National Issues: Teacher Pay

Oklahoma teachers decide to go on strike to get an increase in pay.

A significant issue in this country is how much we pay our public servants, especially those in the public school system. Some people say that the pay of teachers is an important issue that needs to be fixed, and the way to fix it is to pay them substantially more. Other people believe that the way to fix it is to lower government spending on other things and increase the pay for teachers that way. However, there are libertarians, such as myself, who want to do away with the public school system as a whole, as that is the only reasonable way to increase teacher pay while keeping their standard of living the same.


All We Want to do Is Increase Pay!

Let’s talk about the first group of people who want to increase the pay of teachers while not changing anything in the government. There are still the same amount of government employees; the government spends the same amount of money on separate government operations; the only thing that has changed is a 15% raise for all teachers, the amount that many students and teachers are asking for.

The good offered by this idea is limited to giving the teachers a raise. Other than that, there is only suffering on the part of the taxpayer who, naturally, must be held liable to pay for the raise through state and local taxes.

However, many people barely get by with paying the current taxes placed upon them by their state and the local community. Imagine for a minute what would happen to the poor working class if they were forced to pay more to send their kids to school. They would suffer more than compared to before the raise was passed.

Now there is a simple counterargument to this: tax the rich substantially more, and force them to pay for the raises. They are rich, right? They can quickly pay for the raises across the state because they have a substantial amount of disposable income after taxes. There are millionaires, even billionaires who are able to pay massive amounts of taxes and still get by just fine.

The problem with taxing the super-rich instead of taxing everyone, including the working poor, is that there aren’t that many wealthy people in any specific state. Excluding the urban New England states, no particular state has a plethora of wealthy citizens making several million dollars or more. This number becomes even smaller when local governments are responsible for taxing the super-rich. Now, the plan of taxing the wealthy to pay for teacher raises so that even work in theory, much less in reality.


Cut Current Government Spending for Raises

Government spending exceeds its limits a lot of the time. Some people would say that the government spends money on things that don’t matter at all just so they could spend their tax revenue. Cutting government spending is a better option to give teachers the raises they want, but there are some faults in this plan, like the dependence on taxpayer funds.

This plan would require the government to get rid of a lot of its useless and pointless projects across the country. In the state of Oklahoma, there are around 500 state superintendents for public education. There are 77 counties in the entire state, meaning there are about 6.5 superintendents for each county. In the state of California, there are two state superintendents — one for the north, one for the south.

The idea here is to fire the excess staff and reallocate the funds toward the teacher raises. Each superintendent has a yearly income of at least $100,000 a year, if not more. In the Norman Public Schools district in Norman, Oklahoma, the superintendent gets paid $200,000 a year, plus full benefits. This does not include the pay that goes to his six assistants. I can only imagine what happens in the Oklahoma City school district, which is much larger than the Norman school district.

If we were to fire these teachers, there would be a lot more money going into education than there was before. There wouldn’t be as many public servants as there were, however, and teachers around the state would get thousands of dollars going toward their pay with the money that used to go to state superintendents.

However, with more money for education around the state, Oklahoma would then decide what to do with it. As legislators go, Oklahoma would probably not use the money to pay teachers more. Instead, they would use it to rebuild public schools, a project that is badly needed, or even cut education spending, and spend that money elsewhere. This is assuming that the state legislatures do not decide just to cut taxes, an action that would put us back at square one on this issue.

There aren’t very many downsides to this plan, but the disadvantages it does have show through pretty well. However, as public education goes, it is not the worst, and in my opinion, it might be the best plan to reallocate funds to the public school system.

However, there are other plans out there, plans that are far better than this one. What if there was a plan that could guarantee teachers a steady $80,000 a year in disposable income?


Privately-Owned Education

Here is the libertarian solution: let the free market take charge of education. The free market has not stopped progress and has actually promoted it. In the open market, entrepreneurs are prompted to create a product that nobody has ever seen before in order to be successful.

But the free market is more than just success and failure. It’s finding the right way to serve one another. The free market is the solution to the education problem (and I concede that it is a problem) because it offers competition in the education market.

This competition leaks into teaching the students, but the more important thing is competing for the kids themselves. Once public schools are abolished, private schools will take over the education market and receive vast amounts of business, contrary to what liberals would have you believe.

As it turns out, private schools would be forced by the laws of the free market to lower their tuition costs or not get any traffic through their doors. This is no different than how large retail stores such as Wal-Mart operate. They must lower their prices to beat the other store – in this case, Target or Homeland. As a result, you can predict that Wal-Mart gets a lot more people buying their products than Target does.

Education works similarly. Just because kids are involved doesn’t make the free market process any different. The teachers are merely employees. The kids are the customers.

These “employees” are incentivized to teach their kids at the highest level because if they do not, they are going to get in trouble with their employer. This creates a level of teaching that is competitive, and a teaching process that is overall better for the students, a.k.a. the “customers.” After all, keep the customers happy and watch the business grow.

There are no unfair taxes to pay for these schools. After all, they’re privately owned. There are no deficiency problems either, as they are built to satisfy the students, not the minimum requirements held by common core. There are no discipline problems, for private schools often require students to act appropriately or get kicked out. This policy is critical to the satisfaction of the other students in the school, as well as their safety.

In conclusion, the free market is the best option to revive the public school system. We have seen regressions in how our students are being taught, and higher pay for teachers who are responsible for those regressions is not the answer. Publicizing everything that the United States deems essential, such as education, does not help, and has a chance of doing more harm than good. Cutting government spending and subsidizing the raises that way is a good idea, but you still remain dependent on taxpayer funds. It also symbolizes the government rewarding failure for the purpose of satifying unions and special interests who are in favor of the teacher raises.


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