there be incentive based pay? As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, almost everyone believes that they should get paid more.  Teachers almost always work more than the 180 days a year, more than the 8 hour days, and have more than 25 kids in the room. The real reason that teachers should be paid more is that the impact on students a good teacher can have is difficult to measure in monetary terms. Teachers influence, guide and mentor students and can impact students far beyond the classroom. You can probably remember your favorite teacher(s) and the words that they said to you that made you think and act differently. Those teachers are paid the same as all the other teachers. That begs the question about whether or not teachers should be paid differently, and what to do about bad teachers. A touchy subject that I will opine on later.

As for my pay? At the moment, to paraphrase Jack Johnson-I have everything I need, and everything I need is enough. I am grateful for my job, to be able to have an apartment (with a roommate-a good one), and not have to worry about my next meal.

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