Nearly 40% Of ND Teachers Make More Than Median Household Income

NCLBEL MOONEY  MURRAY

North Dakota’s teacher unions want to raise the minimum salary paid to teachers:

The “Make the Average the Law” campaign might be bringing higher salaries to North Dakota teachers. It’s kicking off today by the North Dakota Education Association. The goal is to raise the minimum starting salary for teachers to $32,000.

Supporters say it’s time for a change. The current minimum teachers salary, $22,500, was set by state legislators ten years ago.

The Make the Average the Law campaign seeks to even out the playing field when it comes to teacher salaries. Brad Srur, Grand Forks Education Association: “It’s getting everyone at least up to the average.”

A recent survey shows the majority of North Dakotans would support raising the minimum to $36,000, but campaign leaders say $32,000 is a reasonable compromise. Brad: “North Dakota I think at this point has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and the association feels it can be done now.”

The measure is mostly aimed at helping rural areas. Brad: “I think it will help our recruitment of teachers because I know there are places in North Dakota where they struggle to get teachers.”

This doesn’t make any sense. We’re not talking about a mandatory salary. We’re talking about a minimum salary. Which means that teachers can be paid more, they just can’t accept less. If a given school district can’t find teachers to work for the minimum, they can pay more. But if they can find qualified teachers willing to work for the minimum, why should the taxpayers have to pay more?

And really, how many teachers make the minimum? According to Sunshine on Schools, in 2009 (the last year for which data is available) just 15 teachers made the minimum or less (part timers) in total salary (not counting pensions and other benefits). That’s just 0.21% of all teachers employed in the state.

graph (1)

Just 808 of 7051 teachers make less than the $32,000/year the unions want the minimum raised to. That’s 11.4% of teachers.

graph (2)

No fewer than 99% of teachers in 2009 made more than North Dakota’s per-capita income of $25,803 from 2010. Almost 40% of teachers made more than the media North Dakota household income of $46,781.

graph (3)

And, again, we’re just talking salary. We’re not talking about other perks like pensions.

Plus, this data is going on four years old. Compensation levels have risen since then. This pay seems adequate.

If certain school districts need to raise salaries to find more teachers, they are and should be free to do that. Pay should be based on the labor markets, calculated to attract a sufficient number of qualified applicants. But an across-the-board hike in minimum salaries? That sounds great for the teachers union in that it means more dues for them. It’s not so great for the taxpayers, and it’s hardly conducive to efficient education policy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    It’s a part-time job with full time compensation and the ability to retire while still in your fifties.

    • devilschild

      Yep…just like farming.

      • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

        Not just like farming. Farming entails risk, a lot of it. Teaching is one of the most risk free careers out there.

        • Lynn Bergman

          The taxpayer helps pay for farmers’ risk avoidance and for teachers’ liability insurance; in THAT sense, they are the same.

        • JimTown Guy

          Farming is virtually risk free now.

          • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

            I remember most of the farmers I knew going bankrupt in the 80’s and 90’s. A few good years doesn’t make it risk free.

  • zipity

    B-b-b-but….don’t you care about The Children©….?

    *SNORT*

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    School districts in ND handle the retirement payments in different ways. Under state law the teacher and the districts each pay a portion of the retirement. However many districts pay the teachers side. A person has to consider that when they compare how school districts compensate the teachers.

    • Johnny

      The District can no longer pay the whole portion of the teacher’s contribution.

  • ec99

    I’ve never understood the resentment toward teacher salaries. What torques me is what administrators make, while never setting foot in a classroom.

    • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

      The resentment from teachers’ salaries comes from the fact that many people look at the pay/benefits compared to the time on the job and make the conclusion that teachers are well paid. They then take this conclusion and compare with the histrionics from the teachers and their allies about how mistreated they are.

      It’s pretty easy to understand that there is going to be some pushback.

    • OldConserv2011

      I may be wrong, but most of the administrators I’ve known all started out as teachers. They started at the bottom like everyone else. But they had long term aspirations and they used their off season time to pursue their higher education degrees to make themselves eligible for administration jobs. They followed the traditional American way.

      • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

        I don’t think what we’re paying for administrators is as big a problem as how many useless administrators there are. Of course I think that the GF Stuperintendent is the most overpaid person in the state.

        • Lynn Bergman

          Good point. since 1969, half as many student and twice as many administrators. Administrator to student ration up 400%+.
          Get rid of the 13% of K-12 funding that is federal and get rid of 3/4 of the administrators and we will have results in the classroom. Until then, flatlined outcomes.

      • Lynn Bergman

        And they worked their way up in the union heirarchy…

      • ec99

        “started out as teachers” is the point: they fled the classroom for the salaries and perqs administrators get. It’s the same at universities. It’s strange that people least responsible for teaching get the highest salaries.

        • OldConserv2011

          How is that any different than the private sector? The executives work their way to the top, and are rewarded through higher pay and/or better benefits than the folks on the shop floor. Although I will grant that in the education industry it is common to see administrators who did not earn their position through the traditional model.

          • ec99

            The difference is that in business, you climb the ladder but continue to work in the same milieu. As I said, administrators don’t teach. They shuffle papers and make stupid decisions.

