Teacherpocalypse 2010: Milwaukee Edition


you're fired!

In today's WSJ, Stephen Moore tells Milwaukee's version of the oft-repeated, shamefully misleading Tale of Teacherpocalypse. The capsule version: Teachers' jobs are in danger, and only federal dollars can save them!

The truth is always more complicated:

Because of declining tax collections and falling enrollment, Milwaukee's school board announced in June that 428 teachers were losing their jobs—including Megan Sampson, who was just awarded a teacher-of-the-year prize. Yet the teachers union, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, had it within its power to avert almost all of the layoffs.

The average pay for a Milwaukee school teacher is $56,000, which is hardly excessive. Benefits are another matter. According to a new study by the MacIver Institute, a state think tank, the cost of health and pension benefits now exceeds $40,000 a year per teacher—bringing total compensation to $100,500….

Many Milwaukee teachers have been quoted in the local press complaining that union officials never offered them a choice to make health-care concessions, and many say they would have been willing to go with reduced benefits to avoid the firings. The school system superintendent, William Andrekopoulos, says he was "surprised" how uninterested the union was in negotiating a reasonable cut to prevent the firings.

Nothing like taking out a teacher-of-the-year or two to make a plea for federal dollars (which we don't have, by the way, because We Are Out of Money) seem more compelling. Milwaukee is a great reminder that what unions want and what most teachers (or parents, or kids) want aren't always the same thing.

NEXT: Schumer's Campaign-Finance Chutzpah

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  1. The average pay for a Milwaukee school teacher is $56,000, which is hardly excessive.


    1. Is Milwaukee really that expensive of a place to live? That’s quite a bit for a job with short hours, a huge vacation period, and LOTS of holidays.

      1. I don’t know. I’ve met other people and their bastard kids. All day, every day, times 30? No effing way.

        1. Most of us deal with full grown bastards 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.

    2. Keep reading, they actually make over $100k per year. Health and pension benefits have a dollar value and, that value should be considered when calculating salary.

      1. So, if you were offered a job with a salary of $50,000 you would assume that the figure you were offered included all benefits as well as your paycheck?
        Your point is sound, but that is not the usual way to talk about salary and benefits (though perhaps it should be). Most private sector workers who get employer provided benefits don’t even know the actual value of the benefits they receive.

        1. but that is not the usual way to talk about salary and benefits (though perhaps it should be)

          Respectfully, in my business we certainly talk to candidates about “total compensation” (i.e. salary AND benefits). That’s my experience with most professions.

          And if teachers wish to be considered “professionals”, they need to stop acting like hourly-wage proles. Acknowledging total compensation would be a brilliant start.

          1. But do they give you a dollar amount for total compensation? I think it would be good if they did, but in my (limited) experience, few people have a clue how much their employer actually spends on their benefits.

            1. That wasn’t why I clipped that text.

              I object to the characterization that having an average teacher salary [excluding benefits] of $56000 isn’t excessive.

              That means two average teachers married to each other [a highly common situation] in one household would have an annual gross income of $112000. Add in summer earnings and you’re probably talking $125000.

              That sounds excessive to me.

            2. Zeb – yes

  2. Nothing like taking out a teacher-of-the-year or two to make a plea for federal dollars

    Yep. Wait till a few struggling newspapers cite their own Pulitzer Prize-winners as evidence that a federal bailout of “prestigious” print media is necessary, lest our civilization collapse in the imminent Newspocalypse.

  3. Except it’s not the average pay, as the next few lines demonstrate. It’s a cheap rhetoric device that allows people to spill more ink (pixels) than is necessary. Average pay includes all compensation. Just get the point: It is excessive.

    1. Six figure total compensation for a job that lets you take off over the summer, two weeks for spring break, has long Christmas and Thanksgiving vactions, and has generally short hours compared to other jobs at that pay level? A job that requires one of the simplest college degrees you can get?

      1. You’ve convinced me. I can deal with those brats for that compensation. Sign me up.

      2. Also, once you’ve been on the job for 3-5 years, you can’t be fired.

      3. The vacations are pretty tit, but if you believe that teachers work short hours, you have never met any teachers (or only shitty ones).

