Follow The (Lack of) Money

After the West Virginia teacher’s strike, Vox published a fascinating graphic–an interactive database.

The article itself focused on the pay of teachers in West Virginia, and demonstrated how the buying power of those salaries–which remained essentially flat– had been eroded over the years by inflation. Accompanying the article was an interactive feature that allowed readers to see how their own states measured up.

I looked at Indiana.

The first graph showed average teacher pay (both elementary and secondary) over a fifteen-year period, in dollars, and not adjusted for inflation, both for Indiana and nationally. At the beginning of the fifteen years, national pay averaged $46,752 annually, and Indiana’s teachers came close to that average, at $45,791. By 2016, a significant gap had developed: national salaries averaged $58,950, but the average in Indiana was $50,554.

The graph that really “told the tale,” however, took the same time period and adjusted those numbers for inflation. That graph showed that teachers in Indiana have actually sustained a 15.1% pay cut over the past 15 years.

This is worse than the nation as a whole, where teachers have had their pay cut by an average of 3 percent when we adjust for inflation.

And since 2009, teachers in Indiana had their pay cut by 9.7 percent.

The interactive graph was followed by a table showing where each state’s education funding comes from. In Indiana, 9.8% comes from the federal government, 59.1% from the state, and 31.1% from local government.

There’s an old adage to the effect that “You get what you pay for.” Here in Indiana, the General Assembly came close to passing a bill that would have allowed school systems to hire classroom teachers who lack education credentials. As local media reported,

Like the rest of the country, Indiana is struggling to find enough qualified teachers to fill its public school classrooms. Lawmakers have proposed a possible solution: unlicensed teachers.

Right now, traditional public schools can only hire teachers who’ve met the state’s licensing requirements. While there are alternative paths to teaching, the traditional route to a license is a college teacher preparation program, student teaching and licensing exams in content and pedagogy, the actual practice of teaching.

Several recent studies have told us what most Americans already know: pay matters. The scholarship confirms that teacher salaries are linked to employee retention and that higher pay draws smarter people to the field and the classroom.

In most states, teachers are required to obtain a master’s degree. People with such credentials have options beyond the classroom. Very few of them are in a position to forego thousands of dollars annually in order work at jobs they may love, but that’s what we are asking them to do.

We shouldn’t be surprised if teachers in many (if not most) states who want to stay in the classroom follow the lead of West Virginia.

At some point, our slavish devotion to unrealistically-low tax rates has to give way to the need to pay for effective governance and necessary public services, including but not limited to education.

It’s like the old bumper sticker used to say: “Think education is expensive? Try ignorance.”

We’ve been trying ignorance for far too long, and thanks to the Trump Administration, the GOP and the NRA, among many others, we’re learning just how expensive it can be.


  1. I wonder if IN shorts education to keep people voting “R”

    If the people KNOW better, they might not keep voting for the “R”s

  2. “In most states, teachers are required to obtain a master’s degree. People with such credentials have options beyond the classroom. Very few of them are in a position to forego thousands of dollars annually in order work at jobs they may love, but that’s what we are asking them to do.”

    With the unreasonable cost of student loans, and the requirement to begin making payments on those loans 6 months after graduation, they often are not employed when they begin repaying their many thousands in loans. They have many elements working against them financially; including those who provide students with needed supplies from their own wages. The unending drain on the public education tax base, and grim future of public education, we can expect the ignorance level of students to rise accordingly as the system loses competent teachers. Ignorance is an infectious disease and as Sheila stated, “We’ve been trying ignorance for far too long, and thanks to the Trump Administration, the GOP and the NRA, among many others, we’re learning just how expensive it can be.” That ignorance is now the “trickle down” financial system which Republicans promised would benefit the middle class.

    And we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! Lenny Bruce said long ago, “Liberals can understand everything but the people who don’t understand them.” And those who don’t understand “us” are the ones in charge today; along with “Follow the (Lack Of) Money”, we also must follow another threat, to quote an old movie title, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”! And Trump is again golfing at his Florida White House.

  3. Teachers aren’t the only profession experiencing flat wages in our economy. Meanwhile, college tuition and healthcare expenses grow in triple digits.

    Who absorbs those costs?

    Quality of life is sliding into the toilet and our puppet government can’t seem to solve the crisis because they are too busy blaming poor people for needing welfare to survive (scapegoating).

    The market is failing because if supply and demand worked properly, wages would be growing for teachers to offset the shortage.

    Just know that this crisis is intentional and avoidable. They already have the solution for the problem but their steps are incremental. Indiana is a model state for ALEC. They have to break the union so they can transform schools into sorting factories.

    Don’t be surprised to see bills introduced in the Red States asking for mandatory military service for certain students. 😉

  4. Sharp objects and numbers ought to be kept away from law school professors who don’t really know much. IUPUI isn’t a black hole of mediocrity though it must have more than a few. Try this effort…. An event open to the public and of high quality wherein, contra Sheila, these experts agreed that the single best thing Indiana could do to improve K-12 public instruction would be to close down the ability of so called schools of education to issue undergraduate degrees. If you have a pipe, put that in there and smoke away. If seriously interested, consult the books written by these experts.
    As for your numerology, run the numbers again using total employee compensation…salary is but a part of the whole. I thought everyone knew that but apparently not. Why is that important? Well, Eric Miller notes that Marion, IN health care costs in their school system were $30,000 per year per employee. It is a tax free benefit, so lots of teachers don’t wish to pay for their own health care or taxes, for that matter. Health care is just a tax anyhow according the supreme court. At any rate, the rest of your screed does not hang together either. How many law school professors ever endured the content free curriculum of a typical ed school like ISU, BSU, IU, Purdue? Ever notice that elementary education majors to be have some of the lowest SAT scores ever discovered in and for a group (barely below those of journalism majors). Oh, and the product of the Indiana instructional core as measured by competent standardized tests would not lead ANYONE to think that such performance rated compensation increases. Rather, the proper conclusion would be that entities that accrete and accrete but never excrete wind up FOS…similar to the value of your screed above.

  5. Man to his buddy: F++k’ng liberals! Always wanting something for nothing. Never heard a pay your own way.

    Buddy: Then you got crime–pot, coke, gangs, killing, riots, vandalism; probably the same people.

    Man: What we need is about ten million new cops. Seen the cops shut down Ohio Street, the bridge fallin’ apart. Man, liberal give-away shit tearing this country apart.

    Buddy: Same thing health system. All we hear how much it cost, all them infrastructure we supposed to have anyway.

    Man: F++kin’ A, man, I ain’t payin’ one more dime a taxes they learn to manage the trillions they already got.

    Woman overhearing conversation: Americans! Always wanting something for nothing.

  6. Liberals want to invest in a better future for everyone. Authoritarians want to harvest the future for a better now for them personally.

    Give authoritarians the power that they crave and the results are perfectly predictable.

    Now the electorate gets the chance again vote between those two mindsets.

    It’s not perfect but a reasonable proxy is Ds are liberal and Rs are authoritarians.

  7. WOW!

    Leon has been reading far too many right wing meme books and articles. And, is the wont of ignorant fools, he blames the messenger. His little rant exemplifies the reason for the split in our national conversation.

    The FACTS are that we DO get what we pay for. We spend, as a nation, well over 50% of our GDP on a military that is scattered around the world like the imperialistic leaves of constant war it is. We spend more than the top six other countries combined spend on their military. Oh. Right. They’re busy investing in their people with single-payer health care, free education through college, excellent infrastructure and very high qualities of life. WE, on the other hand, don’t want to pay for anything and then bitch and moan about how poor people keep complaining.

    Republicanism in this country is destroying it – as Todd suggests. Reagaonomics only favors the rich. The terrible salary structure for teachers around the country is symptomatic of a populous that is too self-absorbed – at least the ones that vote – too self-centered and so insecure that they have to blame everyone else but themselves.

    We are NOT a rich country. Oh, we have plenty of cash in the hands of the very few, and in foreign banks where it makes the few even richer, but we have the highest per capita poverty rate of any industrialized nation except China. We are a POOR country, because we allow our infrastructure to crumble while we whine at one another about taxation. The idiots in the Tea Party have convinced way too many stupid people that we pay too many taxes, when in reality we have the lowest per capita tax burden of any industrialized country. See the parallels?

    Now, Leon, you should crawl back into your mound of nonsense and find something else to blame. Try offering suggestions as everybody else on this blog does from time to time. It might improve your outlook.

  8. Larry; interesting conversation and the conclusion the woman reached. Here in Indiana, seniors, disabled and low-income get NOTHING for SOMETHING; having paid taxes and returned wages into the local economy for years, there is no help for us on any level when needed. A primary example regarding seniors, disabled and low-income; the areas of gentrification which were supported, often constructed by and paid for by us result in no assistance when forced out of homes and businesses to enrich the out of state buyers and provide housing for those with more money. We (the old, disabled and low-income) are also still paying taxes which support public schools and now private and religious schools through the voucher system. And if your “Man” carries out his plan of “not paying one more dime a taxes” we will be supporting him in jail; he will then get a full return on his tax dollars and the woman will be helping give him “something for nothing”…lol

  9. Vernon; you being a published author and your mention of Reaganomics brought an old memory to me. Reagan began his first speech to the nation by stating; “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times; as Charles Dickens said in his novel ‘A Christmas Carol”. I knew then we were in deep doo-doo; just didn’t realize how deep or how long-lasting it would/could be.

