Teachers Salaries vs.
Athlete Salaries

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Whenever an athlete’s salary is announced on ESPN or another media source, inevitably, someone mentions what schoolteachers earn. They say, “Athletes are overpaid. Teachers don’t make anything and they’re giving those athletes all that money? Something’s wrong.” Some say, “It’s unfair to pay teachers so little and pay athletes so much.” Others say, “Athletes don’t deserve to make that much money. They’re jobs are not nearly as important as a teachers.”

Whether athletes are overpaid and don’t deserve the money they earn is irrelevant. The bottom line is, upper echelon athletes are a scarce commodity. Anyone who understands basic economics understands that the more scarce a commodity, the higher the price consumers pay for the product. In other words, if quarterbacks and point guards and seven-foot centers were plenteous, athletes would not earn nearly as much.

Besides, there is another important factor that many people overlook. Public schoolteachers are paid by tax dollars. Sports franchise owners have contracts with television networks. In 1998, the NFL signed a 17.6 billion-dollar contract with Fox, ABC, ESPN, and CBS. In addition to that, owners have contracts with other advertising enterprises like Coke, Pepsi, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Nike, Converse, and a wealth of other outside resources. Therefore, the well of money is much deeper than the tax dollars that teachers draw from.

Another important factor is that private companies willingly pay television networks billions to show their commercials during sporting events. This is especially true during the Superbowl. The Monday after the Superbowl, people who wouldn’t otherwise watch NFL Football generally watch for no other reason than to see the new commercials. During the 2002 Superbowl, sponsors willing paid 1.6 million dollars for a 30 second commercial. According to Greg Farrell of USA Today, the price will be over 2 million during the 2003 Superbowl. Until teachers start generating the kind of money that sport franchises generate, it’s foolish to make any comparison between the two entities.

A better way to see how balanced teacher salaries are is to compare them to other important white-collar professionals. For example, according to the Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2001, “mid-level accountants earned an average (of) $52,664, computer system analysts an average $71,155 and engineers an average $74,920; teachers averaged only $43,250 in 2001. Even in the schoolhouse, teacher salaries increased at a slower rate in 2000-01 than the salaries of superintendents, principals, school secretaries, teacher aides, custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers.”

If the secretaries, aides, custodians, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers salaries are increasing faster than the people who actually teach the students, that to me says that the people who decide what teachers are worth must shoulder a significant portion of the blame. Superintendents and principals are the first to laud the praises of teachers, so who’s making the decision on who is paid what? I certainly don’t know. But I do know that the Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2001 is reporting that the highly valued teacher is below the custodian. For all those who scream bloody murder about what athletes make, here’s a real opportunity to let the powers that be know how you feel about this.

The Survey also reports that “Teacher salaries vary considerably across the states. Connecticut had the highest average salary at $53,507. The other top five states were California at $52,480, New Jersey at $51,955, New York at $51,020 and Michigan at $50,515. South Dakota had the lowest average salary at $30,265.” Future teachers would be better off moving to one of the above areas, or better yet, go into a vocation that pays the kind of salary they want. It’s foolish to go into a profession knowing that the pay isn’t what you want it to be, and then turn around and complain about salaries that come from tax dollars. The bottom line is Americans are unwilling to pay more money for a school system that produces inadequately prepared students. But the same taxpayer will reach deep into his pockets to purchase tickets for a NFL game.

The sports fan will complain bitterly about the outlandish price of a NFL ticket, yet he’ll pay just about any price to see a game. TicketsNow.com is offering fifth row Cleveland Browns seats for $405.00. I have no doubt those tickets will be sold before the start of the season. But if you ask the same ticket buyer to pay the same amount in tax dollars for a failed school system, he’s liable to use profane language when he tells you no, proving that the laws of economics determines what salaries athletes and teachers earn.

Teaching is an honorable profession. However, in order to earn the kind of money they deserve, they’re going to have to start their own schools and compete with private schools. “Ohio University economists Richard Vedder and Joshua Hall examined detailed data on over 600 Ohio school districts. They found that when viable private school alternatives exist, competition between public and private schools increases the salaries of public school teachers.” If what Vedder and Hall found is in fact true, then the best teachers will earn dollars commensurate with their talents. And hopefully, poor teachers will disappear, and with them, poor test scores, giving our children a chance to excel and become the successes we all want them to be.

All comments about this article should be sent to:
KeithLeeJohnson1@aol.com


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