One of the most popular “Retired Educator” posts on Internet search engines is an article I published at the end of May this year about teachers’ salaries. As such, I decided to check out the latest statistics at “payscale.com” — something I would recommend people do if they are thinking of a career in education. The last update was done recently, on November 14th, 2009 and here is some of what the site reports:
True or false? The average teacher’s salary in the publicly funded systems across Canada is between $42,000 and $53,000. If you answered true, you would be right. However, if you answered false, you are probably also correct. Why? Because we are getting conflicting information.
To begin with, we know that the number of Ontario teachers making $100,000 or more is increasing annually thanks to the Harris government passing the “Public Disclosure Act” in 1996. Referred to as “The Sunshine List,” it provides the name and (gross) income of every public employee who earned $100,000 or more the year before.
For example, check out The Education Reporter who has written an excellent article on the disclosure list, arguing how Ontario’s sunshine numbers will keep expanding given the recent collective agreements and their automatic cost of living salary increases.
Then, as Reporter pointed out, there is also the Society for Quality Education’s report on this topic. The SQE report alleges, for instance, that even when Boards of Education are struggling financially (such as the Toronto Public Board of Education), their employees just keep earning more and more without cause or a ceiling.
And so, a paradox. On the one hand, as payscale.com identifies, the median teacher salary in seven selected provinces (in Canadian dollars) are:
- Alberta $53,457
- Ontario: $49,254
- B.C. $49,129
- Sask $48,544
- Man. $48,080
- Nova Scotia $47,353
- Quebec $42,444
On the other, more and more teachers are earning $100,000 or more — double the amount listed at payscale.com. And, I think we can assume that if all provinces and territories had disclosure legislation, the numbers of people earning between $80,000 – $100,000 would be similar.
So, what does this all mean? While I certainly don’t begrudge a good teacher earning a decent salary, when it comes to automatic cost-of-living increases, should there not be some kind of accountability or criteria built into the system?
For example, the notion of merit pay is no longer a dirty concept because even U.S. President Obama is talking about rewarding good teachers — in spite of the fact the teachers’ unions are completely against such a possibility. In other words, are the high income earners subject specialists or department heads? Have they upgraded their educational or specialist qualifications? Are they working longer hours? Are their students achieving, no matter what the demographics of their school district?
My opinion? I would say that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle — that the payscale.com numbers are too low because their sample size is insufficient. I mean, teachers can’t simply go from $50,000 to $100,000 in only a few years. And, that the Ontario sunshine list — or its equivalent in other provinces — is not actually reflective of what the majority of teachers earn.
Something for Ontario PC leadership candidates (and conservative leaders and premiers in other provinces and territories) to think about.