Teachers Vs Economics

8 mins read

We see a number of teachers throughout the country shutting down schools (pretty much exclusively in states with Republican governance where Democrats think they can make inroads). But I think it’s a good time to go Karl Marx 001.jpgback and talk about our basic economics and how they affect the discussion of teacher’s pay.
I think that, first off, it’s important to point out that wages are directly controlled by the iron law of Supply and Demand. We also want to consider that all economic decisions are not entirely based on money; this is expressed as opportunity cost vs. opportunity benefit or implicit vs explicit costs (a good example of this is a woman who chooses to forgo her career to have and raise children. It hurts her earnings – an opportunity cost, but she gets children and she gets to ensure that they are properly raised and cared for, the opportunity benefit) So, right off the bat, we know that in general, compensation for teachers is generally in the ball park.  You don’t have people swarming to the profession but you also generally don’t have too much trouble filling those jobs.
You can have a perverse opportunity cost vs opportunity benefit scenario where you see wages are out of whack, which is what we have in certain labor markets where you have people claiming that there are jobs “that Americans just won’t do“. If there was really a problem with what teachers were being paid, you would not be able to fill those jobs. So, while you can still have a discussion about compensation, we know already that what is being offered in the teaching profession is in line with what the supply curve would require.  And what the teachers are implicitly endorsing here is Karl Marx’s Labor Theory of Value.  This can safely be summed up as the idea that labor isn’t subject to the law of supply and demand and instead holds an intrinsic value, which is the position that these teachers (and unions in general) tend to take.  The problem is that they will not admit that they are arguing for a communist economic system even though they clearly and distinctly are.
Now, let’s move on to some of the sleight of hand tricks that dishonest teachers organizations like to use. And I say dishonest because a group that bills themselves as educators really has no excuse for not knowing this stuff. They love to claim that “Teacher pay in X state is lowest in the nation!” And you know what, that’s probably true. But what they don’t reveal is that the location that they’re talking about has the lowest cost of living in the nation. This lie was particularly useful to them in West Virginia. And it is also being repeated in North Carolina, where we are expected to feel bad that teachers aren’t paid as much as they would be in New York City, despite the fact that the cost of living is several orders of magnitude less. And if we go back to the concepts of Opportunity Cost vs Opportunity Benefit, living in an area with a high cost of living is, in fact, a cost. And conversely, living in a place with a low cost of living is a benefit. These teachers believe that we’re dumb enough to think that they’re going to move to a region with an obscenely high cost of living to teach in inner city schools for a modest wage increase.
Let’s go back to our previous paragraph where we talked about supply and demand. If those jobs were that much more desirable then we would all hear Ross Perot’s Giant Sucking Sound as all the teachers stampeded for those cities. The unpleasant truth of the matter (for teachers) is that if you live in a state that has an average income in the bottom 20% of states in the US, and a cost of living in the bottom 20% of the US, then your salary is probably going to be in the bottom 20% of school systems in the US. One might think that there was some kind of correlation there.
And lastly, lets talk about the qualifications of teachers.  A quick Google search turns up a pretty useful website for this kind of information.

How to Become a Teacher in North Carolina

Anyone pursuing a North Carolina teacher certificate must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program in North Carolina. Additionally, there are required examinations and a background check that must be submitted before applying for teacher certification.
Teachers in North Carolina must hold certification for the subject or grade level they wish to teach. Teaching certificate areas include birth through kindergarten, elementary (grades K-6), middle grades (grades 6-9), secondary grades (grades 9-12), special subjects (K-12), exceptional children (K-12), and vocational education. There are also alternative routes to certification in North Carolina for those looking to change careers.

Image resultSo, in North Carolina, if you have a 4 year degree, there are pathways for you to become a teacher.  How is this relevant, you may ask?  Well, Supply and Demand is the one ring to rule them all in economics. And if you increase wages enough, teaching becomes a more attractive option for other individuals with 4 year degrees.  People who otherwise were not part of your job market before are suddenly going to find it more attractive and more worthwhile to enter the profession.  In an expanding economy where college graduates are highly sought after, this isn’t so much a problem for teachers when demand for labor is high.  But economies are cyclical and there will always be another recession, and when the labor market gets weak, other 4 year degree holders, ones who may be more qualified to teach certain subjects than you, may start to push you out of your preferred profession.  Which is why it is foolish to try to use the force of government to give you a windfall beyond what the market would otherwise bear.

