There has been much gnashing of teeth and consternation going on about teacher pay and a 3% pay cut teachers may be forced to swallow. What gets to me more than anything else is the vile comments that get posted afterward when an article is posted on teacher pay in the local newspapers. Given the comments, one would think that teachers were getting rich and not doing much to earn the vast sums of money they make. I have to say I look at that with bemusement. I guess it is time to put my cards on the table.
For regular readers of the SSS blog, you already know my story. However, many of you don’t. I switched careers in my mid 40’s to become a teacher. I am honored to teach math at Rainier Beach HS. I am in my 6th year. I love my job and I love teaching math to students. I think I have a great job. However, here are the facts of my situation.
I hold an undergrad in Accounting and a Masters in Finance. Before I decided to become a teacher, I worked for a bank in investment accounting. In 2003 (my last full year there), I made $75,000 (that included my bonus), had a defined benefit pension plan that my employer fully funded that would make it possible to retire comfortably after 25 years of service with basically with what I would be making in my last year of working, a 401k that the employer matched dollar for dollar up to 4% of my salary. On top of that, my health care was fully paid for and my wife was on the plan at no charge to me also. The plan was a top notch Blue Cross plan with no co-pays and a very, very large network of doctors, dentists, vision and mental health providers available to us. I also had 4 weeks vacation and every holiday off. I also was given a yearly bus pass, so I did not have to drive downtown.
In mid 2004, I left banking to join the Career Switcher program at CWU-Lynnwood to become a teacher. I did okay in the program, student taught at Ingraham and was fortunate to land a job at RB starting in September 2005. I have been there ever since. Once again, I want to say that I love what I do.
Since yesterday was May 1st, it was payday. Here is a summary of my paycheck. My salary for the month was $5,016.69. That works out to $60,200 for the year. Now I do earn an extra $50/month for being on the schools Building Leadership Team and an extra $100 for being one of the schools Education Technology leaders. That earns me an additional $1,500 for the 10 months I get paid for doing that. So, I will earn a little under $62,000 this year for working at Rainier Beach. Now I have taught Summer School the past few years and that is a good paying gig. I have earned $3,500 additional for doing that. Of course, it is a victim of the budget axe this year, so I am hoping another district will be willing to hire me. My total gross for the year (if I am able to teacher Summer School) will be about $65,000.
Now on, to the benefits package I have. I pay $171.43 to my cover mine and my wife’s health insurance plan. It is with Group Health and it is full of co-pays and deductibles. I then also have a mandatory 5% of my salary payment into my defined benefit pension plan. I am in Plan 3 which means that when I retire (which I plan to do at age 70, after 25 years of teaching), the plan will pay me 25% of the average of my 5 highest salary years. In addition, I put $160 per month into my 403b plan. If you assume inflation is 3% per year and stock market returns of 8% per year, when I retire, I will retire with the equivalent of what is $46,000 now. After taxes and these deductions, I clear a little over $3,600 per month.
I post this not to complain. I post this to show people the reality of what a teacher makes and where the money goes. Given my education, I am on the far right of the salary scale, so I earn more than most 6th year teachers in the district. My wife has been unemployed for over 2 years and I feel fortunate to have a job. I am honored that I get to educate your children and I take that responsibility very seriously. You can pass judgment on all sorts of things I do, but please think before you speak when you want to demonize teachers about what they do and what they make. That anger is misplaced.