This is a simple article with a simple purpose: to raise the level of discussion about the amount private / prep school teachers are paid for their service. I fully acknowledge that there are salary issues with almost every other type of teacher out there but this article is intended to focus the discussion on private schools. If you’d like to weigh in, participate in the comment discussions or mention @edudemic on Twitter or comment on this Facebook page.
$21,000. It’s barely a living wage and would be a terrific salary for someone looking for a job that requires little to no labor or thought. But that’s not the job that my wife was offered. She was offered a position to teach French at one of the best private schools in the country and in return for her dedication and hard work they were willing to pay her $21,000 plus put her up in a horrid apartment that was more like a haunted attic crawl-space than an acceptable living situation. All in exchange for spending 60-70 hours a week teaching, coaching, monitoring, and helping students.
The school’s name is not important. What is important is the fact that schools like this one do regular fundraising efforts that bring in tens of millions of dollars while claiming that most of the money is being spent on faculty salaries and benefits. At $21,000, it’s hard to imagine that this is actually the truth.
So where does the donated money go? How can this school get away with annually hiking tuition by 5-8% to make it just as, if not more, expensive than most 4-year colleges?
The answer is simple: because new teachers looking to work in a private school are usually willing to take just about any salary as long as they get the job.
This needs to change.
How on Earth is a new teacher supposed to live, work and save enough with a $21,000/year salary to make it a viable career? It essentially traps the teacher into having to always work at a private school because they may not be able to afford to move to a place with a higher cost of living in order to take a job at a higher pay grade. If you’re not able to save, the cost of simply hiring movers alone may seem astronomical and force you into a sort of inertia that means you’ll never be able to leave your first-ever job. In this day and age, that seems ludicrous.
Author’s note: I went to a prep school. I know the background of most students and teachers. While some students come from meager means, many are from wealthy families that simply don’t understand the concept of living paycheck-to-paycheck. It makes me sad to think that teachers are basically in the poor house while some students get dropped off at school in Bentleys. It happened (a lot) at my school and in hindsight it makes me feel terrible for the teachers. However, since not all students are the same, this article focuses instead on the relationship between the teacher and his or her school rather than the discrepancy between incomes of teachers and students.
How Change Can Happen
It will start with one of the top schools slowly starting to offer teachers a more reasonable salary. Teachers should be paid and rewarded for their devotion and effort rather than taken for granted. If some of the top private schools in the country started offering salaries on par with dot-com startups or decent financial organizations, you’d see an influx of talented people looking to mold young minds instead of slugging it out on Wall Street or Silicon Valley.
Could you imagine if private schools offered starting salaries of $75,000/year? What would happen? The quality of candidates would presumably skyrocket and it would quickly become one of the most sought-after jobs in the country. While I don’t foresee $75k happening anytime soon, the idea is not without merit.
I look forward to the day where private school teachers (and other teachers of course) are paid a more reasonable salary. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to raise the minimum salary bar at these institutions but everyone from teachers to parents to students should be on board with this idea as it will simply raise the quality of the educational experience.
What do you think? Should salaries be raised at private schools? What do you think would happen if the minimum offered salary jumped from $21k/year to $75k/year? The above statements were purely my opinion and I’d love to have yours.
Please share this with anyone you think would benefit from knowing the truth about teacher salaries and might want to do something about it. Thanks in advance. -Jeff