28 Comments

  1. I’m a teacher in a private school with much public school experience. I can’t, and don’t, complain about my pay.

  2. I’m a teacher in WV and we did not tout the “lowest paid” shits you say we were. That was the news, not us. For our state, and the level of education we have (most counties require Master’s degrees after 5 years of teaching with a bachelor’s degree), we were paid little compared with occupations that require the same level of education. The disconnect you have is experiencing this through the media, not by talking with WV teachers. Seek the source, and believe little of what you hear from some talking head on national news. Speak with us, not the news. I expect more from this website. Our pay was well below par, especially since we are required 18+ hours of Continuing Education training hours each year beyond our Bachelor’s, Master’s, and “Plus” graduate hours nearly all of us attain. Cost of living varies from county-to-county, not just state-to-state. Life choices, like renting vs owning material goods and how much and what type of entertainment people spend their money one really defines the “cost of living” from person to person, not just the cost of gasoline and eggs.

    • Adam
      I had the sad misfortune to live in the god forsaken state of West Virginia for 5 miserable years. Granted it seemed like 20. I lived in Morgantown… which granted is only just barely West Virginia… but I can assure you.. it was bad enough.
      Now… since you obviously didn’t pay attention to the article… let me point something out. Your qualifications don’t mean a damn thing. Supply and Demand is all that matters. Theoretically those high qualifications should limit the supply and drive up the wages somewhat… and they have. The fact is you’re already paid an artificially high wage compared to what you’re actually worth.
      I hate to break it to ya buddy.. but you’re a baby sitter. You’re not an educator. You’re there to keep the urchins off the street so mommy and daddy can work. That’s all.
      Its a miracle we pay you more than minimum wage.

      • Fuck you. Who has taught the masses reading and writing and math? We did, not you. Their parents, for the most part, do not. We do. I love to break it to you, but your a piss poor excuse for a journalist. I’ve read your work, you have not seen mine.

        • “Who has taught the masses reading and writing and math? ”
          Given the scores coming from public high school graduates, I’d say “no one”.

        • We don’t charge anything. This is free content because we want to do it. You cannot apply economic calculations to it.
          If you no longer find value in it, it doesn’t change it. If you never darken our blog again, nothing will change for us. Your estimation of value only affects yourself.

  3. Public teachers paid by the State have declared themselves separate from market forces. After all, the productive are forced to pay the teachers’ salaries, no matter the performance. The teaching salaries are determined by the State and not the market. This is socialism.
    Ok, fine, we’ve convinced ourselves we can have a market economy and socialism side-by-side. Great.
    But teachers complaining about market forces not applying to their salaries is why we need to disband the entire Education Department, from the Federal down to the State.
    You want market-responsive salaries? Then get out of the State system.
    You want to stay in the socialist system? Then you have accept whatever those that control the system decide to give you.

    • We do not accept the state-system salaries we received, so we said no and the employer caved and gave us what we wanted. Plain and simple, we proved you wrong. We beat your “socialist system!”

      • No Adam. You didn’t beat anything. You’ve just been appeased. And you’ll soon try it again. And it may work again.
        Until you meet a governor with courage. Then you’ll try it again… expecting it to work… because it always has before. And he will fire you all.
        And you’ll sit around stunned wondering what happened… as your jobs are filled almost over night.

        • Your life would be miserable if all student just lost their teachers. This in a horrible future you paint. Imagine, if you can fathom it, that all teenagers under 18 were just loosed upon your neighborhood with no supervision and no one to train and help them figure out how to be a working part of society. Who would replace us? Most knowledgeable adults capable of managing teenagers in mass are already occupied by their occupation. Parent are occupied by their occupations. What a shitstorm it would be for society.

          • Cheap labor.
            Humanity was educating and raising up children long before the flustercluck of Federal-run education.
            We’ll survive just fine if you and all your works ceased to exist today.

          • Considering the quality of students churned out by the Great Educational System, staffed by Adam and his companions, I’d say society is already in a poorer condition.
            Children can learn how to read, write and absorb knowledge without public schools. Once a child learns how to read, there are now thousands of opportunities to intellectually grow. Most classrooms inhibit learning, not foster it.
            Also, teachers need to get off their desire to be viewed as near saints. You’re people who selected a career, a job. That’s it.

          • “Your life would be miserable if all student just lost their teachers. This in a horrible future you paint. Imagine, if you can fathom it, that all teenagers under 18 were just loosed upon your neighborhood with no supervision”
            Really?
            Are you sure it wouldn’t just be like… June? And July?
            You know… the months we close the schools down completely… and no one really notices?
            We don’t need you. You’re not teaching anyone anything. Our kids are observably less educated than they have been since the early 1900s.

