Of cheeseheads and mortar boards

I’ve yet to weigh in on Wisconsin, but something has really caught my attention, so here we go…

The new GOP talking point seems to be the salaries that teachers in the Badger State take in. Rush Limbaugh was on it today, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it from other people too, though The Daily Caller’s Matthew Boyle wrote about it more than a week ago. Are you ready to be outraged by Wisconsin’s teachers? Here we go:

“Wisconsin’s 2010 Teacher of the Year, Leah Lechleiter-Luke of Mauston High School… makes $54,928 in base salary and $32,213 in “fringe benefits,” which includes health insurance, life insurance and retirement pay. …Per the Department of Commerce, in 2009, the average personal income for all Wisconsin workers was $37,398.”

Are you OUTRAGED?!?!?!? Because I’m not. So what?

Boyle’s piece doesn’t specify, so allow me a bit of conjecture here: When he says “all Wisconsin workers,” we’re going to guess he means all human beings in the state of Wisconsin who hold a job. That’s a big group of people, ranging from doctors, lawyers, etc. on the high end, to – I’m guessing – janitors, food service employees, etc. on the other. And what one thing that usually separates those on the high end from the low? An education.

A quick Google search reveals that Lechleiter-Luke holds degrees from both the University of Wisconsin-Osh Kosh, and Viterbo University in La Crosse. That information comes from this document, a list of the 2009-10 Wisconsin teachers of the year. Perusing that list reveals that all of them have at least one degree, and one of them is currently working on a Masters.

What does this have to do with salary? A lot. CNN noted in 2006 that a “survey found that adults 18 and older with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $51,554 in 2004, compared to $28,645 for those with only a high school diploma.”

Go back to this Wisconsin numbers again for a second:$54,928 in base pay for one of Wisconsin’s teachers of the year (who holds two college degrees) compared to $37,398 for all workers. Not that far off, are they?

Here’s another document for you, this one from Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges. It lists 10 occupations typically requiring a bachelors degree. The average salary of that group is $48,472.

So, yes, Wisconsin’s teachers don’t do too shabby when it comes to salary, but it’s not way out of line when compared to other workers with bachelor’s degrees.

Listen, Conservatives…if you want me to get on your side here – and I’m open to that idea – don’t attack teachers for making salaries commensurate with their education. No offense, but I’m not dumb enough to fall for that.

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3 Comments

  1. Your numbers are really cloudy because your citing studies that include retirement pay and those which don’t at the same time.

    When you take into account the fact that teachers’ pensions are guaranteed benefit retirement plans – a rarity these days – and that they’re paying far less for their health insurance than average they’re being paid well above the norm for their education levels.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s too much – school and school board admin staff being another story – but it is a lot when you take into account that it is a profession w/o much accountability for performance and few measurable goals, all of which their union fights against.

  2. I’m going to lay some blame on Boyle for the numbers being cloudy. I quoted numbers in his story, which don’t indicate if the average Wisconsin worker’s “personal income” includes benefits packages. I posted this very quickly between getting out of class and picking up my littlest one from preschool, so my cursory search didn’t turn up equivalent numbers.

    The point remains, though…I don’t mind the money that Wisconsin teachers make. You yourself said you don’t think it’s too much. I think there are valid arguments to make about benefits packages, but base salary isn’t out of the ballpark. So why make villains out of them for it?

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

  3. Just an addendum here: A piece on The Atlantic today pointed out that Wisconsin’s teachers are slightly below the national average in pay. The starting salary is $32,642 and the maximum, with a master’s, is $60,036.


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