Wisconsin Teachers Not Being Honest About What They Earn

It turns out that many of the Wisconsin teachers who’ve been appearing on television this past week to talk about the budget battle with Governor Walker aren’t being entirely honest about what they earn:

Wisconsin’s 2010 Teacher of the Year, Leah Lechleiter-Luke of Mauston High School, told CNN the budget changes would force her to look for additional part-time work.

“When people say that public sector employees live high off the hog, I’d like to share that for 13 of my 19-year teaching career I have held a part-time job either in the summer or teaching night class at the local technical college,” Lechleiter-Luke told CNN. “In addition to tightening the belt even more and crossing our fingers that nothing breaks, I will need to find part-time work again.”

Lechleiter-Luke makes $54,928 in base salary and $32,213 in “fringe benefits,” which include health insurance, life insurance and retirement pay.

Brad Lutes and his wife, Heather Lutes, told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz that Walker’s budget would hit them twice as hard.

“Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year old that the governor of your state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It’s just really, really frustrating,” Brad Lutes told Schultz.

He makes $49,412 in base salary with $27,987 in fringe benefits and his wife makes $50,240 with $9,413 in benefits. That’s $137,052 annually between the two of them.

(…)

Julene Flanagan, a fourth-grade teacher at Story Elementary School in Milwaukee, said the reason she attended the protests in Madison was because she cares “about the children deeply” and about the “future of public education in Wisconsin.” Flanagan makes $48,406 in base salary and $37,600 in benefits.

Chris Fons, a social studies teacher at Milwaukee’s Riverside High School, said the union protests in Madison are a “bottom-up” movement, and that the “people have been acting and the leaders are following.” Fons earns $58,976 in annual salary with an additional $25,646 in benefits.


All of this in a state where the average personal income in 2009 was just over $ 37,000 per year.

Facts are stubborn things.

FILED UNDER: Education, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Elia says:

    Thank goodness someone is finally taking the Daily Caller seriously as a journalistic enterprise. And good on you, Doug, for not letting its numerous so-called scandals of supposedly wildly unethical practices stop you from quoting this piece. The fact that the teachers have the audacity to LIE about their salaries by not even mentioning their salaries one way or another is truly fiendish! But what else can you expect from public teachers? We’ve been under the iron grip of these liberal propagandist (public) welfare queens for far too long! Way to go, and please keep it up!

  2. Yes, of course, they make sooooo much money after taxes. Like $36k. Have you ever tried to live off that? Again, you’re making a fundamentally bogus argument: public sector workers accept less pay up front for better benefits later, i.e. pension plans. And if you added up the total compensation package of the private sector they would still be much higher than public sector workers. But go ahead and support the oligarchs who are dedicated to eradicating the middle class.

  3. JD says:

    Sean, it sounds like you wouldn’t be so upset if teachers got their full benefits in the form of salary and had to buy insurance and invest for their retirement on their own.

    And as far as public vs. private sector workers: a) no one forces someone to work for the government and b) private sector workers aren’t paid by taxpayers.

    Your comment about eliminating the middle class while defending families who’s pay and benefits exceed $100,000 are quite humorous, as well.

  4. Ahmed says:

    The problem with satire is many people fall for it. Elia seems to be such a case.

  5. Dave says:

    Where, exactly, was someone dishonest about what they earn? Facts are indeed stubborn things, but none of these quotes contradict any facts.

  6. Loviatar says:

    Doug,

    Its sad how over the last few days your reputation seems to have fallen to a new low. First using Andrew Bretibart as a source and now the Daily Caller.

    I know you don’t really care any longer seeing as how you’ve gone full wingnut, but please think of James, who else is going to side with him as a “Sensible Conservative” on trying to mainline the Republican BS stories.

    You’ve fallen to Dodd status, you used to be readable and worthy of argument, now you’re nothing more than a hack whose pieces are cringe worthy, truly sad. Soon I’ll begin avoiding your byline like I do his.

    James you need another “Sensible Conservative” writer, you lost your last one to the wingnuts.

  7. First, let me state that I agree that WI teachers need to pay more towards their benefits.

    However, at least from the excerpts, I don’t see anyone being dishonest about what they make. Rather I see people saying they don’t want their take home pay diminished–which is not surprising.

  8. citizen21 says:

    No wonder our schools can’t keep good teachers and our students fail. Having lived abroad, I find Americans disrespect education and the results are predictable. The fuss about one teacher, Chris Fons, makes the point. His $58k, plus solid benefits, is presented as a princely sum. I have met this guy and some of his students. He has two serious academic masters (one from a world-class institution) degrees (not some 1 year online degrees), and 10 years of education, in which he was not earning money. He has $50K in student debt. He lives in 2-bedroom duplex in the inner city. Yet, he is making a difference. He is in charge of this school’s history advanced placement (AP) program. His school graduates more AP students than any other in Wisconsin. His school has many troubled students with all the pathologies that our inner cities create. There is nothing average about this guy. He is a real talent. I would not last a week in that school, and neither would you. Our state is lucky to have him, and others like him. Most of us, myself included (I hold a PhD) could never successfully do his job, and again, neither could most of you. Yet, we complain when he gets $58K and benefits for this. Having spoke with many such teachers, I have learned they have had it and are about to quit. The best of them are grossly underpaid for what they do and are close to walking. They only keep at it because of the kids. America’s decline accelerates….

    BTW, what does our blogger, Doug Mataconis make?

  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Doug,

    If you take into account both salary and benefits, then control for educaiton level, etc., teachers and other civil servants make less than those in the private sector in Wisconsin.

  10. JD says:

    Alex, what happens when you control for days worked per year?

  11. Elia says:

    Is the amount of days worked per-year the only relevant criterion?

    Would you say that being a public school teacher is as easy or easier than, say, working in a cubicle?

    Further, is it relevant that a sizable proportion — if not a majority — of public school teachers take on secondary jobs during the summer?

  12. john personna says:

    “If you take into account both salary and benefits, then control for educaiton level, etc., teachers and other civil servants make less than those in the private sector in Wisconsin.”

    Is that the way you think the world works, Alex? Is your salary set by comparison and controlled by education level etc?

    Most of us out here in the world, who exceed the norms, do it by individual bargaining. And then what, a public pay system uses our average to assume that their employees must be as productive or as valuable?

    Someone above asked what Doug makes. Well, did he get it for himself?

  13. Dave says:

    “Is that the way you think the world works, Alex? Is your salary set by comparison and controlled by education level etc?”

    He’s using the word “control” in the statistical analysis sense.

  14. @JP:

    He is talking making comparisons across different professions, not how the salaries are set.

  15. Alex Knapp says:

    @JD –

    Alex, what happens when you control for days worked per year?

    They’re still paid less.

    @john –

    Is that the way you think the world works, Alex? Is your salary set by comparison and controlled by education level etc?

    I was refererring to statistical controls, but now that you mention it, there are lots of companies that do just that. They have set pay scales for all their employees and don’t allow individual bargaining for salaries. I can think of several employers in my metro area off the top of my head who set salaries this way.

    Most of us out here in the world, who exceed the norms, do it by individual bargaining. And then what, a public pay system uses our average to assume that their employees must be as productive or as valuable?

    The claim is that public employees make more than their private sector counterparts. The facts don’t back up this claim.

  16. john personna says:

    The claim is that public employees make more than their private sector counterparts. The facts don’t back up this claim.

    Did you hear about the CEO’s game, for compensation review? They found they could hire independent companies to survey their peers, and report back to their board the median salary.

    Darned if the CEOs weren’t always low in the surveys the commissioned!

    It seems the survey companies knew which side their bread was buttered on, and always chose a pool of “peers” generating the desired outcome.

    Why shouldn’t I think that is happening here?

    I mean, whenever you leave the simple model of “pay what it takes to get enough qualified applicants” you invite all kinds of shenanigans.

  17. Elia says:

    “They must be lying” is not an argument.

  18. john personna says:

    I don’t suppose you are actually comparing people specifically with the same liberal arts Bachelor’s in and out of education?

  19. john personna says:

    “They must be lying” is not an argument.

    No, but “I am not convinced” is a statement.

  20. john personna says:

    To be clear though, I am really rejecting the idea that these salaries should be judged by pool comparison, rather than by what it takes to get good teachers.

    I am supporting the market model in salary determination.

  21. wr says:

    Now that we’ve established the fact that some Wisconsin teachers make 50k a year, I’d like those who are screaming about this outrage to let us know exactly how much they think a teacher should make.

    50k a year comes out to about 962 per week. (No they don’t only work three weeks a year, or whatever nonsense is being spouted at the right wing sites.) Given a 40 hour work week — which I believes understates their actual hours, but I’ll take that trade-off for not quibbling about the weeks), that comes to $24 per hour.

    The average wage for a plumber in Wisconsin is about $23.65.

    A head waiter or waitress in WI brings in about $27k per year.

    Cheesemakers apparently earn between $13 and $18 per hour.

    Members of the Wisconsin State Assembly make just under 50K. (Any calls for slashing their salaries yet?)

    Wisconsin minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

    Where should teachers fall? Should they be paid like waiters? Should they get minimu wage? Should they be forced to work for free?

    Come on, Doug and the rest of you screaming about their inflated salaries. What’s the right amount?

  22. Dave says:

    @wr

    Saw this on FB: Rough back-of-the-envelope calculations of what a teacher would make were he or she paid like a babysitter.

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150097829259492&id=658251284

  23. Loviatar says:

    john personna those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

    I’m not old enough to have lived during the pre-union days, but then again I read more than just Ayn Rand and Reagan, the Greatest American President, byline by fluffer. I seem to remember from my readings that “Individual Bargaining” was a quick way to get into the poor house, shortly followed by a quick trip to the grave.

    Wow, less than 50 years after the start of the union movement we have a sizable minority of Americans more than willing to throw away all of the gains we’ve made based on easily disproved lies. Guys, unions are a response to distorted managerial power, they are a way for the common worker to say enough, you’re not taking advantage of me.

    john personna, I really hope your job skills are unique and are not easily replaceable, because with your attitude you’re heading for a huge fall.

  24. john personna says:

    I’m a retired engineer. I did ok with individual bargaining. There were always small background moves to unionize in my field, but to be honest I thought those were driven by the bottom 20%, who wanted to be carried along. That might shape my thinking.

    My dad was a teacher and later administrator, but he never had much use for his union.

  25. john personna says:

    BTW, this is what I really don’t get about public unions:

    “Guys, unions are a response to distorted managerial power, they are a way for the common worker to say enough, you’re not taking advantage of me.”

    How can the left love government, but at the same time thing of government as “the man” … an unmanageable evil?

  26. john personna says:

    It really is a contradiction alert. Government can solve our problems, but be sure to get a union to protect yourselves from government!

  27. Loviatar says:

    I always love how the readers of Ayn Rand and fantasy novels always seem to think they are going to be John Galt or the all powerful elves character if only their fantasy novel were true.

    I love this quote:

    There were always small background moves to unionize in my field, but to be honest I thought those were driven by the bottom 20%, who wanted to be carried along. That might shape my thinking.

    so according to john the sole reason to unionize is to protect the bottom 20%, not for safety reasons, not for healthcare benefits, not for pay proportionality, not for 8 hour days, not for weekends off, not for paid overtime, not for anything but to protect the bottom 20%.

    Thanks john,

    best bumper sticker I ever saw. “If you like your weekend off thank a Union Member”

  28. Loviatar says:

    so John, government doesn’t have distorted managerial power. Have you been following the actions in Wisconsin? wow talk about clueless.

    As long as you have people like Reagan and Scott Walker in office you’re going to need a counterweight to make sure that the rights of the workers are not trammeled.

    And no I do not consider today’s Democratic part a sufficient counterweight to the corporatist in both parties.

  29. john personna says:

    You’re funny Loviatar. I’m sure you think all this “readers of Ayn Rand and fantasy novels” is on the mark, and furthers your cause.

    Of course, if it is a swing and a miss … not so much.

    I think you’ve really run off now to have an argument against your own creations.

    You haven’t talked about my suggestion, which was to pay teachers (and cops and firefighters) what it takes to get qualified people. When the don’t show, you know you aren’t offering enough.

    Trust the applicants to make their decision.

  30. Loviatar says:

    john,

    what you don’t seem to get is that paying the lowest common denominator for the folks, protecting you and your property and yes teaching your kids is a quick path to a corrupt and lawless society.

  31. wr says:

    Boy, JP, thanks for opening my eyes. I had thought all along that the reason miners in non-union coal mines died in mine accidents at a much higher rates than those in union mines was because unions are able to negotiate and force much higher safety concerns.

    Now I realize the unions are merely protecting the bottom 20% of miners. The non-union miners are clearly superior individuals, and thus suffer far greater risk of death simply because of their rugged individuality.

  32. john personna says:

    “what you don’t seem to get is that paying the lowest common denominator for the folks, protecting you and your property and yes teaching your kids is a quick path to a corrupt and lawless society.”

    I think you might have missed the “quantified” applicant bit.

  33. john personna says:

    I just wrote in the other thread wr, about the role for unions, in protecting interchangeable workers.

    Not to repeat, especially in pre-electronic days, you could train up a coal miner really quickly, churn them and burn them, bid down the wage.

    That is not true for teachers, is it?

    (There might be the argument that beat cops and entry firemen are more replaceable and for that reason need union protection.)

  34. john personna says:

    BTW, you should really be ashamed of yourself for jumping from teachers to coal miners, as if it is the same situation.

  35. wr says:

    Ashamed of myself? Oh, yes, terribly. Because Republicans only want to destroy the unions of people they can’t murder in coal mines.

  36. john personna says:

    Ashamed of myself? Oh, yes, terribly. Because Republicans only want to destroy the unions of people they can’t murder in coal mines.

    See, that is the kind of thing that will drive a wedge. Most average Joes are going to distinguish between unions of public employees and unions of private employees. And they are going to distinguish between school teachers and coal miners.

    When you bind them just so tight, you tell us this isn’t really about teachers and schools to you. You see it about maintaining a unionized world.

  37. Loviatar says:

    wr,

    You’ll never convince John that public service unions serve a purpose.

    Don’t you now his is one of those top 80% who didn’t need a union in his workplace. He negotiated directly for his safety regulations, his healthcare benefits, his 8 hour days and for his weekends off.

    He’s John Galt personified. wait am minute….. John = John Galt OMG

    John Galt, is that you?

  38. Elia says:

    The idea that in a non-union world, it would be difficult to find people willing to take the lowest salary possible and plug ’em into a classroom, have ’em simply repeat what the pre-designed curriculum (by the textbook companies, of course!) said, and basically just be a warm body in a chair behind a desk — this is absurd and evidences a profound lack of knowledge about how the educational system works, as well as the free market.

    And I’m not even in a union, so you can consider this argument to be 80%-er approved!

  39. john personna says:

    Elia, do you think your School Board would really do that? Seriously?

    We’ve just had two massive campaigns of school improvement coming from the national level (Bush and now Obama). We’ve got this ‘Waiting for Superman’ phenom.

    Maybe I’m not getting you. Are you saying I don’t get how the educational system works, because behind the scenes no one cares?

    No one BUT the unions?

  40. john personna says:

    “Don’t you now his is one of those top 80% who didn’t need a union in his workplace. He negotiated directly for his safety regulations, his healthcare benefits, his 8 hour days and for his weekends off.”

    Hint, aim higher than being in the “top 80%.”

  41. Elia says:

    What does Waiting for Superman have to do with this again?

    Is the idea that because a guy made a movie, and because Bush passed an enormous education bill that Obama is attempting to reform rather than remove, the logical conclusion is that we no longer need institutional checks-and-balances?

  42. wr says:

    JP — You’re damn right I see this as about maintaining a unionized nation. (Not much I can do outside our borders…) This attack isn’t going to be confined to teachers, it’s the opening salvo in a war against organized labor.

    So pardon me if I don’t wait for the right to destroy the public employees’ unions and then expect people like you to rise up to help save the unions of coal miners. Because I don’t want to watch more people die and sink into poverty while you lecture us that if we could all be as wondeful as you, no one would need unions.

  43. Loviatar says:

    Obviously John I should have wrote

    John negotiated directly for his safety regulations, his healthcare benefits, his 8 hour days and for his weekends off right out of college with no experience, contacts and or references.

    How you ask was he able to do this? why because he was in the top 50%, no, knowing John it has to be the top 25%, well really knowing John operates its probably the top 10%, well when I think of it he is top 5% material, higher John really? ok, top 1% of his field right out of college.

    Don’t you know he is John Galt personified.

  44. Brett says:

    Facts are stubborn things.

    They can seem that way when you don't bother to post what the average private sector "fringe benefit" compensation is. How much do private sector workers make in fringe benefits compared to the public sector?
    Preferably private bachelor's degree workers, since the paper-hat jobs usually don't get benefits and drag the average down.