Mande: Myth-Busting On Teacher Pay

“BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE HAVE IT WRONG” By MANDE WILKES   ||  Let’s just jump right in, shall we?  The median teachers’ salary in South Carolina is about $45,000, plus a solid healthcare plan and a retirement pension.  (And before any of you go sprinting toward your laptops to tell…


mande wilkesBy MANDE WILKES   ||  Let’s just jump right in, shall we?  The median teachers’ salary in South Carolina is about $45,000, plus a solid healthcare plan and a retirement pension.  (And before any of you go sprinting toward your laptops to tell me that your neighbor’s sister’s aunt is a teacher making less than that amount, please keep in mind that “median” means that some make less and some make more).

Ok.  Forty-five thousand dollars a year.  Breaking that down to arrive at an hourly rate, that comes to about $25 — and when you factor in the total benefits package, that hourly figure rises to over $50, according to the federal government’s own data.  To my mind, that’s a bit less than a whole lot, and a lot more than a little bit.

To be sure, it’s more than a medical resident’s salary, more than a firefighter’s salary, and more than the salary of many policemen and other first responders.  It’s also roughly equivalent to what a prosecutor or a public-defense attorney makes.  And it’s nearly triple the incomes of home-health aides, double the incomes of social workers, and double the incomes of army soldiers.  And believe it or not, it’s also double what many adjunct college professors are making.

In other words, teachers — often boasting nothing more than an undergraduate degree – are pulling in as much or more money than those with doctorate or law degrees and those who put their lives on the line.

I do concede that teaching is (or can be) frustrating, thankless, and mind-numbing.  Lamentably, with violence erupting among students, it’s also an increasingly dangerous field of work.

Teaching is, however, no more frustrating or dangerous or thankless than firefighting, doctoring, soldiering or policing.  That’s simply to say that teachers’ salaries are in line with other service professions, and in many cases teaching is even more lucrative than these other fields.

And yet, teachers (and teachers’ unions) continue to rage about pay, with some even claiming that they “work for free” during school off-hours.  But isn’t that what all salaried workers go through, in some form or another?  And like I pointed out above, when you look at teachers’ hourly take-home pay, it’s hardly meager.

So I don’t see what all the fuss is about.  Somehow education has taken on the guise of a political issue, which bewilders and confounds me.  And it’s a political issue largely because of the vocal teachers’ unions, which would have us believe that educators are forced to be reliant on food stamps and Medicaid.

To be clear, I think both sides of the aisle have it wrong on this subject.  The left wants across-the-board pay increases, which is ridiculous.  The right wants merit-based pay increases, which is … ridiculous.

I’ve noticed that “money” is both the question and the answer to most political problems.  In the case of education at least, the last two decades — in which per-pupil spending has skyrocketed and performance has stagnated, according to the National Center for Education Statistics — have proven that just as money has no bearing on class, it also has no bearing on classrooms or the quality thereof.

Mande Wilkes is a wife, mother, businesswoman, author, etc. residing on the South Carolina coast with her family.

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SC Political Digest October 8, 2014 at 9:14 am

While I totally garee, what you’ll find…Liberals DO NOT CARE about reality.

You think you’ve stumbled upon some profound truth. But Conservatives have known this for years. We also know there will be a line of leftwing dolts too stupid to digest this, or too corrupt to admit it. Either way, the fools in this country control the media. It’s why I berate FITS so much. He had a chance to be different, but chose to compromise himself, to be like the rest because it was the easiest path to success.

Again: you are right. But the stupid middle, who can shake the power base – the Liberal-Tarins – too often side with the liars and greedy manipulators.

FastEddy23 October 8, 2014 at 9:29 am

Abso-tive-ly … except for that rip on FITS.

idiotwind October 8, 2014 at 10:08 am

right on bro! fuckin reality all over the damn place and those libruls can’t see it. what is up wit dem??

Buz Martin October 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

Mande, at the risk of angering some of my many teacher friends: Any time you are in the zone of both the left and right being full of shit on a given issue, I’m right there with you. Got your back. But still, always … Thinking about your front.

SC Political Digest October 8, 2014 at 9:15 am

Perv alert.

lipstick traces October 8, 2014 at 9:24 am

Is he in “denial” after playing dress up in women’s attire?

I defer to experts October 8, 2014 at 10:27 am

If anyone would know, it would be you.

Smirks October 8, 2014 at 11:09 am

Basement dweller alert.

