The simple answer is sports and entertainment, but certainly not education. I could stop there, but you might feel cheated for having received so little information. Well you asked for it. At least I thought I heard a request for depressing numbers.
Admittedly, I am basing my judgement on dollars, but that seems to be a fair indicator of priorities- as in “Put your money where your mouth is.” I will also be quick to admit my research has not been exhaustive, but I think I can present enough numbers to sufficiently expose the tragedy.
So let’s start with sports. Since I live in the Dallas area, I will start with the Cowboys. Let me be clear, I am not a fan of the Cowboys, or of any professional sport team. Tony Romo, Cowboy quarterback, makes $18 million per year. There is no member of the team that makes less than $465,000 annually. The highest paid player for the Dallas Mavericks makes $16 million, and no player on that roster makes less than $845,000. The Texas Ranger’s wage winner gets $23 million, with $500,000 being the base salary for all players.
Even though the players on college football teams don’t receive a salary, the head coaches bear mentioning. Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama, makes $7.1 million a year. The range of salaries for head coaches in the top twenty schools is from $3.2 million to $7.1 million.
Entertainment is a little more difficult to assess, since entertainers and actors don’t actually receive a salary. But let’s look at a few interesting numbers. Ashton Krutcher made $26 million last year, Sofia Vergara made $37 million, Robert Downey Jr. made $75 million, and Sandra Bullock made $51 million. Among entertainers Beyonce and Bon Jovi topped out at $115 and $82 million respectively .
Now we will take a look at public school teacher’s salaries. The median salary for all public school teachers in the United States is about $53,000 per year. The range of salaries is from $40,000 to $69,000. I realize that teachers work only 9 months out of the year, but if I extrapolate these numbers to a 12 month period, they would be $70,666 median, $53,333 at the low end, and $92,000 at he high end.
How can salaries in sports and entertainment be so astronomical? Because we pay for them. That’s right, I said we pay for them. We buy high priced tickets to games and concerts; we pay to see movies at the theater, at home, from the rental store, through satellite and cable; we buy the products from companies who sponsor these events; we buy CDs and download tunes from iTunes; and we buy paraphernalia and souvenirs related to these events. But let the taxing entity try to raise our taxes to benefit our schools, and we scream bloody murder.
I consulted three different sites to see how our schools compared to the rest of the world. The results were not pretty. One report put us at 13th, and another put us at 17th. Still another report broke down specific skills. In math we were 30th, in science 23rd, and in reading 20th.
Would higher salaries for teachers be the ultimate answer to our educational embarrassment? Probably not. There are so many things that need to be done to improve our educational system, but paying teachers at a level which reflects their professional status, certainly wouldn’t hurt. Many gifted teachers are leaving public schools to work in the private sector, and are making double what they were in public schools.
Now, I am not saying that talented athletes, actors, entertainers, and coaches should not be rewarded for their performances, but in my humble opinion, there is something morally wrong in our country, where these people can make 10 to 400 times more than a dedicated person who is teaching our children.
How we rank compared to other countries: “One report put us at 13th, and another put us at 17th. Still another report broke down specific skills. In math we were 30th, in science 23rd, and in reading 20th.”
I agree with you; teachers are not paid enough and sports figures and entertainers are paid way too much. But as you say, we set our priorities by what we are willing to spend. Yep, that certainly is American Exceptionalism in action, isn’t it?
How can we keep telling the rest of the world how great America is when we have this sort of statistic out there for public viewing? Yes, our sports and entertainment are wonderful, but our kids are dumb. Thanks for the comment.
Thank you, thank you, Troy. As lifetime public-school educator, I tend to stay out of the fray about the lack of concern most in our nation feel about the educations our children receive and the low regard for teachers most feel as evidenced by the low pay for teachers, as you so thoroughly explained. When I do get on a rant about it, I sense others thinking, “Well, she’d feel that way. She’s one of them.” So I really appreciate it when wise and good people like you point out the inequality in pay in terms of the value of the job done.
I must confess that I too was a public school teacher. I certainly didn’t spend a lifetime, but I certainly understand the woes of teachers. Thanks for your continued interest in my blog.