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Salaries: Where are our Values?

Salaries: Where are our Values?

August is upon us, and I am a football widow once again until February. And if I was a mother, I would be preparing for the school year – buying supplies and clothes. A friend of mine recently said that the whole purpose of a blog is to use it as a soapbox for the things that you think matter. He then gave me his two big hot buttons. Salaries of entertainers v. teachers, and the N-word. I wondered if I could do either of them justice.

I have recently come to terms with the salary issue. A person’s salary is, in large part dictated by the amount of money he or she brings to the table. So, take for example, Tom Brady, the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and formerly the New England Patriots. He has won the Super Bowl seven times. His current salary is $15,000,000 per year. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes, winner of two Super Bowls, signed a $450 million 10-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. You may think that’s a lot. However, a single sold-out NFL game typically brings in $10 million in revenue – so, in two games, the revenue is paying for a quarterback. And there will be 17 games, plus playoffs, i.e. $85 million per season, minimum. The Super Bowl draws in $14 billion in consumer spending. When we’re talking about those kinds of revenue streams, the people who command that kind of fan base get paid. It’s really that simple.

There were 45,000 people at Gabriel Iglesias \”Stadium Fluffy\” event at Dodger Stadium and tickets averaged $160 per seat – a VIP ticket was $1000. So, the event brought in over $7 million in ticket sales. Beyonce plays at stadiums across America – tickets average between $130-$160 per seat. Chris Rock has filled Madison Square Garden with 20,000 seats. Currently, the average ticket price for a Chris Rock show is $300 per seat. That’s $6 million in a single night.

Teachers cannot compete with this. Their jobs do not make money for others. Yes, educating our next generation of American citizens is \”priceless\”, but it doesn’t generate revenue, and that is what commands a high salary. It’s \”not fair\”. But, if you have lived long enough, you know that life is not fair. When billionaires become president while making fun of the disabled, fearmongering about immigrants, and grabbing women by the crotch for fun, you know that life is not fair.

Some states have increased teacher salaries. This is especially true in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey which are considered to have world-class public schools with starting salaries at $36-38K. In New York, the average teacher salary is $87K. However, some states are not getting it. According to ZipRecruiter, Oklahoma is still only paying some teachers $18,000. Barely more than minimum wage. In 36 states, some teachers are eligible for food stamps. And 17% of teachers work a second job.

Word on the street is that we have a teacher shortage. Not in Massachusetts. But in the states with not only low teacher salaries but also states like Florida where teaching has become politicized. Teachers have issues not just with pay, but with class sizes, lack of support, and hours worked – on average 52 hrs./wk. – and barriers to entry. Rural areas are hit harder. Poorer areas are hit harder. Schools with high numbers of non-white students are hit harder. The areas that need teachers the most are the ones that have the most vacancies.

I wish I had a solution, but I don’t. Our government has tried providing money… and food stamps. But that doesn’t address the issue of job satisfaction. If teachers are underpaid AND frustrated, they are going to leave. Or give up and stop doing a good job.

So, there it is. On one end, we have our top-tier athletes and entertainers making millions a year. On the other end, we have our teachers, some of whom are barely making more than minimum wage. It says a lot about our values. We value money, we pay people who bring in money. But not every state values educating their children. And if the underlying issue is values, there’s really not that much we can do about it.

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