Buz Martin October 8, 2014 at 11:14 am

Funny how he never gets voted up by anyone other that “Guests.” Half of whom are bound to be him.

flamer 1/flamer 2 October 8, 2014 at 11:25 am

You and Buz would make a nice couple. Come on Buz put on your best dress and those high heels and you and Smirks make it legal!

Same ol' Same ol' October 8, 2014 at 9:23 am

The three biggest reasons to be a teacher: June, July, August.
Not a bad gig, just wasn’t for me.
Also, if you keep your nose clean, you may one day be an administrator, making a lot more. You’ll have your own little dictatorship.

hagan lies October 8, 2014 at 9:28 am

Exactly.Watched Tillis-Hagan debate in NC and even though the Tillis led House gave teachers a 7% raise with another one coming next year, Hagan called this a pay cut.

Tillis lies October 8, 2014 at 10:01 am

What a joke. You guy think people are stupid. What happened is Tillis and McCrory cut $500 million dollars from North Carolina’s enviable public school system. To make up for the cuts the schools had to increase class sizes, eliminate text books in some classes and cut teacher pay. When teachers began to leave the state in droves, Tillis and McCrory passed a raise for approximately 2% of teachers.

Now, NC has a national reputation for crappy public education. Thanks to Tillis and McCrory.

Jan October 8, 2014 at 10:10 am

Not surprising. Tillis and McCrory are Koch Brother puppets. While I don’t live in NC, I live on the border and I am forced to listen to those ads put up by Crossroads (i.e. the Koch Brothers).

Public education in this nation is under attack by groups like the Koch Brother and Howard Rich. They believe if they make schools bad enough the public will abandon them.

McCrory and Tillis cut taxes on wealthy people and businesses in NC an paid for it by increasing sales taxes on the middle class and cutting funding to public education.

hagan=obama 96% of time October 8, 2014 at 10:36 am

Bye bye Hagan!

Jan October 8, 2014 at 10:45 am

Makes no difference to me. If the people of NC are stupid enough to elect Tom Tillis, that is their call, not mine. I don’t live in NC. I live in SC, we have had to suffer under Republican rule for two decades. If they want to take a state with NCs reputation and turn it into a state with SC’s reputation, by all means follow our lead and go GOP.

Jack October 8, 2014 at 11:22 am

Hey, NC, it won’t be so bad. We have learned how to deal with our reputation., and we can teach you. Repeat after me, “Thank God for Mississippi.”

Living In a Republican State October 8, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Yeh but how much are Rich people paying in taxes?

That’s the only issue among Republicans.Its drives them insane thinking about how much taxes wealthy people pay.

Mike at the Beach October 8, 2014 at 11:21 am

BINGO! Not only the summer break, but every weekend, every night, every Spring Break, every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, etc. No on-call time, no major project management, little or no supervision of subordinate employees. You can also pick up an exceedingly easy to obtain masters degree in education (or even a masters+30) and jack the pay up into the low-50’s in most decent sized districts. For the level of intellectual heavy lifting involved and the schedule, $55k a year starts to seem more fair.

FastEddy23 October 8, 2014 at 9:25 am

One might get real political about teachers’ pay. If teachers (unions) successfully institute complete control over their own compensation with nothing but g’ment involved, then that would be a type of socialism. … And then teachers would not be paid as much, the baseline being the guide, not the median. … And all teachers would have to sign up for ObamaCare instead of the more gold plated programs some have now. … And suffer under some of the more egregious tax laws … and not be allowed (by g’ment) to take advantage of many of the “special” programs and tax breaks and perks currently in place for teachers.

IMOP that politically driven hope and change would be a serious net negative for all teachers … at the behest of a few.

Fleet October 8, 2014 at 9:34 am

There is no collective bargaining for state employees in SC. Therefore your point about teacher unions doesn’t apply here.

CNSYD October 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

You have been warned. Facts are not welcome at Fitsnews.

Beartrkkr October 8, 2014 at 10:22 pm

You shall now be put on double-secret probation…

Jack October 8, 2014 at 10:18 am

They know that. Its just red meat for brain dead Tea Nuts who have been convinced by lying politicians that unions are the reason they are not millionaires.

FastEddy23 October 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm

You must mean the Tea Nuts who were educated in the state controlled education monopoly. … They will believe anything they see on TV.

Jackie Chiles October 8, 2014 at 10:22 am

Teachers unions exercise influence in ways other than collective bargaining.

Bingo! October 8, 2014 at 10:32 am

Bingo again! You’re like butter today.

The simple act of collective voting is a huge hammer.

Fleet October 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Most occupations vote one party or the other. If the “teacher voting block” had any power in SC, Haley wouldn’t be in office.