      • ‘We beat your “socialist system!”’
        I see you are vastly overpaid.
        No, as Lector said, you’ve been appeased.
        Whether your wishes coincided with what the controllers decided or not is irrelevant to the fact you are in a socialist system. You aren’t on the market. No consumer gets to decide what you are worth. Your value is determined by those that control the system, which is what teachers have demanded over and over again. If that’s what floats your boat, go for it.
        But pretending you have an equivalent market value is just further proof the education system is a failure.

        • The powers that be are liquidate-able, vote them out. We in WV completed a massive campaign to gather public support in our state and succeeded. The recent Election Day results show that. Those that fought teachers and their students and students’ families the hardest, and were up for reelection, were given the boot. The WV voting body sided with us, found value in us, and realized we can shut down the state’s educational system and are organized to do so. There is value in keeping us well paid and happy, whether or not you value our work/service.
          There is an extreme demand from parents to send their children to school, we supply for that demand. When we’ve had enough, we shut down the supply 100% until we had our demands met. (Which they were after nearly a month of shutting down the WV educational system) Simple supply and demand. We removed the supply and the demand increased drastically.
          How often does the supply of state employees in a vital field disappear over night? Rarely. How often does a group of state employees get what they want, 100% of demands met, when they go up against their employer? Rarely. We did it, others followed.
          We dried the supply, demand increased to the point that the WV state Senate tried to knock us down, we refused to be knocked back, we stood our ground. The demand was so high for us that we got what we wanted. Plain and simple, supply and demand works. It worked for us. Market values and theoretical values don’t matter in respect to public teachers. Pure capitalism doesn’t work in respect to public education.
          This is not as simple as you make it to seem. I wouldn’t want to be on the market. Markets dry up, markets crash, markets are artificially inflated and deflated. No one should want to be on the market. Make yourself valuable beyond the monetary value someone else places on you. Make yourself valuable based on the skills and serves you provide others.

          • “There is an extreme demand from parents to send their children to school, we supply for that demand.”
            BZZT. It’s required by law to send your kids to school. As in, the State will use violence to enforce it.
            This “demand” is the one of the hostage seeking the best treatment he can get.
            Whenever possible, parents will opt for something else. Homeschooling, charter schools, private schools. And every time they do, the teacher’s unions fight tooth and nail against them, because public education in America is subpar and getting worse.
            “I wouldn’t want to be on the market.” Of course not. You’d have to actually provide a service people want to pay for instead of relying on gunpoint to make your money.
            “No one should want to be on the market.” I have been my entire adult life. It’s great! It’s one of the last freedoms we still can have in these benighted times.

  4. For some reason or another, the option to reply to some above statements are not showing up. So, I reply here. If public education is so bad, why do parents not rally together and cause change? They would be a powerful influence for the change you want. They need to cause it to happen. The people are greater than the government, if they are united. I assume you both are the product of public education.

    • WordPress imposes a hard limit to the nesting.
      “If public education is so bad, why do parents not rally together and cause change”
      We do. We have. Hence charter schools and homeschooling, which are fought by teacher unions tooth and nail.
      I’ve done both with my kids. It’s a challenge, for sure, but the difference between that and public education is astounding. Public education is a mess.
      I have a daughter in high school now because she wanted to be in the school district-sponsonered cosmetology program which only accepted public school kids. The high school education is subpar. The cosmetology program is better run, better at teaching than high school.
      The schools are failing. They will continue to fail. They have no way of correcting their course at this point. The sooner we end the charade and get back to solutions that respond to market pressure, the better.

    • We all have some experience, of one kind or another, with public schools, which is why almost all of us homeschool. You are really just making our point for us with your over the top whining.

    • “If public education is so bad, why do parents not rally together and cause change?”
      Change is hard and most people don’t like change. Plus, our current economic model basically requires that two parents work, unless one parent is blessed with a high-paying job. Raising a family on a sub-$35,000 income is not easy. It’s doable if you cost of living is low enough, but it does require sacrifice. I am sympathetic to parents who choose to public school so both can work, but I still think it’s a not the best choice for their children.
      Homeschooling is on the rise across the nation. If enough parents pull their kids from public schools, the school systems will have no choice but to restructure.
      I’d prefer we moved toward some type of voucher system where parents received a particular amount of money per kid, that must be spent on schooling. Parents could then send their kids to the school they wanted.

  5. Adam is the Most Secretest Gamma King ever. He’s literally raising everyone’s children and we should be thankful!

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