MYTH: Teachers Are Underpaid

May 12, 2006 — -- Teachers are underpaid. Underpaid makes me ask, under what?

It's true that teachers have an important job instructing children, and many important people say, teachers are underpaid.

Democrats and Republicans applaud that line, but exactly what is "enough?" The average public school teacher makes $45,000 a year. That's $7,000 more than the average wage in America.

Still teachers at union rallies say they're underpaid.

At a 2005 rally, New York City's public advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, "For 20 years, they haven't been paid enough."

But where's the evidence? In a free country when jobs pay too little, people don't apply for them. Yet the opposite is true in many school districts.

This year Boston needed 675 new teachers. They got 2,800 applications -- four for every job. In Los Angeles, it was five for every job. In New York, six. Chicago, 12. Kentucky had 11 applications per job, and Missouri, 19.

Still, we keep hearing that teachers don't make enough money.

Also, remember teachers are paid for just nine months of work. They have the summer off. Some work summer school, others relax.

Some teachers take the time off to relax, go to spas. One teacher I talked to said summers give him time to travel.

"If I'm going to be a good Spanish teacher, wouldn't it behoove me to spend some time in Mexico," he said.

It might, but the summer off means when you calculate teachers' hourly wages, you find teachers make more than chemists, physical therapists, psychologists, registered nurses, aircraft mechanics and firefighters.

Teachers demonstrated outside the "20/20" offices because they were mad at me for criticizing their union. They demanded I point out that many teachers work extra hours for no extra pay. OK. But it's also true that when it comes to teaching, most teachers aren't in it for the money. They just want to help the kids.

"It's about the kids," one teacher said. "I'm not a teacher for money, because I'd be a lawyer if I wanted money. I teach because I love kids."

That's right.

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