Living In a Republican State October 8, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Mande is a Republican.

It’s mandatory among Republicans to throw a little Union bashing into any discussion where it may be even tangentially related.

Robert October 8, 2014 at 9:40 am

Not sure about you Mande, but I would have trouble living on $45K per year. And since I do construction at schools and witness the environment they deal with, $45K is low pay for sure. Now, does that mean that teachers aren’t wrong on many things? no it doesn’t. Our public education system needs reorganizing. We need fresh ideas. The issues are vast. We waste a ton of money in our school system. We just hired a trainee here this year and started him at $45K. He is no experience in our industry. Of course, he will never make $100K at the job either. Teachers can make more money doing other jobs. But we can’t do without teachers.

SC Political Digest October 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

Liberalism is THE No. 1 problem in education. It ain’t complicated.

The only FRESH IDEA we need is to jettison ALL, and EVERY liberal from the education industry trough. End of story.

grandtangosuglydog October 8, 2014 at 10:46 am

still angry today Emily? Did Obama make you stub your toe again? ..its the dam ugly little dog im tellin ya..You look like you dont date much but perhaps a night out would help you..i would drop the d bag hat though and the ugly little dog.

Buz Martin October 8, 2014 at 11:50 am

That’s NOT Emily Peterkin. But he uses a FAKE Emily Peterkin Facebook account to post here and there.

Mark Petereit October 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

I would have trouble living on $45K per year too. That’s why I don’t teach. It’s not like teacher salary is a closely guarded secret that is only revealed once you’ve signed an employment contract.

If your pay sucks — ask for a raise. If your employer says no, find another job that pays better. If you can’t find another job for more pay, expand your skill set. Make yourself more valuable.

Or move! I negotiated a 50% pay increase the last time I switched jobs, but it required selling our home and moving my family 1,200 miles away. Best decision I ever made.

euwe max October 8, 2014 at 9:50 am

The lack of discipline and low expectation fairly shouts from the chalk board in that picture.

Sloppy work – no pride in his presentation. What an example to make for chemistry students!

Bingo! October 8, 2014 at 10:30 am

I like this comment.


It’s also why I force my kid(s) to write shit out all the time….there’s lots going in on the mental process of writing(and especially calligraphy!) itself.

Also, let’s face it, what made Apple a superior product for a time to MS was the fact that Jobs studied and revered calligraphy.

euwe max October 8, 2014 at 10:39 am

skaters can make a perfect circle in the ice… how many school kids can draw a circle freehand?

Guest October 8, 2014 at 10:00 am

I believe your argument looks good on paper. However, I am unsure if your breakdown is completely accurate. My husband has a masters degree and is a history teacher and year round coach at a SC High School. He makes around 50k a year. However, that includes being on a master degree pay scale, a coaches stipends, and endless hours of homebound pay (he teaches homebound students on the side, to make extra money). He leaves the house at 6:30 every morning and isn’t home before 7:30 every night. And, he works four days a week (albeit, not full days) during the summer. My point is this….with the hours he actually works (not counting grading papers at home)…his pay does seem meager and he is one of the many that supplements his salary with stipends and homebound pay. And, about 80% of his colleagues at his school have at least a masters degree. And, his wife has a law degree. Just saying…

Jackie Chiles October 8, 2014 at 10:15 am

And? Most professional people get home late and work at home too. Why do teachers act like they’re the only people bringing work home with them?

Guest October 8, 2014 at 10:28 am

The point was that his hourly wage isn’t $25/hr. He never complains about his income, because he loves his job. I wasn’t being argumentative, I was questioning accuracy and context.

Bill October 8, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Accuracy is not a Fits News strong point. Never let the facts get in the way of your point. If you don’t have the facts make them up

Ed October 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm

And most professional people, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, get paid a lot more.

Jackie Chiles October 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Doctors maybe. Lawyers, pharmacists? Don’t make me laugh.

Fleet October 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Median salary for lawyers in Columbia SC. $76,952
Median salary for pharmacists in Columbia, SC $114,039
Info is from Salary.com You can stop laughing now.

Jackie Chiles October 8, 2014 at 5:19 pm

(guy who has no idea how many hours lawyers/pharmacists work, forgets they also don’t get 3 months off a year)

Fleet October 8, 2014 at 5:25 pm

That’s all you could come up with?

Tremedous Upside October 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

It looks like you may have pulled extreme examples from each category that you cited. However, I agree overall mainly because nothing has changed drastically in the teacher profession in many, many years so all of those teachers who moan and groan KNEW WHAT THEY WERE GETTING INTO. So, are they ignorant or did they weigh the pros and cons before joining the field.? I suspect the latter.

Tremendous Upside October 8, 2014 at 10:08 am


The Colonel October 8, 2014 at 10:17 am

Public education?

idiotwind October 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

right! we need to cut teacher pay. basic economic theory tells us if we pay less, we’ll get more people fighting for these plum jobs. hell why not make it volunteer work? like the way the peace corps made the world peaceful and the jesuits made everyone catholic. you are a goddam genius.

Google October 8, 2014 at 10:08 am Reply
Same ol' Same ol' October 8, 2014 at 11:33 am

You all did notice Mande used median (the one that occurs most often) salary, not average. This is done all the time so the reporting can fit the intended point. Average can ruin the intended point either way. For this article, I want median. I don’t want those getting higher pay to skew the point.

Google October 8, 2014 at 10:10 am

The average S.C. teacher was paid $48,375 at the end of the 2013 school year, while the national average was $55,418, according to the state Department of Education.


Jackie Chiles October 8, 2014 at 10:21 am

$45k in SC is equivalent to $56k in Philadelphia, $101k in Manhatten, $70k in Queens, $74k in San Francisco. So seems like SC salaries are right in line with the national average.

Yep! October 8, 2014 at 10:28 am

Jackie is right, the cost of living here in SC is low compared to most other states.

Dave Chappelle October 8, 2014 at 10:11 am


Where did you get your figure for comparing pay to military soldiers? Maybe a basic training recruit makes less than a teacher. But you must include several other factors. First, lower enlisted advance up several places in less than three years. Second, basic allowance for housing (BAH) is fairly significant–and its not taxed. Third, enlisted soldiers receive basic allowance for sustenance (BAS) at roughly $250/mo–and its not taxed. There are many additional factors. But the bottom line is, when you broadly says “soldiers” make less than this, you are really only talking about a few lower enlisted soldiers. And they were quickly progress beyond that. I would refer you to a basic pay chart, as well as the BAH/BAS figures.

Otherwise, good analysis.

The Colonel October 8, 2014 at 10:12 am

As with all issues in education – money is not the issue. Teachers are generally fairly compensated for their efforts. Their workday is commensurate with their salary and in 80% of the classrooms, there is no real threat or risk – except for that sickly kid who refuses to cough into his damn elbow.

There should be some “combat pay” differential for high school level teachers and those who deal with the “sweathogs”.

There is always shenanigans going on at the district office trying to get cheaper teachers in the classroom usually at the expense of the “most talented but most likely to complain” teachers.

Two parents were teachers, I spend much of my week dealing with generally high performing high school students. The teachers I deal with love to teach but hate the administrivia and bovine excreta that comes with the job.

Tazmaniac October 8, 2014 at 10:17 am

Looks like we lead the world in spending, yet far from the top in results. From a Lefty place, kind of shocked.


I don’t consider myself an expert, but right off the get go I would look at administrative costs. And sadly, I think a big factor is culture, smart people just aren’t valued in our society.

Squishy123 October 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

Why do you use a picture of yourself that’s several years old?

J Mande Wilkes October 8, 2014 at 11:25 am

Because I paid a lot of money for all that airbrushing, and I intend to milk that shit for all I can. Damn expensive to look this cheap, is what.

Buz Martin October 8, 2014 at 11:47 am

Why do you use no picture at all and a fake name?

Squishy123 October 8, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Why do you use a picture of someone that is not you and do you really believe that there is someone who’s name is Buz Martin?

Buz Martin October 8, 2014 at 8:40 pm

The face is my own, you dipshit, and I’ve been called “Buz” since I was 3 years old. Even though it is a nickname, it is how I’m known by family and friends. In the past I’ve used “Boz” as a stagename, nom de plume, etc., but returned to my regular nickname last year to connect with old friends without too much confusion. What else ya got, chump?

Smirks October 8, 2014 at 11:01 am

“B-but, people who do dangerous jobs are paid less than [insert mediocre-to-shit-pay job here]!”

That’s more of an argument that those dangerous jobs should be paid more.

Same ol' Same ol' October 8, 2014 at 11:36 am

People who do those dangerous jobs do them because no one else is dumb enough to take them. Then, when those folks get those dangerous jobs, they want us to worship them and feed them doughnuts.

Yelsewh October 8, 2014 at 11:20 am

$25/hr is a fair number if teachers only worked 40 hrs/wk for 10 months (they actually work longer hours and work during the summer) but there is no way that a fully loaded teaching salary comes close to $50/hr.

Mike at the Beach October 8, 2014 at 11:22 am

I know tons of teachers, and very few work during the summer (except on their tans).

Yelsewh October 8, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Really? They don’t do continuing ed to keep up certification or spend time prepping their classrooms? Either you’re lying or someone is lying to you.

Mike at the Beach October 9, 2014 at 6:58 am

Calm down…don’t drive angry. Why would I have to come on here and lie, but more importantly, why in the world would the teachers I know feel compelled to lie to me? Of course they may go prep a classroom or take a course here and there. That’s not “working all summer.” Name anyone with a professional job who doesn’t occasionally work when they’re off. I know tons of teachers (mainly through my wife) and believe me, they don’t work for the vast majority of the summer if they choose not to do so. It’s just a fact.

Joe October 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm

$25 an hour is $52,000 for a full year. Considering the healthcare benefits plus the amount of money one would need to contribute to a 401k in the private sector to generate the returns of the SCRS pension, it’s close.

Yelsewh October 8, 2014 at 11:24 pm

A 33% load would is VERY generous so I could live with $34/hr… but a 100% load? That doesn’t pass the smell test. Not only even close.

Joe November 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm

To replace the retirement, an annuity of close to $1M would need to be purchased at age 62. For a 30 year teacher earning a 4% return on her money (SCRS figures), she would need to put away at least 25%. Healthcare purchased on the private exchanges is going to run another 15-20% of her salary (matching similar to the state health plan). Adding in the 3 months out of the year she doesn’t work, factors in another 25%. Other miscellaneous benefits and tax advantages (vision, dental, etc.) account for another 5-10%. That’s at least a 75% load being conservative with my figures.

Yelsewh December 5, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Your analysis has sto so many flaws it isn’t worth pointing them all out. Why don’t you start by using the actual contribution rates for benefits? They’re readily available.

9" October 8, 2014 at 1:42 pm

I wish all these dumb ass straight people would quit having dumb ass babies.Now that I’m getting special rights,I shouldn’t have to pay for your brats’ education .
As for gay people with children;what the fuck is wrong with y’all?!

Samantha G. October 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I’d like Mande (and others) to focus on the totally-out-of-control spending from the district offices… money that doesn’t even come close to making it in the classroom or have anything to do with a child’s education. They (school districts) are a well-oiled machine that continues to find one reason after another to increase our taxes and pocket the money for things other than where it matters most.

Many school board elections are coming up Nov 4th. Do your homework and un-elect the rubberstampin’ “yes” men.

truthmonger October 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Mande, you are SO far off. Let’s look at what you got wrong (or just ignored):
1) The way the median income is often figured is faulty. Administrators (principals, assistant principals, district administrators, athletic directors, etc.) are almost always included in the numbers, substantially increasing the median. Kinda like trying to figure the median income for Wal-Mart employees in Bentonville while including the CEO and his entire administrative and headquarters staff, as well as store managers.
2) There is a pay scale in place for teachers based on experience and education. You won’t generally make the median with just an undergrad.
3) Summers aren’t generally “off”. Teachers are required to maintain proficiency/ certification on their own dime. Look at what USC is charging per credit-hour…. not cheap.
4) Adjunct professors are usually PART TIME employees…. not comparable.
5) I AM a cop, so I can say that YES, we are ridiculously underpaid. I’ve also been in a classroom, so I can comment intelligently on that -and YES, most actual teachers are underpaid as well. Remember, teachers manage approximately 30-40 “employees” in each of up to six “shifts” under a regulatory burden most business owners can’t even begin to imagine. Seriously, They are engaging not simply in teaching, but also managing. Ask a store manager in the private sector how much he makes…. I guarantee it will be more than 40K or 45K.
Ignorance is bliss, dear Mande, and you are VERY happy…

BIN News Editorial Staff October 9, 2014 at 2:36 am

Manatee Mandee has something in common with sic(k) willie. Okay, okay.
Maybe more than one thing in common.

But, one thing sticks out.
Sorry, one thing stands out. Okay, sorry again.

One thing is clear.
They never let their ignorance get in the way when they bloviate about something.


S.C. has many great public school teachers, but low pay is just one of many challenges S.C. faces in recruiting and keeping more great teachers.

Manatee’s paper thin understanding of the issues is just that: paper thin.

She really should have accepted our Funding Editor’s offer a few years ago when she offered to get Mandeeee a job as a Hostess at Cagney’s at The Beach.

Some first hand business experience might help Mandee with her writing.

BIN News Editorial Staff
Always Flair and Balanced


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