Do not think about, write about or deal with human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.
Wherein we see a case study of government employees about to see one of two things, the end of the ability of the government to pay them outrageous salaries or the end of the desire of taxpayers to pay them outrageous salaries. Alas it is the first as the government continues its reckless spending which has led to unsustainable deficits which is causing the lack of salary increases. The cash must run out sometime. That time is apparently now.
National Post – (Latest Edition)
As Ontario girds for another school year of teacher discontent, the usual litany of union complaints is already piling up — $3.2 billion worth, according to media reports. Amid the well-worn gripes over salary, benefits and class sizes in particular, the elephant in the classroom remains unaddressed: the shockingly high salaries paid to teachers in the province. For all the complaints over class size, funding for equipment and a lack of education assistants, teachers seem blithely content to ignore the role their generous salaries play in those problems.
The numbers speak for themselves. In Hamilton, the public school board operates on an annual budget of $504 million. Of that amount, $373 million, or 73 per cent, goes to teachers’ salaries. If benefits are included, that number jumps to 87 per cent. Just four per cent, by comparison, goes to supplies and textbooks. Toronto tells a similar tale, with secondary school teacher salaries averaging $87,000, followed closely by their elementary counterparts at $82,000. Add in benefits and the numbers clock in at a hair under $100,000 annually. For comparison, the median family income in Ontario is $75,000.
Union propaganda about salaries usually ignores the incredible benefits enjoyed by the relentless feeders at the public trough.
These numbers hold up largely across the province: the overwhelming majority of budgets going towards teacher salaries with table scraps left over for students and supplies. This point is driven home when one looks at Ontario’s Sunshine List of public-sector employees making over $100,000 each year. Thousands of elementary and secondary school teachers, admin and staff make the list; with some teachers reaching as high as $133,000 annually. At some point, the traditional teacher-province understanding — lower wages in exchange for job security and benefits — disappeared; ground to dust by indolent unions and indulgent governments. Simply put, teachers in the province are overpaid; the work is not that onerous nor specialized and the hours not too taxing.
One already hears the howls of indignation from the unions at that claim. “But,” they say, “teachers take their work home with them!” “We need to attract the best and brightest,” they claim. The private sector’s heart no doubt bleeds for the former and the latter proves a curious claim, given the thousands of bright-eyed undergrads currently on teachers’ college waiting lists. Not to mention that if push comes to shove, most teachers have nowhere else to go — let them quit, only to discover that the private sector is not exactly clamouring for those whose expertise is in the pedagogies of visual arts or early childhood education.
Where to go from here, then? A hard cap on teacher salaries is the obvious start; perhaps at a still-respectable $65,000 for the top bracket. Targeted buy-outs to entice the retirement of the top-heavy glut of high-earners would both save money and finally allow younger teachers a greater chance to break into the profession full-time, rather than subsist for years on piecemeal substitute work.
Good luck with taking away money from union members.
In demanding a rollback on salaries, the province need not necessarily reduce teachers and their unions to ash. Compromise is certainly possible. Pensions and benefits could be left alone and the hard cap only applied to new teachers or those under a certain number of years’ experience, for instance. The sting of a two-tier system could be somewhat relieved by a modest increase in the starting salary of new hires — although it is already a generous $45,000 to $55,000. By way of example, if the average salary of the 3,600 teachers of the Halton District School Board were reduced from $86,000 to $65,000, that translates to an annual savings of over $80 million.
Ultimately, the traditional balance must be restored to the teachers’ compensation scheme. A lower salary in exchange for generous benefits and pension package is both fair and economically sensible. With tens of millions of dollars freed up, school boards would no longer have to resort to selling surplus property or other fiscal gimmicks to keep the lights on; children might even no longer need to work at desks of Diefenbaker vintage. The millions saved through reduced salaries could also be put towards increasing education assistant and teacher numbers to alleviate class size issues. Teachers say they are not in it for the money, but job actions speak louder than words.
Those who live in the unreal world of teacher salaries are teaching our children about reality. Statists believe everyone deserves a nice salary and lots of benefits. Statists never know where the wealth comes from, only how it is apportioned.
Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.”
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies