Thursday, June 14, 2012

Granularity: School Teaching in the Midwest

A friend of a friend weighs in from the Heartland with an on the ground report update re public education.  Passing thought: we spend a lot of time talking about how we want a skilled workforce.  But it depends on the job.  If the only jobs are going to be low-paid and low-skilled, then it is probably more prudent to keep 'em stupid.  Anyway, here's the latest:
I recently heard that Portage, WI was contemplating a base salary of around $22,000/year and Oconomowoc is moving ahead with the lay-off of 25% of their HS faculty in favor of large raises (along with increased work loads) for those remaining.  On a daily basis I am reassured by our various educational and political leaders that education is absolutely critical to the survival of the "good ole USA," as we know it.

Back in the day, around 1976, our 200th birthday and the time of the great Hortonville strike, and when inflation was running about twelve percent a year, I was involved in trying to negotiate a new, local teachers' contract (The Board had offered us fifty bucks a year for each of two years).  "Jeez Wally," I said to the superintendent, "the garbagemen in Milwaukee are making $25,000/year."  He replied, "Well (he kind of stuttered when he got excited) - go to Milwaukee and drive a GD garbage truck."   Eventually I did, but the garbage truck was an administrator's desk.

Minot, Williston, and other North Dakota towns located in the Northwestern corner of the state, in the center of the Brakken Oil fields, are paying their teachers around $24,000 per year to start (I don't know about benefits, but I can guess).  Since they are in the midst of an oil boom, using Wisconsin sand for the drilling, housing is at a premium.  A two-bedroom apartment is renting for $1,500 to $1,600/  month, and you pay all utilities.  This means that it ain't really possible for a teacher who makes two grand a month, before taxes, etc., to be able to live within a couple hundred miles of the school.  So, the school districts, rather than raising teacher pay (this decision is obviously based on modern economics of course), has decided to build apartment/dormitory complexes which will be made available to the teachers, at a reduced rate, of course.  In the meantime, any eighteen year-old female or male who has graduated from high school and is in possession of a CDL (Commercial Drivers' License) is in a position to be hired immediately as a truck driver.  These jobs start at eighty thousand dollars ($80,000)/year (I don't know about benefits).  After one year of successful employment, their salary increases to $100,000/year.
Afterthought:  When we are in a brackish mood, we sometimes refer to the local academy of jurisprudence as "the West Valley School of Law and Trucking."  Considering the shape of the markete, maybe we better drop the law part.

1 comment:

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

One of the curses of the public sector is that pay is low yet the market clears. The curse, of course, is in the various clearing mechanisms:
-1. Tolerating substandard work. The curse of this obvious.
-2. Really good bennies, preferably with deferred value. The curse here is that good deferred bennies start invisible, but eventually become huge.
-3. Revolving door. The curse of this is corruption.