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NJ Gov. Chris Christie to Teacher: If You Don’t Like the Pay, then Quit

The above video shortchanges the exchange between Gov. Christie and the teacher, but it still gets the point across.  Essentially, this teacher, who is a member of a union, doesn’t feel she’s being paid enough, and Christie responds by telling her she can quit.  But as good as it feels to see someone in politics who’s not pandering to the unions, it’s more revealing to focus on the disgruntled teacher’s argument.

Rita Wilson’s brief argument is full of holes and glaring inconsistencies.  Let’s start with the pay.  As Governor Christie points out (this is just before the video cuts back in), she’s actually being paid more than $83,000 per year when you consider the annual cost of her benefits.  If we’re generous, her pay accounts for only 6 months of work during the year.  If she were paid $83,000 per year, then she’d be earning an annualized salary of $166,000 per year.  But it gets worse.  If Erick Erickson at RedState is correct, she actually makes $86,000 per year, or an annualized salary of $172,000.  Perhaps Gov. Christie should accept her offer and save the taxpayers some money.

If that weren’t enough, she’s also a member of a teacher’s union.  It’s perfectly fine that she’s made that choice, but did she not understand collective bargaining when she signed up?  Her personal experience became irrelevant when she decided she would rather have the union negotiate her contract.  You don’t get to have it both ways.  She can’t agree to let the union handle her affairs and then whine about the contract she receives.  If you think your qualifications merit better compensation, then ditch the union and bargain for your own contract.

Wilson concludes by responding to Christie, “teachers do it because they love it; that’s the only reason I do it.”  Well, which is it?  Either teachers like Wilson are willing to put up with a salary that immediately places their household in the top 25% nationwide and which is significantly above the state’s median income because they “love it,” or they aren’t.  If Wilson honestly believes she is underpaid, then perhaps she should venture out into the private sector and prove it.

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  • A 6-month salary? Teachers are usually required to work 185 days or the equivalent of 37 full five-day weeks. Add in the various holidays and the school calendar extends to about 42 weeks.

    Of course a teacher who is doing the job RIGHT will spend those holidays (and at least half the summer) preparing, not to mention 50 hour weeks during the year. The job ain’t easy! It is well paid, to be sure, but far from the “half-year” schedule that you describe.

    You can’t add the cost of benefits into the salary and then compare it to national average salaries — unless you add the cost of benefits into THOSE salaries as well. If you perform an apples-to-apples comparison, I suspect teachers generally fall in the third quartile but not the top 25%.

    I agree with your basic point, however. If she doesn’t like it, then quit. I exercised that option myself, joining the ranks of the self-employed in pursuit of greater compensation and greater self-determination.

    If I could change the system, I would pay teachers a bit less — but hire many more. This is the model that private schools follow, with excellent results. There is truly no substitute for personal attention in education!

  • A 6-month salary? Teachers are usually required to work 185 days or the equivalent of 37 full five-day weeks. Add in the various holidays and the school calendar extends to about 42 weeks.

    Of course a teacher who is doing the job RIGHT will spend those holidays (and at least half the summer) preparing, not to mention 50 hour weeks during the year. The job ain't easy! It is well paid, to be sure, but far from the “half-year” schedule that you describe.

    You can't add the cost of benefits into the salary and then compare it to national average salaries — unless you add the cost of benefits into THOSE salaries as well. If you perform an apples-to-apples comparison, I suspect teachers generally fall in the third quartile but not the top 25%.

    I agree with your basic point, however. If she doesn't like it, then quit. I exercised that option myself, joining the ranks of the self-employed in pursuit of greater compensation and greater self-determination.

    If I could change the system, I would pay teachers a bit less — but hire many more. This is the model that private schools follow, with excellent results. There is truly no substitute for personal attention in education!

  • RE: Ex-teacher

    On the salary figure: To my knowledge, the salary figures above do not include any additional benefits. The Christie comment and the $86,000 figure are separate. I should have been more clear. Further, we’re not talking about teachers in general. This is specifically New Jersey Public School teachers, and really, just Rita Wilson. New Jersey teachers are paid more than teachers in many other states.

    On the six-month salary: In my experience, this is a commonly accepted figure. While it may be true that teachers put in extra work outside of the school year, this “extra work” is not exclusive to teaching. That said, even if you say she worked 3/4 of the year, she would make an annualized salary of $114,667. Finally, the $86,000 annual salary alone is enough to put her in the top 25% of U.S. household incomes.

  • RE: Ex-teacher

    On the salary figure: To my knowledge, the salary figures above do not include any additional benefits. The Christie comment and the $86,000 figure are separate. I should have been more clear. Further, we're not talking about teachers in general. This is specifically New Jersey Public School teachers, and really, just Rita Wilson. New Jersey teachers are paid more than teachers in many other states.

    On the six-month salary: In my experience, this is a commonly accepted figure. While it may be true that teachers put in extra work outside of the school year, this “extra work” is not exclusive to teaching. That said, even if you say she worked 3/4 of the year, she would make an annualized salary of $114,667. Finally, the $86,000 annual salary alone is enough to put her in the top 25% of U.S. household incomes.