(The following is a reply to an email that was sent from a reader of this morning's Current Comment. The entire text of the e-mail from the reader is reprinted underneath the reply. -- KB)
Please note that I did not advocate balancing the entire state budget on teacher salary cuts alone. Indeed, I was pointing out that the $218 per-pupil reduction being advocated for the School Aid Fund budget – a cut of just 3 percent – was reasonable. And to demonstrate this, I grabbed just one large metric related to that program – average teacher salaries – where our costs appear to be way out of line with what other states pay for this SAME service. This is why you lose me when you discuss what you believe you could earn in the private sector, because my comparison was merely to what PUBLIC school teachers are paid in a reasonably prosperous state that is paying just an AVERAGE salary for the same service – namely Washington public school teachers.
In other words, I didn’t even grab a state like Texas or Florida, both of which pay LESS than the average salary per teacher despite being wealthier than Michigan in terms of per-capita personal income.
If you decide to work in the private sector, you will notice that productivity per dollar is important. So then, do Michigan taxpayers get 20 percent more per teacher in education value than the taxpayers of Washington? Are the test scores of students 20 percent higher? Do the taxpayers of Michigan earn 20 percent more than those in Washington, thus making it possible for them to support teachers who do?
And if not, then if this were a private sector situation, is it not reasonable to conclude that this cost disparity would soon make Michigan uncompetitive in the marketplace? If Michigan teachers were a business, then how long would that company survive?
Whether talking about teacher salaries, costs per prisoner in the corrections budget, average cost per state trooper, cost per politician, or a variety of other state programs, a common theme running through the debate is that taxpayers in Michigan are not getting the best deal for the services they receive.
The larger point is that there’s big money to be saved everywhere in the state budget. As you may have noticed, the debate in Lansing right now got bogged down specifically on the matter of K-12 spending and whether we can reduce it by… 3 percent. Over the last 7 years, I would propose to you that the homes and businesses in the private sector all over Michigan have been cutting a lot more than that. In fact, for far too many employers, the cut has been just one tick higher than 99 percent.
From: Kxxxxxx Gxxxxxxx [mailto:XXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Friday, October 02, 2009 2:27 PM
To: Braun, Kenneth M.
Subject: Teacher Salaries
I can not understand why you would advocate or imply that teacher's salaries need to be cut in Michigan in order to balance the state's budget!
I am an educator with 11 years of teaching experience. I have just now begun to make a wage that allows for me to do more than pay my bills and or pay off my student loans that were necessary for me to get my teaching degree. Averages aside, teachers are not "over paid" by any stretch. In order to get my degree, I returned to college for two years to get my teaching certificate. Then I had returned again in order to get a Master's degree. All told I have at least $60,000 invested into my education - no small amount of money! My entire degree was earned at an in-state university, Eastern Michigan. I live and work in our state. I travel and spend money in our great state. I am proud to live in Michigan! I hope you too are a proud Michigan resident.
Obviously, Michigan has budget issues, but an attempt to balance the budget on the backs of teachers in this state is an absolute atrocity. Please realize that you went to schools, you received an education and you now receive your paycheck and your livelihood - all because of teachers that worked hard to give you the opportunity to earn an education!
Teachers are expected to more and more with less and less! More and more testing, less and less supplies and even less funding from the state results in finger pointing and name calling. Teachers point to the government and the government points at the teachers and how they are "overpaid". Well I would like to see what my salary would be if I had nine years of post-secondary education and I was employed in the business world! I bet it would be more than $70,000. What is your salary? Do you have your salary and benefits constantly attacked by outside governmental bodies? You have a wife and children living in our state too! Where do they go to school? Would you like to personally tell their teachers that you support cutting their salary by an average of $12,000? SHAME ON YOU and your policy recommendations to balance a state budget on the backs of a SINGLE profession, especially the professional teachers of our state that are the key to our students success! Lets cut at the top and work our way down!Lets start with politicians who make more money than teachers. Does anyone bag on your profession and your peers because they get extended periods of time off? Cut your own salary by $12,000!
It is about time we made an INVESTMENT into our educational system. Without adequate salaries those that would be attracted to education as a career choice will simply look to other professions and,subsequently, the "quality" of teachers in our schools will ultimately suffer.
Be careful what you wish for Mr. Braun, your kids and/or your grandchildren's futures are at stake. Quick fixes and knee jerk reactions are exactly what we do not need at this critical juncture in our state's future.