Letters to the Editor

One reader’s perspective on educational costs | Letter

The recent street demonstrations by teachers for increased funding requires at least an attempt to give a little historical perspective to educational costs.

It takes 36 years for pay to double at an annual increase of 2 percent per year.

In 1960 in the Puget Sound area, teacher pay was in the neighborhood of $4,700 to $5,500, with very generous medical (full coverage), retirement (some could retire at 52 comfortably), sick leave (two weeks that accumulated) and various insurance subsidies.

In 1980 — not 36 years later — but 20, teacher pay had doubled, ranging approximately from about $10,000 to high $12,000s. The benefits were equally good, but there more state subsidized investment and insurance possibilities.

In 2010, salaries ranged from about $50,000 to about $70,000, but there has been a slight diminishment in the benefits, although the cost for the benefits in each successive period was more.

This is base pay and doesn’t include pay for a variety of possible activities.

Many teachers are married to other teachers.

Given there was more than a 10-fold increase in pay from 1960 to 2010, there was more than a thousand-percent increase in costs during this period, making clear that either there was much larger societal inflation than is governmentally provided, or that teachers have continued being comfortably middle class, especially for the two-income ones. One only needed to sit in faculty rooms just before summer vacation or just after it in these three periods to hear talk making clear just how comfortable life is for many teachers. Interesting trips, vacations. Earnings made in summer jobs. Newer cars.

The teachers enjoy equating state support with “the kids.” Meaning that if more and more money is spent on education, then the “kids” educational growth markedly benefits. But back in the 1960s, colleges were not complaining about the lack of skills that high-school graduates brought to them. And employers rarely complained about lack of basic skills. Remedial education was less costly, and special education didn’t take up half of all district income. And back in the 1960s, there were very few of the additional costs that are now abundantly available: many kinds of teacher assistants, graders and much more support staff.

Also since then the education system has had to do multiple broadenings of basic education definition, and standardized tests have been dumbed down.

How does U.S. educational achievement compare with most other countries today?

Readers should look up answers to this, and then ask themselves what are the efficacy of the teacher arguments in the demonstrations.

Richard Pelto, Kenmore

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