Teachers dispute critics' study of pay

Higher paid than architects? Hourly rate data misleads, some say
2007-02-11T00:00:00Z Teachers dispute critics' study of payBENJAMIN HELFRICH
Medill News Service
February 11, 2007 12:00 am  • 

Public school teachers earn more per hour than economists, architects, and civil engineers. That is the claim of a study issued this month by the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute.

However, teachers give the report a failing grade, saying it fails to take into account the many hours they work at home to do their job properly.

The institute compares the hourly rates of teachers to their white-collar counterparts including lawyers, dentists, engineers and nurses in its study "How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?" The report finds a teacher's hourly earnings across the country, around $34 an hour for an average 36-hour work week, dwarf some of the pay rates of other white-collar jobs traditionally thought of as higher paying.

Chicago teachers are paid even more than other American educators, pulling down $40 an hour, according to the report.

Taking issue with the math is Ann Howard, an English teacher at Robeson High School on Chicago's South Side. She sharply disputes the group's estimate that teachers work a 36-hour week.

"On average I estimate that I am in school for at least 45 hours a week," Howard said via e-mail. "On top of that, I do about an hour or more of work at home on a school night and usually around five hours total on the weekend."

The study's data aims to look at teachers on average, said Marcus Winters, the report's co-author.

"I'm sure there are plenty of teachers that work more than the average," he said.

But the survey "is designed to capture all hours worked, not just the ones in the classroom," Winters, said, arguing that teachers bring home just as much work as other professionals.

The report's estimate about how much work teachers do at home is incorrect, Howard said.

"During my actual work day, I have little or no time to myself -- my prep periods are spent trying to get copies, calling parents or helping students," she said. "Very little of the time is spent on planning lessons or grading."

Situations, like Howard's have led many teachers to contact Winters with complaints.

"Do I get hate mail, yeah," Winters said. "It's blasphemy in a sense. There is a myth out there that teachers are paid like fast-food workers.

"And if you are going to make that claim there needs to be data out there showing that."

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