This Teacher Appreciation Day, the proof is in the timesheets
According to the Pew Research Center, US primary school children spend an average of 943 hours in the classroom each year, while secondary school children receive another 1,016 hours of instructional time. All told, by the time they graduate high school, a child will have spent around 11,700 hours of their life — over 12,000 if they attended kindergarten — learning from various teachers.
Those 12,000 tracked hours are sizeable — remember when a school year used to feel like an eternity? But consider this as well: Around 50.7 million kids attended public elementary and secondary schools in fall 2017, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. An additional 5.2 million kids attended private school. The average number of kids per classroom is just over 26, and many teachers will attest their classrooms all full to the brim, with aids or other help in short supply.
It’s tough to quantify those numbers. You could say that in a year, the average classroom supports over 25,000 hours of learning. But you could also go a more philosophical route. As Taylor Mali says in his famous slam poem “What Teachers Make,” kids learn more from their teachers than just how to read and write. They learn how to wonder, question, criticize, and apologize. In other words, they learn how to become better humans.
So given the fact it’s a teacher’s job to not only give kids the tools they need to someday become productive members of society, but kind, collaborative, and informed ones as well, it stands to reason we should be asking ourselves, Are we giving our teachers the appreciation they deserve?
Handmade art projects and audible “thank-yous” do convey some appreciation, but compensation is a clearer way of showing someone the work they do is valued. Teacher compensation has been a hot topic this year, with many teachers in states like Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona going on strike to achieve not just higher salaries, but more funding for public schools. Budget increases would help pay for everything from updated textbooks to new desks and chairs.
So speaking of salaries, and possibly more fitting, Taylor Mali’s slam poem, what do teachers make?
Geography: Teacher salaries around the world
According to a report from The Guardian and findings from Gems Education Solutions, US teacher salaries average just over $40,000. Compared to other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the US ranks somewhere in the middle, with Switzerland paying educators an average of $68,820 per year and Greece paying an average of $25,000. You could say Switzerland’s teacher salaries simply reflect a higher cost of living, but it’s worth noting the country’s average salary is around $50,000.
The same is true for the Netherlands, where teacher salaries average $57,870 compared to an average $41,000 for the rest of the country, and in Belgium, where the average teacher makes $51,470, while the average citizen makes $48,200.
Conversely, in the US, according to a 2015 report by the US Census Bureau, the average citizen earns $56,516 — around $15,000 more than the average teacher. In the UK, teachers are also paid less than the average citizen, though by a smaller gap of around $4,000.
Algebra 1: Is your child’s teacher making below minimum wage?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), teachers are nonexempt salary employees, meaning they cannot earn overtime. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t working more than 40 hours a week. Taking all those extra hours into consideration, and dividing up a teacher’s yearly salary by the number of hours they actually work reveals something big: Many teachers (around 13 percent) are making less than the federal minimum wage.
According to a 2017 report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), education and health industry workers are the third most likely group to experience a minimum wage theft violation (behind only retail and food and drink service industry workers).
The EPI’s investigation looked at the 10 most populous states and examined the 2013-2015 data from the Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group. The study found 13.4 percent of education and medical workers are paid below the minimum wage — an interesting statistic given that many such workers, unlike those in the retail or food service industries, are salaried, not hourly or tip workers.
Some states showed a much higher percentage of minimum wage violations within the education and health industry. In California, for instance, 16.4 percent of people in this category experience minimum wage theft, with an average loss of $2.09 per hour or $70 per week.
Algebra 2: TSheets data shows teachers are working long overtime hours
According to the National Education Association, “teachers spend an average of 50 hours per week on instructional duties, including an average of 12 hours each week on non-compensated school-related activities such as grading papers, bus duty, and club advising.”
The Washington Post reported on a survey by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that had similar findings. The survey found teachers work an average of 53 hours a week, and around 10 hours and 40 minutes a day.
But being a company that takes interest time tracking and employee timesheets, we wanted to see if we had the data to support those claims for ourselves. Out of our broad spectrum of TSheets clients, we currently have 645 that classify as K-12 Schools, so we looked at the data from April 30, 2015, through April 30, 2018.
In total, 1.28 million timesheets were recorded. Many of those clients had individual users on the account, and of those, 19 percent (or 34,100 users) recorded overtime hours. We found the average user recorded 11.2 overtime hours per week. If there was any doubt teachers work 50-hour weeks or more, TSheets is here to say the proof is in the timesheets.
Spelling: Let’s show some A-P-P-R-E-C-I-A-T-I-O-N
While bigger budgets and higher salaries are top priorities for teachers all over the country, might it be worth re-evaluating the FLSA’s overtime exemption for teaching professionals? Giving educators access to overtime pay might not be a perfect solution, but it would ensure teachers make well above minimum wage for an indispensable job.
Looking to show some personal appreciation for a teacher in your life? Why not treat them to a beautiful bouquet of flowers on us!
You have from now until May 15, 2018, to comment below and tell us all about that special person and how they made a difference for you or your child. The winner will be notified via the email connected to their blog comment. Employees of Intuit Inc and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising agencies, and members of their immediate family, and any persons living in the same household are not eligible to enter or win. The prize is a bouquet of flowers approximately valued at $70. Click here for rules and conditions!