Teacher Comics: The Pay Steps (explained)


I wasn’t sure if I had to take time to explain how a teacher’s pay scale works but I decided it was worth a comic simply by virtue of the number of idiots out there who don’t seem to want to understand teacher salaries. There’s probably a whole other series of comics I can mine from this ignorance but chiefly it concerns these two things:

– People think it’s hideous that I get three months off, but am paid all year ’round when in fact, I choose to have a portion of my salary withheld during the school year so I receive paychecks during the summer months.

– People take the average of the lowest salary of a teacher (around $30 grand in some districts) and the highest salary (let’s say $90 grand for the sake of neatness) and by using MATH decide that the average teacher salary is $60 grand. This sounds glorious… except most school districts operate on the backs of teachers new to the profession who barely make more than a server at Applebee’s during the formative early years of their career. We had a handful of high earners at my former school but for the most part, the teachers in the trenches were making very little money.

I talk a little about teacher pay in this comic from September, so you know I’ve been thinking about this for awhile.


3 Responses to “Teacher Comics: The Pay Steps (explained)”

  1. Also, the $90K will almost always be in very, very high cost-of-living areas. My sister, who has taught for a very long time, makes what seems to be a good salary (but it’s not $90K). But she lives in urban CA, where the rent for her two-bedroom apartment is more than twice my 3-bedroom mortgage on a quarter acre lot (just a few feet from a large state forest) here in Central, PA. I have taught in school districts where the starting salary was $23,000 and the increment was $1,000/yr.

    Also, opportunities for grown adults to pick up summer jobs are frequently poor (YMMV). There are only a handful of summer teaching jobs, and they pay even more pitifully. The rest of us end up working at temp agencies or staying home with our kids (if possible. Parents with very young kids in areas with waiting lists for even the most basic daycare and preschools are often stuck paying for child care through the summer, even if they do stay home with their kids.) To be clear, I always picked staying home with my kids because my daycare allowed me to cut back to the minimum enrollment and still not lose our place. But not every family can afford that. They work at Taco Bell or Olive Garden or a temp agency.

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      Yeah, I should say in case anyone else is curious: the $90,000 pay ceiling was one I made up for convenience. Neither the district I’m leaving nor the district I am going to work in next year have pay scales that reach so high.

      As you say, I believe you can hit $90 K in New York City public schools if you hang in there for 30+ years, but it’s been awhile since I’ve checked out their pay scales. That does bring the conversation around to another talking point I hear often – people will discuss teacher salary based on “having heard” that someone can make that much teaching and then that just becomes in their minds what teachers make. It’s so not the case.

      We have teachers at my school who wait tables during the summer… and some who do it year-round. We have teachers who form an ad-hoc paint crew and work on people’s houses for the summers. I’ll be teaching a week of summer school this year for a week, but the only reason I can do that is my wife stays at home with the kids.

  2. I wrote about teacher pay scale and potential interviews recently. https://aboatman.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/careers/

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