By: Thomas R. Zawistowski, Executive Director

The best way I can explain to you what our problem is with K-12 education is that our public schools are a jobs program for adults, instead of an educational program for students.  We want great schools and we want to pay great teachers what they are worth. But we know we are grossly overpaying our teachers for the job they perform.  They are going to say that is not true, but let me explain. When I ask teachers what they make, they think they make what they take home. They don't even know what their gross income is, and they do not count their health care or retirement, which are real costs to the tax payer.

I have been involved with the Business Advisory Council (BAC) at Field School District in Portage County for three years, so I will use them as my example.  In Field Schools, the starting salary for a teacher right out of college is $30,000. However, if they are married, we also pay $14,400 for their health care and dental care.  That brings the total to $44,400. Then we pay 14% into their retirement, while most districts pay 12%.  That is another $4,200, which takes us to $48,600 to start.  Now in exchange for that, their contract requires them to teach 184 days per year for 7 hours per day.  That is a total of 1,288 hours per year.  If you divide $48,600 by 1,288 hours, it comes out to $37.73 Per Hour.  For someone right out of  college.  How many people outside of education do you know that get paid $37.73 per hour?  How many people in your community make that much?  The average household income in Ohio is $48,100 per year - with two people working 12 months, with perhaps two weeks vacation, perhaps some medical insurance and a 2% 401K match!


How many people do you know who can afford to pay $14,400 per year for their health care? How many people in the public sector are saving 14% of their income each year for retirement?? Very few.  Why should we do for teachers what we can't do for ourselves?  That made sense when teachers were underpaid.  That was the deal: you did not become a teacher to get rich, it was a calling. So, we gave good benefits.  Now they make more than us and have superiour benefits by any standard in the public sector.

Taxpayer Paid    New Teacher    Ave. Teacher    Bachelors    Ohio Worker

Salary                    $30,000.00        $63,000.00        $43,823.00    $21,003.00

Health Benefits      $14,400.00        $14,400.00        $2,500.00        $1,000.00

Retirement               $4,200.00          $8,820.00           $876.46              $0.00

Total Cost/yr          $48,600.00        $86,220.00        $47,199.46    $22,003.00

Days worked/yr            184                    184                    250                 250

Hours worked/yr         1,288                  1,288                2,000               2,000

Pay per hour             $37.73                 $66.94              $23.60            $11.00

But lets compare apples to apples. The figures above are for a first year teacher.  They make $48,600 to work 184 days.  The average annual pay for a person with a bachelors degree, not in their first year, but on AVERAGE in the US no matter how may years they have been working,  is $43,823 to work 250 days.  Now let's compare that to the average teacher’s salary.  At Field Schools, that average is $63,000 per year. Add in the $14,400 for health care, and we are up to $77,400.  Add in the 14% retirement which is $8,820.  The total cost to the tax payer is now $86,220.  All most double what the average private sector worker with a bachelors degree makes.  When you divide $86,220 by the 1,288 hours they work, the AVERAGE hourly wage of a teacher in PreK-12 education is $66.94 per HOUR.

Now as I explained earlier, we in the TEA Party want great schools and we want to pay teachers what they are worth.   So what are they worth?  Do you need a master's degree to teach 5th grade math?  To a common person, it would appear obvious that if you took 5th grade math and were taught properly, you should be able to teach 5th grade math if you have a high school education.  The Amish do it all the time.  Certainly all you need is a bachelors degree.  The only reason teachers are required to get a master's degree is because the union negotiated that requirement so that they could get a “step raise”. It has nothing to do with teaching children 5th grade math; it is only about the money. More money out of our pocket that buys no value. It’s money for nothing, because it does not help the kids, it only helps the adults.

In Ohio the average cost of salaries and benefits in any school district is about 84%.  The Field SD budget is $19,000,000, so our cost of salary and benefits is just short of $16,000,000, and our Board gets to run the school district on $3,000,000.  We have no budget for bus repairs, and our newest bus is 26 years old.  Our computer lab has Apple Mac's with the purple and green and orange covers from like 1998.  Our football stadium is going to be condemned, and our track has been unusable for the past 10 years or more. We have at most $100,000 in our reserve account.  Under these circumstances our teachers demanded a 3.5% raise. They were threatening to go on strike.