          • Lianne

            Not disagreeing with you, but ‘stupid’ is in the eye of the beholder.
            I still hold your ‘hope’ response near to my heart.:-)

          • ec99

            Why thank you, Lianne. I’m flattered you remember.

          • Lianne

            You’re welcome. It is good to see you posting again after the long hiatus.

  • JimTown Guy

    The teachers in Jamestown seem to be doing OK for 9 months of work!

    http://www.jamestown.k12.nd.us/index/schoolboard/minutes/novemberagenda.pdf

  • jimmypop

    great…a chance at more unfunded state mandates. yippee.

  • Lynn Bergman

    The NDEA has been holding up entry level teacher pay as the lowest in the nation for decades, while their unions have been doing everything they can to spread out the pay scale to the benefit of tenured teachers. It is time for school boards to level the playing field… but we have a conservative example of exactly how to increase teacher pay:

    Florida’s governor, in his state-of-the-state message last evening, proposed an accross the board $2,500 raise for all Florida teachers… after successfully eliminating the concept of “teacher tenure” in the first half of his first term.

    You can put money on the Florida approach being unacceptable to the NDEA! Only very active NDEA union organizers make it into K-12 administration; that should tell you everything you need to know about superintendents and their motives…

    • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

      The worst thing about being a teacher is all the time off. With that kind of leisure time I’m sure they’d like the means to afford the good life, but they make the kind of money to afford a two or three week vacation.

      • devilschild

        Yes I know what you mean. It’s the same for farmers. Several I know spend most of the winter ice fishing on LOTW.

    • ec99

      It’s the old ND hypocrisy: love education, pay the least possible for it. University faculty also have the lowest average in the country.

      • JimTown Guy

        Every single teacher and faculty member knows the pay before taking the job. If they don’t like it, don’t accept the position.

        • ec99

          That’s a sure way to have the best teachers go elsewhere. You get what you pay for.

  • Yogibare

    So, if the NDEA mandates a $32,000 staring salary does this mandate that every School district must pay this amount or more? Is this the same as price fixing? Is every teacher and their contract controlled and mandated by the NDEA? Are we no longer a ‘right to Work” State?

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    The trouble with this idea is that if the state imposes a minimum, that does not mean it has to fund that minimum in the future. I’m a teacher and I want to make more money, but I also don’t care to get laid off just because the state doesn’t fund the salary it requires.

    I say let the market decide. There are a number of schools (like Williston) that don’t pay enough to attract me. As long as they have staffing, we’re both happy. They have the teachers they want, and I’m getting paid what I want. If a school can’t (or won’t) pay enough to attract teachers, maybe it should close.

    If I ever feel like I can’t make enough money, I’m gone. Too many teachers are unwilling to take this step. The state could actually do a lot for teachers this way by freeing them to escape: change TFFR to a portable retirement system like a Roth IRA or a 403b.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    On re-reading the article, I was struck by how old the data are. The owners of Sunshineonschools.org seem to have abandoned the effort. What are salaries like now, especially with the way oil has taken off in the western part of the state? I’ve been keeping records for my own use of base salaries around the state, and even the private schools are paying better than the current minimum.

    Another option to consider is to start teaching salaries low and offer the biggest increases at the start of the career. This is when teachers increase their value to the district the most. It would also be a savings with all of the teachers who quit the profession in their first five years.

    Teachers are getting paid according to how much the district values them. Maybe if the schools had the freedom to target salary for shortages, it would be more helpful. I won’t say that one field is more valuable than another, but there are severe shortages in some teaching fields. Every year schools call me and ask me to apply for their math and science openings. It’s not that I’m a wonderful teacher, it’s that they can’t find applicants. Maybe they’d actually get me if they offered me a reason to to switch schools.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      The website was created by the North Dakota Policy Council, and they told me today that they’re going to update after the session.

      • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

        The data that’s filed with the state by the various school districts is usually a bit behind the times. I think the comment above had a valid point, ND has greatly increased their education spending in the last couple years.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Yeah, if anything, the points I made are probably even more valid in the context of more up to date data.

      • Waski_the_Squirrel

        Good to hear. It’s sad when DPI is the most up to date source. (Also difficult: the DPI website is miserable for getting information.)

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          It’s a real nightmare getting the data from them at times.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          I should say that it used to be. I’ve worked with Superintendent Baesler on getting some small bits of information and she and her staff were very helpful.

  • tomorrowclear

    Them damn teachers gettin rich off us taxpayers!

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Not getting rich, no, but adequately compensated? Absolutely.

  • george

    If you claim it is only a nine month job or part time, you clearly have never taught. It is not a 40 hour week, or only 9 months a year. Don’t forget that teachers continue education throughout their entire life, and devote their lives and hundreds of dollars of their own money to feed, cloth, and care for children.

  • timmy

    yea, I don’t think my wife and I need to teach, work all summer, have a small business, and still have no money to take a trip, or anything else. Oil slobs make 3 times more and many are unskilled and uneducated. That makes sense to me! Children come to school every single day in need on help, and who is there to provide them with winter clothing or food? Your teachers! Help us out, i am telling you we earned it. If you don’t agree try teaching a DAY and you will change your minds! I work just as much or more than “full time” just in teaching career. Part time? I don’t think so, you must be a quack to believe that!

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