In teacher vs. plumber salary comparison, teacher comes out ahead

In teacher vs. plumber salary comparison, teacher comes out ahead

Political Columnist

(Reprinted from May 5, 2010 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic & Cape May Counties,….out-ahead.html)

“As an educator for 30 years in public schools, I have never felt so devalued and demonized by the public and my political leaders.”?

? Mary Cairns, Galloway Township (The Current, April 29)

Many public school teachers in New Jersey have said this during the past month. So have many cops, paid firemen, other government employees and union construction workers working on government projects.

While the rest of us struggle to get by with much less, and worry what our kids will do when things get even worse, these public ?servants? enjoy generous salaries, benefits, pensions and vacations paid for with the obscene taxes we pay.

But like the French aristocrats of 1789 and the Russian czar of 1917, they feel ?entitled? to their privilege. They are clueless of the misery they create.

You see that in this recent letter from a retired public school teacher.

?Here are my stats as of the day I retired in 2009:

Annual salary: $77,000.

Years of experience: 25 (eighth-grade English teacher).

Level of education: master’s degree.

Contracted work days: 186 (at $413 per day or $55.19 per hour).

Unpaid hours of work at home on plans, essays, parent contact: 20 hours average per week.

All vacation days, including summers, are treated as unpaid leaves of absence.

And taxpayers think I was overpaid at $55 per hour?
Are these the same taxpayers who pay a plumber $85 per hour?”?

? Karen Cooper, Egg Harbor City (Press of Atlantic City, April 26)

How many things are wrong with this picture? Let?s start with ?educator.? About 30 years ago, public school teachers, administrators, janitors, etc. started calling themselves educators when government officials started calling garbage dumps ?landfills? and junkyards ?recycling centers.?

It was all part of a scam to convince us ordinary citizens that government today was so complicated and technical that we had to trust highly paid ?experts? to run it.

I agree that teaching is a necessary and honorable profession. But it is a job that many people can do well, and for much less money. The proof is that hundreds of qualified applicants apply for almost every opening in most suburban schools. The same goes for cops, paid firemen, union construction jobs and almost every job paid for by taxpayers.

Budget crisis? Think of how many of our best and brightest women, with college degrees and real-world experience, would jump at the chance to teach when their kids are young and in school, for half the salary of most current teachers. Many have already applied and are on waiting lists.

Think of how many skilled and experienced nonunion carpenters, plumbers and electricians could build and maintain our schools at a fraction of the cost if we gave them the chance to do those jobs.

What about that retired $77,000 per year teacher who figured she was only getting $55 per hour ? less than an $85 per hour plumber?

That teacher ?forgot? to include about $22,000 she gets in family medical benefits, which would put her at $99,000 per year. And she left out the value of the 25/55 (45 percent) $35,000 per year pension she will get for the next 25 years (about $925,000). And 13 sick and personal days a year. What plumber (or lawyer) gets anything close to that?

She also ?forgot? that many teachers don?t do 20 hours a week of ?unpaid work at home.? Think kindergarten, gym, first grade, gym-swimming-legislator teachers like Sen. Jim Whelan, and burned-out teachers near retirement. But the union contract makes sure they all get the same pay.

And this teacher, like many government employees, is completely clueless as to how private business works. The hourly fee charged by a plumber is not his or her hourly wage.

Unlike a teacher, the plumber first has to pay overhead. This includes the cost of his tools, truck, gasoline, maintenance, insurance, advertising, Yellow Pages, office/shop rent/maintenance (including high property taxes), computer/office supplies, telephone, answering service, government licenses and permits, bookkeeper, etc.

I am very stingy, and my overhead usually runs 55 percent to 60 percent. And there is no guarantee we will have work every week.

The teacher may pay a plumber $85 for working an hour, but that plumber would be lucky to get $30 before he takes out federal and state taxes, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, disability, paid family leave and other government costs.

And public servants? Please don?t whine about politicians and Wall Street crooks getting more than you. Deals, endorsement and campaign cash from your unions gave them the power to do this.

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT-92.1FM, heard throughout South Jersey 8-9 a.m. every Saturday. For information see, email or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Athena Diner, 1515 New Road, Northfield.

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