Monday, April 26, 2010

Teachers' Appreciation Day Saves Taxpayers Money (Probably)

A Twitter colleague of mine opines about why she doesn't like Teachers' Appreciation Day:

And, just on a personal note, I think I’d rather be the person who I would have been in the absence of about 1/3 of the teachers I had in K-12. Surprisingly many of them were not only incompetent, but petty, power-hungry, and even vindictive. I remain angry and bitter about those damaging years, and it’s part of why I’m so interested in education now (Maybe I’ll write a whole post on my anger and bitterness another time). But, because it was a wealthy area, most of the students did just fine academically – despite these bad teachers, not because of them. And, every year, the parents were coughing up expensive gifts and gift certificates for the poor, underappreciated teachers. I reckon that many of the teachers who truly deserve some extra appreciation – those who work with severely underprivileged students, those whose schools are unsafe, those who don’t make a decent living – are those who are, sadly, the least likely to receive it, holiday or not.
I agree that it feels gross to systematically honor certain people, especially entire professions. But maybe society is better off because of it?

Teaching has all sorts of nonmonetary benefits, such as the satisfaction of influencing young lives, the favorable work schedule (summers off for most), and the various forms of recognition, including Teachers' Appreciation Day.

Because of nonmonetary benefits, fun jobs pay less, all else equal. Many people would happily choose teaching elementary school at $35,000 a year over a working a boring job at $50,000 a year.

If we cut some of these nonmonetary benefits, we'd have to increase teacher salaries, in order to keep the existing pool of teachers away from alternative professions. Teachers probably value the recognition more than it "costs" us to provide it, so paying teachers in recognition instead of cash is probably a good deal for taxpayers.

As another example: imagine how much more we would have to pay teenagers to become soldiers if there were no parades, standing ovations at public events, or other acts of respect.


Adam Gurri said...

Or we could just cut out the teachers appreciation day, keep paying them the same amount, and just accept that some of them might leave because of it.

Greg Finley said...

Well, yes. That's true as well.

pjsw said...

Glad to be your Twitter colleague, Greg :-)

Just wanted to say that you are definitely right in theory, but I'm not so sure about the facts. These days, there are an awful lot of teachers whining about their pay all of the time (including many of the ones I had back in the suburbs of Atlanta, who made more money than many of our parents, sometimes approaching 6 figures, and had nice pensions and such). And also, there is plenty of condescension towards teachers, particularly the lower grades - e.g., "those who can't do, teach" (some of this might be warranted, given how poorly so many students are doing). But I don't know how one could get good data on any of this, teacher or consumer side.