  10. The problem isn’t just right wing abhorrence of taxing; it’s political assignment of priorities in the use of revenues collected. Sheila’s effort today suggests that the State of Indiana is not paying nearly enough into the educational maw, though the super majority seems to find sufficient revenues to reward their backers while pleading poverty to the common good.

    I have always argued that the two most important duties of government are the intertwined priorities of public education and public safety, and (beyond taking students past Descartes’ blank slate and maintaining social equilibrium) there is, I think, good reason for such choices. Statistics show that there is a direct correlation between educational level attained and crimes committed – the more education the less crime on average.

    So you can either pay teachers a decent wage or you can encourage bank and 7-11 robberies. Take your pick. Pay the price in the schoolroom or pay the price for judges, Michigan City, jails, jailers, troopers etc., not to mention costs associated with the victims of such crimes, i.e., those killed, robbed, assaulted, defrauded, etc. The pecuniary price is (roughly) the same, so you can either educate children or relegate them to a more likely life of crime.

    Since the costs are approximately the same irrespective of choice, there are no savings to be had by paying slave wages to teachers, a policy which in turn has led many who wanted to teach but can’t afford it to take up different vocations and professions and, predictably, has led to a shortage of qualified teachers which, again predictably, the super majority proposes to solve with lesser credentials and qualifications for teachers , a proposal which could hardly be more wrong-headed.

    Yes, some consider teaching a mission and will work for lesser wages to live out their dreams, but that noble sentiment is not shared at Kroger’s or by the tax man and others. Our children are our future, so let’s pay those who are preparing them for life a decent wage while keeping them out of juvenile detention, the county jail and the Big House.

  11. One of the commentators today proclaimed that law professors “don’t know much.” I disagree. My law school professors knew a lot. One was the author of the Indiana Commercial Code and another was the author of the Indiana Probate Code and they were brilliant. Indeed I named one of my two boys after one of them (Bruce). Law professors rather than practitioners are often called upon to write or rewrite entire codes and not just bills in their respective jurisdictions and, to reiterate, I strongly disagree with one of the commentators today. My professors knew a lot and evidently imparted a lot since with a few exceptions my entire class passed the bar exam the first time out, including me, and I have passed two other bar exams since. I appreciate their efforts, and if today’s naysayer had been exposed to my law school professors I am sure he would be singing a different tune.

  12. Well stated, Gerald. Very lawyerly.

    Rome fell because it finally couldn’t support constant war. We are failing, because making war is what we do all the time. The single most “important” reason we assumed the mantle of the world’s policeman is to preserve access to cheap oil and the investments of the oil companies. We began doing this in the 19th century for one reason or another – mostly to open up new markets for our manufacturing surplus.

    Now, however, we don’t make that much to sell, so we have to keep the oil flowing. BTW, did you see the latest scandal from Scott Pruitt? He’s been trying to peddle LNG to Morrocco on our dime. Only thing is, it’s not his job. It’s Rick Perry’s job. Hmmm.. Can our corruption in government be any more naked? Can the Trump-ites rub our noses in their mess any more vigorously?

  13. Leon confesses error above. Eric Miller was a red herring to blow some embers into flame. The information about Marion, IN schools actually came from Eric Turner…long time State Representative for that area of Indiana. And, as for facts, well only them there “right wingers” bother with facts as the exposing of left wingers above demonstrated, easily. Of course, serving the public on a school board for 9 years ought not count for knowing much of anything as Mark Twain remarked but, girls, it just beats the hell out of ignorant people opining on matters of which they know very little. Read, then, the provided link, and go cry in a corner. It was actually done in public, the discussion, at IUPUI, in front of the Board of School Trustees of Indiana University and “moderated” by a local know nothing to know little lady. A bit of courage by IU to do so in public and kudos to IUPUI who has brought notable scholars in for public lectures in other fields. Pappe, Mearsheimer, and Finkelstein come to mind…just to give heartburn to the bleeding hearts.

  14. It all gets down to money doesn’t it? Not surprising since money is the most highly valued thing in our society, out ranking honesty, decency, fairness, kindness. Yep, it’s the money. So to no one’s shock the system for collecting some of that money to be used for the general good is under constant attack and refinement. Any idea of guiding principles (fairness and decency) gets trampled under the heavy boots of greed and avarice.

    Until the vast majority of this country’s population abandons money as its god and takes up agreed upon principles and openly applies them to the tax system, we will continue down this sorry road to self-destruction.

  15. I’ve never understood people who say “I don’t have kids/grandkids in the public schools so why should I support them?”

    We All have to live with other people’s kids. It’s in everyone’s best interest for them to be educated.

  16. Once again, the personality from the briar patch shows us what runs our school boards. Self-righteous indignation and the perversion of “facts” is what drives systems into the ditch. Clearly, better people than the naysayers have to be on school boards and in the classroom.