As a business owner and property tax payer, I tried to explain to the union that we don't mind paying taxes, as long as we get value for our money.  So, my question to them was: “If I can pay $3,800 per year to send my kid to St. Pat's School in Kent, and have them out-perform every public school in the county on achievement tests for every grade from 1 through 8, then why am I paying $8,700 to $14,400 per year for every student in our public schools?”  Their answer was that we have to take all the “problem kids” and kids with disabilities, and so it is not a fair comparison. Okay, but the cost of those kids is at most $1,000 more for every student in the school district because the special needs kids are such a small part of the population, so $4,800 should be enough. Why is it $14,400.

So, I said to them, “Let's say you go on strike.”  In our county the current wage for substitute teachers is $100 per day.  I told our Superintendent, “If the teachers go on strike, let's pay substitutes double that amount, $200 per day, so we can get the best sub available.  Now we have 141 teacher. So, while they are on strike, if we pay $200 per day for each substitute, that comes out to $28,200 per day in cost to the taxpayers.  If subs teach every class, for every one of the 184 days in the school year, the total cost to the taxpayer would be $5,188,800 for substitutes.  So, why are we paying $16,000,000???  By my calculations, we are overpaying for what our teachers are worth, by $10,811,200 - or about 67%.  Why should we do that?  How is that value for our tax dollars?

Now look at those substitute teachers who are making $200 per day.  If they teach for the 184 days, they will make $36,800.  How many people in your community make that for working a full year of work with no summers off, no christmas vacations, no spring breaks?  No health care, no retirement savings?  Now that is a drastic comparison, and teachers have bachelors degrees and are worth more than that, but you can see how ridiculous the unions’ claims of "poor under-paid teachers" are for those of us who pay the bills. The bottom line is that the skills needed to teach 5th grade math are worth only so much and they are not worth any more when you have 30 years of service.

The fact that teachers get raises based on years of service, instead of because they are actually good teachers, is what is wrecking our schools.  The movie “Waiting for Superman” explains that the average teacher in the United States gets tenure after just two years of service without proving any kind of special skill or ability. As they put it, they get rewarded with a job for life, from which they can not be fired, and for which they get automatic raises nearly every year, just because they were “still breathing after two years.”  After getting tenure, the bad teachers can just quit teaching and you and I can’t do anything about it.  Here is the kicker, in that movie it showed that bad teachers are only about 6% of the teachers, but they ruin the entire system.  If we could fire those bad teachers, our student learning would take us from 23 in the world to first.  But the union will defend those terrible teachers to the end, because it is about union dues, $700 per year per teacher at Field Schools, and the political power the union buys with those dues.

Let me come at it another way. In our county, the state - meaning we, the taxpayers - give the school district $5,600 per student per year. That is significantly more than the $3,800 per year at private schools, and more than covers disabled students.  We have about 2,100 students, so that would be an annual budget of $11,760,000, which based on the analysis above, should be more than enough to pay the teachers a fair salary and take better care of our schools.  But here is the important part: the difference between what we pay for education through the state, $5,600, and what we are actually paying now per student, is property taxes.  If we could educate our children for $5,600 per year, which I think I have just clearly proven that we can, we would have no property taxes!  Do you realize what it would do to the economy of Ohio if people could spend their property taxes on putting a new roof on the house, or getting a new driveway, or buying a car, or paying for better health care, or taking care of their parents, or saving for their own retirement!  Do you realize how many private sector jobs that would create?  This is the kind of negative impact on the economy that our public schools are having.

Our kids are falling further behind the rest of the world every year, not just because we can’t fire rotten teachers, but we are overpaying them for ruining the future of our children and our country. I hope that you will share this with your friends in education.  They will not like what I have written, but they will at least see why we think the way we do.  We must take back our school system or our economic future is doomed. We intend to get the education for our children that they need at a price we can afford - and we will do whatever it takes to get it.  It’s that simple.

Tom Zawistowski

Executive Director

Portage County TEA Party



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