Your call: Are teachers paid fairly?

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Let’s be honest. In your career, how many times have you turned down a raise?

“Thanks, boss, but I’m making exactly what I’m worth,” you said.

Or maybe you told your supervisor: “This past year I’ve not performed as well as I think you have a right to expect, so please decrease my pay by 3 percent.”

No, didn’t think so.

Most of us believe we’re worth more than we’re getting paid. So if we’re honest, the vast majority (all) of us should not resent public school teachers for believing they’re worth more than they’re getting paid, and asking for more. Right?

Well, let’s look at that argument, because it’s not going away.

According to U.S. Labor Department data reported in May by USA Today, Idaho ranked 44th in median teacher salary at $46,446. Our cost of living was the 21st lowest in the U.S.

Of particular concern to Kootenai County school districts, we compete with Washington, which had the 10th highest median teacher salary at $64,987, tilted heavily by Seattle and its suburbs. However, Washington also had the 10th highest cost of living in the nation — also much higher along the coast than in Spokane. Point is, they pay better than we do, and we lose teachers every year because of that.

How poorly are our teachers paid? Are they poverty-level wages, as a local union spokesman suggested? When The Press reported Coeur d’Alene School District salaries this week, a common refrain from readers was that our teachers are paid pretty darned well for nine or so months of work.

Here are the average teacher salaries in Kootenai County’s three largest school districts:

LAKELAND: $53,565

COEUR d’ALENE: $52,633

POST FALLS: $50,844

Is that a fair wage for the work put in and products delivered? Should legislative increases in funding be accelerated beyond the current five-year action plan? Taxpayers and voters, that’s up to you.

As for the nine-month factor, that’s at least somewhat misleading because of the many hours most teachers put in outside the classroom. Comparing a teacher’s work year with, say, an 8 to 5 city employee very well could add up to the same number of hours worked.

This much is beyond dispute: Teachers are entrusted with one of the most important jobs in society.

The best should be paid that way.

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