Teachers Have it Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers by Dave Eggers, Daniel Moulthrop and Ninive Clements Calegari (New Press), 355 pages, $33.95 cloth. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Dave Eggers is so dreamy. First he cranks out two exceptional novels and creates a successful literary quarterly. Now he's taking on the plight of under-paid teachers in his homeland.
This volume is co-written with journalist Daniel Moulthrop and teacher Ninive Clements Calegari, who is also the director of 826 Valencia, a San Francisco-based drop-in centre geared to helping kids with their homework and facilitating workshops with literature's A-listers.
Its thesis is simple: teachers are underpaid and accorded too little respect for the important work they do.
At around $30,000, starting salaries for teachers are among the lowest for professional-school grads. Statistics show that many teachers are required to take on second and even third jobs to support families and pay mortgages.
I agree with the editors at a gut level (my take-home pay as a high school teacher works out to about $9 an hour), but they're not giving the full picture.
Teachers get two months off in the summer and most have a guaranteed job to come back to in September. And our benefits and pension plans are also among the best in North America though in the U.S. benefits depend on which state you're in. (New Hampshire? Nothing. California? You're okay.)
The last and strongest section of the book explores three successful reform efforts that involved paying teachers according to merit. In Ontario teachers are payed based on a grid that takes into account years of experience and level of education. So our pay grid varies more than in most states, where there are few similar incentives. Plus Ontario teachers are paid from provincial tax coffers, not from local real-estate taxes as in most states.
The current U.S. administration is determined to declare war on teachers' morale. They should be reading books like this.