Labor Day Musings: An Immodest Proposal for Public Education




[Ed. Note: We’re always happy to hear from our friend and occasional contributor John MacMurray, retired teacher and former Assembly candidate from La Habra.  When he posted this recently on Facebook, stating “I wrote this a while back, while I was still teaching. My sentiments haven’t changed any,” we snapped it up — with permission.  Enjoy your own labors, or a respite from them, this weekend!]

John MacMurray, right.  At left, some students -- each of whose education, one might argue, is actually WORTH minimum wage!

John MacMurray, right. At left, students — each of whose education, one might argue, is actually WORTH minimum wage!

As a public school teacher of several decades’ standing, and as one who made the leap into public school teaching after a long career in the private sector, I am well aware of the case to be made for paying employees what they are worth.

And so, after much thought, and after conversations with parents of my students, and with former students, I maintain that my job is as a classroom teacher is every bit as important as the folks who toil at Burger King or McDonald’s; and I expect to be treated as well as those hard working folks, and paid on par with them.

Therefore, I am offering my services as a classroom teacher for Federal Minimum Wage: $7.25/hour.

Per student.

With the typical class load of, say, 35 students (“I’m sure you can handle it with no problems,” say your administrators), this comes out to $253.75/hour.

With my contract-stipulated workday of 7 ½ hours, not including the ½ hour duty-free lunch, the day’s remuneration comes to $1,903.75.

A point to consider: as is true of Burger King or McDonald’s, my workday is over at the end of the allotted hours. Any work beyond that, like correcting papers or planning, would have to be considered time and a half; that would be $380.63/hour; and would have to be negotiated separately from the contract-mandated 7 ½ hour day.

Thus, a standard, five day week would thus earn me $9,515.63.

The contract-stipulated teaching year of 185 days would earn me $352,193.75.

Now, this is somewhat more than a U.S. Congressman makes, but without the paid staff and rides on corporate jets.

And, at this rate of pay, I could actually afford to buy a house in or near the community where I teach, and maybe take an actual vacation during my “whole summer off.”

Guaranteed: the first and loudest screams will come from the elected officials, who will bleat that, “We just can’t afford this.”

And this, from Congress folks who make $174,000 a year, plus insurance, plus retirement, plus other perks; who spend an hour or so per day (of our tax money, remember) phoning people and companies to get campaign contributions (“Dialing for Dollars” as they so quaintly put it); who spend a million of our tax dollars a year on salaries and perks for their own office staffs.

So, if there is money for this opulent Congressional life style; and if there is money to pour 400 billion (and counting) taxpayer dollars into the bottomless hole of just one airplane project (which does not work and shows no sign of working), then most certainly there is money to adequately pay public school classroom teachers who guide, encourage, support, and bring out the best in, students from a wider convocation of national origins, customs, languages, and religions than any other school system in the world. And do it superbly well.

And I would like to be in the room when one of these Congress-critters tells parents that their kids aren’t as important as somebody’s “Bridge to Nowhere” or one more useless airplane.

About John MacMurray

John MacMurray is a retired junior high teacher from the Fullerton School District. He ran as the Democratic candidate for California's 72nd Assembly District in 2006, 2008, and the Special Election/Runoff election of 2009/2010. He is active in voter registration and candidate support in his community and in union affairs as a member of CTA/Retired. He blogs regularly for LA Progressive (