        1. I suppose it depends on what’s meant by “short.” Compared to what?

          My mother is a teacher, and has been for 20+ years. As I understand it, if you’re working long hours after the first few years you’re doing it wrong. In other words, it takes a couple years to get your feet wet (lesson plans, learning what to expect from the kids, etc.), and the rest is pretty easy.

          1. Or perhaps if you are not working long hours after a few years you are half-assing it. I suppose it depends on what you teach and at what level, but most of the teachers I know (certaily a very limited sample) or have known regularly have hours of home work grading papers and tests and planning.
            I would have little objection to the rate at which teachers are compensated if they could easily be fired if they fail to perform well. The good ones work plenty hard.

            1. Consider that an attorney making that kind of compensation is working a 60 hour work week, has little job security, and can get sued if they botch.

          2. Short compared to other exempt employees making similar salaries. Most exempt salaried employees would love the hours that teachers work – and yes, that includes the time spent grading papers at home and working on lesson plans.

      4. 2 weeks for spring break?

        Some places dont even give the full week (especially in case of snow days).

        1. In order to shorten summer, the Texas school district I was in lengthened spring break to two weeks and sprinkled in other off days throughout the school year. It’s expensive to cool a large building in June/August. I think that’s why my school did not allow summer school classes unless a student required them.

  4. Why does anyone need $40k in benefits? What does that include besides health insurance?

    1. Pensions, so teachers can retire to the lake house in the Dells that they spent every summer building.

    2. Pension, worker’s comp, life insurance.

  5. In a corrupt, bloated, and union-infested profession like public school teaching, what exactly constitutes “Teacher of the Year”? Best grade inflater? Best test teacher? Best social promoter?

    1. Looks hottest in mugshot when busted having sex with 14-year old?

    2. As the husband and BIL of former “Teachers of the Year,” I can tell you it’s pretty much a popularity contest.

      1. Popular among who, though? Other teachers? Students? Admin?

  6. I’m surprised they didn’t threaten to release all the murderers. Isn’t that the usual first choice for cutting spending?

    1. Cops and firemen, PR, cops and firemen.

  7. My cousin was a high school teacher for five years. He’s about the most selfish, exploitative person you could ever meet, and he couldn’t take the public school people after a while, and quit.

    That’s chilling.

  8. The average pay for a Milwaukee school teacher is $56,000, which is hardly excessive.

    Perhaps he meant to type “hardily”?

  9. Eventually, enrollment will decline to the point of one teacher per student, and Milwaukee will become a powerhouse of erudition and economic activity.

    You’ll see.

  10. Well, I happen to think that teachers do deserve to be well compensated (and also well qualified and firable if they fail to perform). But I could be wrong. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some way to arrive at a fair and generally agreeable wage? Some kind of market or something…

    1. Now that right there, that’s just crazy talk.

    2. You can’t leave something as important as our children’s education to the FREE MARKET! What are you, a monster??!

      1. Famous Market Created Monsters that Have Advanced Public Education More than Public Education:

        Cookie Monster

        1. Ahmm, ahem – hello der? You not forgot furry little Grover Monster.

  11. I happen to think that teachers do deserve to be well compensated

    I agree,buit the crux is what is the definition of “well compensated.”

    If a high school chemistry teacher is being paid the same as a 1st grade teacher, then one of the teacher’s compensation is out of whack.

  12. Nothing worse than the racism of the American Left that push generations of African American students into poverty with their substandard schools and call it compassion…

  13. Even the catholic church doesn’t fuck this up – when enrollment drops 10%, the church closes a few of its schools and downsizes its staff.

  14. The school system superintendent, William Andrekopoulos, says he was “surprised” how uninterested the union was in negotiating a reasonable cut to prevent the firings.

    Only an idiot is surprised. Downsized staff don’t pay union dues, and if you don’t pay dues you don’t vote in union elections. Therefore, the union has no reason to choose concessions over layoffs. If the union chose the concession route, the next action would be union members asking for concessions on the union dues.

  15. I wonder who manages that pension plan – probably the state, but if its the union, then the union has a massive conflict of interest. Why would it agree to downsize the ginormous pool of assets it “manages” just to save a few jobs?

    1. It is the state that manages the pension, and relative to the other states in the union, it does pretty well. (Not that I like paying for it)

  16. For the record, $56000 will get you by just fine anywhere in Wisconsin. And that includes the “big city” of Milwaukee. “[H]ardly excessive” would be incorrect.

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