    My public school teaching career was only 12 years long. Before that I taught human anatomy/physiology in medical school. Along the way, I worked as an industrial engineer in a variety of industries in many places. These experiences allowed me to construct and demonstrate an opinion based on reality as opposed to those who embrace fascist/right-wing extremism as their bedfellow.

    Good luck Leon. I hope you have those who love you, because you surely need some love.

  17. Hollyd – To make your point I was born, raised and educated in Indiana but now live near Grand Rapids, Michigan and here in Naples, Florida, during winters. One day a Republican neighbor came to my yard and said “Do you know what they are trying to do?” “What,” I replied. He said “They are going to raise your taxes,” and I said “For what purpose” and he said (with a snarl in his voice) “education, and you don’t have any kids or grandkids here in Michigan, so why should you pay?” I said “Listen, Gary, I paid $3.25 a semester hour in undergraduate school and $4.25 an hour in law school for my education, which was way below the costs for my education, and there was many a Hoosier corn farmer who didn’t know me from Adam who paid for my education, so I will be happy to pay higher taxes to educate Michigan school children.” He gave me an unbelieving look, got in his pickup, and left me standing in the front yard. So, Hollyd, you are right. It is in everyone’s best interests for these kids to be educated, wherever you or they live. Those Hoosier corn farmers and other taxpayers did me a favor, so now it is time for me to return that favor wherever I live because, for good or for ill, we are in this all together.

  18. Hollyd and Gerald; those who complain about their taxes paying for schools don’t seem to remember that all of our taxes also pay for storm sewers, streets, roads, bridges, police and fire departments, trash pickup, et al,. What would it cost them to have the fire department show up to save their home…or their lives if taxes paid by all of us didn’t pay for that service? Or the cost for police protection which puts their lives on the line. No one likes paying taxes and we seem to have little choice in what our tax dollars pay for but those who complain about schools have no idea how we would be forced to live without taxes paid BY all of us for services FOR all of us.

    I do not know the family here in Indianapolis who are suffering deep, unimaginable grief today since their 1 year old sleeping baby girl was shot to death and her 19 year old aunt wounded by someone firing a gun into their home late Wednesday night. But I am grateful that my tax dollars have paid for the police officers and fire department EMTs who tried in vain to save that baby’s life; and they my tax dollars will continue to pay for those police officers who are looking for the cowardly killer of that beautiful 1 year old baby girl.

  19. JoAnn,

    Your logic is lost on these people. Their self-absorption, self-righteousness and just plain selfishness overwhelms what passes for their intellect. They are NOT interested in listening or changing their views. That’s what intense, constant propaganda will do.

  20. Vernon @ 10:26 >> Rome fell because it finally couldn’t support constant war. We are failing, because making war is what we do all the time. The single most “important” reason we assumed the mantle of the world’s policeman is to preserve access to cheap oil and the investments of the oil companies. We began doing this in the 19th century for one reason or another – mostly to open up new markets for our manufacturing surplus. <<<

    Marine Corp General Smedley Butler said: "The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag."

    Vernon, not only did we want access to cheap oil, we wanted the ability to deny it to others.

    Michael Grant in his book – The Fall of Rome a Reappraisal – mentions several factors. Among them was the Gulfs between the Classes with result that these classes were not united behind the State. At least for the poor the State became an oppressor.

    As a Socialist I am appalled at how our society is so divided up, sliced and diced, with deliberate intent. Indeed political triangulation has become a strategic and tactical method for validating the differences. The visible result although never admitted, or allowed a voice by the ruling class of politicians and our home grown oligarchs, is America is an ala carte society. That is if and only if you can afford higher education, a safe neighborhood, health care, day care, or a comfortable retirement you are on your own.

    The "Welfare State" the Reactionary Right becomes all rabid about is in a large part because of the failure of Steroid-Crony-Capitalism to deliver for all Americans.

  21. ML:”The “Welfare State” the Reactionary Right becomes all rabid about is in a large part because of the failure of Steroid-Crony-Capitalism to deliver for all Americans.”

    With absolutely no genuine “resistance” from the “party of the people”.


    If I were a governor, my response would be to roll out a big online education initiative, and push vouchers in the legislature.”

  23. THE PROBLEM WITH PENSION FUNDING IS THAT POLITICIANS LIKE TO STEAL IT: Why Public Pension Pre-Funding Matters (An Explainer).. “And this is the story that’s repeated over and over again. Pensions are made more generous — with high accrual rates, low retirement eligibility ages, generous cost of living provisions — as a means of providing more generous compensation to state and local employees, without actually needing to pay anything from the current year’s budget. Costs are deferred until well after current legislators have themselves retired.” Teacher unions are very guilty of this form of theft as they are with so called health care…see above where in Marion, IN they stole $30,000.00 tax free benefits from the unsuspecting public, $30,000 per year per employee (less, of course, what might have been a reasonable and affordable plan).

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