Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Does a corporate chief deserve to make in a day what our educators make in a year?


I’d like to begin by thanking my teachers in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades, Mrs. Pulaski, Mr. Burke and Miss Elmer. They taught us percentages and showed us how to “round down,” which I am doing now. The U.S. population is 312,624,000, and we have 3,198,000 public school teachers, which computes to 1%.

But this is not the 1% composed of Wall Street fat cats, professional athletes, entertainers and other rich people. I guarantee there’s no overlap between the two groups. The average teacher today earns about $55,000. At least 75 CEOs earn that much in one day, every day, 365 days a year. According to the AFL-CIO’s “Executive PayWatch,” the CEO who ranked No. 75, David Cote of Honeywell, was paid $20,154,012, for a daily rate of $55,216.47.

The CEO at the top of the heap, Philippe Dauman of Viacom, was paid $84,515,308. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Krepela, taught me how to compute averages, so I can tell you Dauman earns a daily average of about $231,549, which is more than four times what the average teacher earns in a year.

Unlike wages for teachers, CEO salaries have been soaring in recent years. Forty years ago, the average public school teacher earned $49,000, adjusted for inflation. That’s a raise of a whopping $150 a year for 40 years, or about one quarter of 1% annually.

Here’s another way that the other 1% is different: Teachers spend their own money on supplies for their classrooms. That came to $1.33 billion in school year 2009-10, or $356 per teacher, according to the National School Supply & Equipment Association.

I will wager several packs of colored pencils that Dauman, Cote and the other high earners do not drop by Staples to pick up office supplies for their secretaries.

The teaching profession is often criticized because salaries are not based on performance, meaning that the best teachers earn what their less-than-stellar colleagues take home. While that’s generally true, it’s also changing fast. Twenty-four states now base teacher evaluation in part on student performance, and Denver, Washington, D.C., and other localities have created “pay-for-performance” systems that reward individuals or entire schools when students do well. Connecting teacher effectiveness with student outcomes is the wave of the future, and it’s becoming easier to remove ineffective teachers than it was just a few years ago.

That doesn’t seem to be true on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms, where the pay of the CEO is often at odds with his company’s performance. Take Cisco’s John Chambers. The website 24/7 Wall Street ranks Chambers as America’s most overpaid CEO, based on his total compensation of $18,871,875 even as the price of Cisco common stock fell 31.4 %.

In fairness, some teachers are overpaid, because they have “retired on the job” and are just going through the motions until they can retire for real. Of course, there’s a big difference between being overpaid at $55,000 and being overpaid at $20,500,000, which is what Carl Crawford of the Boston Red Sox earned for hitting .255 with just 11 home runs last season. Like the CEO of Honeywell, Crawford earns about $55,000 a day, every day, 365 days a year. He ranks only 28th on the list of athletes, according to Sports Illustrated’s “The Fortunate 50.”

As it may have occurred to you, public school teachers are actually part of the 99%. However, they probably were not out protesting in Zuccotti Park. At least not during the day, because that’s when they are teaching our children and grandchildren.

Merrow is education correspondent for the “PBS NewsHour” and president of the nonprofit Learning Matters. His latest book is “The Influence of Teachers

Read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment