The Highly Illogical Claim That Teachers Work Part Time

The Highly Illogical Claim That Teachers Work Part Time

by Greg Mild

It is common for those critical of education in America to link a teacher’s contractual schedule to their actual work and claim that teaching is a part-time job.  In Ohio, the right-wing think tank Buckeye Institute has been doing this as they miscalculate the pay of teachers and post it online, and they reiterated their stance as part of their 15 Myths about Collective Bargaining Reform and Senate Bill 5 (myth #14).  Let’s spend a little time discussing the absurd notion that teachers don’t put in considerably more hours than their contract requires.

The myth as the Buckeye Institute presented it reads:

Myth #14: A majority of teachers work large numbers of uncompensated time.

They proceed to claim that teachers only work 1350-1450 hours per year and that teachers couldn’t possibly work more because “it would mean that a majority of Ohio’s K-12 teachers are working hundreds, if not thousands, of hours without being compensated.”

Umm, yea, that’s what happens, except teachers ARE compensated – it’s called salary, not hourly.  Just because the president of this right-wing organization has low personal expectations for himself and his own co-workers does not mean that he should project those ideas onto hard-working educators.  To back his opinion up, he can only offer more personal opinion based on his misconceptions about the Ohio Education Association’s relationship with its members (teachers run their own organization, BTW).  No data from this research giant, only his opinion.

This conservative outfit has been promoting this fallacy of “hours worked” since they first began posting teacher salaries on their website:

Whenever someone goes to their website to look up a salary, they can access this “helpful” pop-up that shamefully promotes the myth that teachers are paid on an hourly rate (instead of salary) and only work when students are in school, which is merely the framework for the hours that appear in a teacher’s contract.

Lest you think this is an isolated incident, Tea Party and 9-12 Project proponent Tom Zawistowski spread the tale back in 2011 as he, too, tried to drum up support for Senate Bill 5:

“Now in exchange for that, their contract requires them to teach 184 days per year for 7 hours per day.  That is a total of 1,288 hours per year.”

At this point I feel it only fitting to quote Mr. Spock: “May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.”

Seriously.  How can anyone who has ever been in any way associated with a teacher believe that their day begins and ends with the students?

Let’s try and put this in terms of a business example by way of a job description:

Communications Director wanted for JobsOhio program. Primary role will be to present new information daily during full-day sessions (8:30 am – 4:00 pm) using a variety of presentation formats, including handouts, PowerPoint, and other innovative techniques to interested investors. Director will be required to conduct 185 unique presentations on consecutive working days to the same audience of investors and cover all material as prescribed by JobsOhio. Manuals containing details will be provided to explain the required content for each of the 185 unique 6.5-hour sessions. Sessions will promptly begin at 8:45 am and end precisely at 3:45 pm.

Other responsibilities shall include:

  • Promptly communicate with investors via email and/or telephone*
  • Provide JobsOhio board with weekly update* of information presented
  • Routinely create* and collect surveys and evaluations from investors to gauge their understanding of JobsOhio; adjust presentations as needed
  • Create* standout presentations that deeply involve investors in the JobsOhio process
  • Create* exceptional handouts to promote the JobsOhio brand and retain interest of investors

*The Communications Director will have no direct reports and will be solely responsibly for creating and duplicating all materials each day, and responding to all phone calls and emails.

Starting salary: $40,000

One-year position evaluated annually.

Do you think that this Communications Director could both prepare each day’s presentation and actually present simultaneously? Then why would anyone think a teacher does that?

And that’s the easy version of a teacher’s work.  Imagine that group of investors getting squirrelly and disruptive, belligerent and frustrated, hungry and thirsty.  That investor needs something to write with, those two investors are touching each other, and, wait, whose phone is ringing? Turn that off!

It is both irrational and insulting to promote the idea that teachers only work their “contractually required” hours.  Planning, creating, grading, duplicating, researching, learning . . . these are all things that a teacher does “off the clock”.

And why don’t teachers record these additional hours and scream to get them included in their contracts? Because they already are – it’s called salary.  And teachers know something that these far-right entities do not – teaching isn’t a job, it’s a profession, a career, a way of life.

What time would I put on a teacher’s day?

Every minute they are awake (and about half that they are asleep).

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2 thoughts on “The Highly Illogical Claim That Teachers Work Part Time

  1. Teachers are salaried employees. The “hours formulas” etc. are just to establish workload. I wish I had a dollar for the thousands of hours I put in over summer “vacations” to improve the materials I used in my classrooms. I didn’t mind though becuase I was salaried, not an hourly employee. To dribe this point home, for one hour of lecture interaction with students I got one full laod credit. For one hour of lab (chemistry) interaction with students, I got 2/3 of a workload credit. Guess which required more preparation and had more grading (and for which the school received more money!)? Yep, the lab instruction. Don’t expect it to make sense, but it is a workload system, not an hourly salary system.

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