By Siggy Raible
I am retired now and have been for almost eight years. But when I worked I found what I did to “earn a living” dignified and fruitful—I managed my husband’s small law firm. We did not make a ton of money, but we earned our keep.
I was floored by the news earlier this year when I read that a baseball player signed the biggest deal to date: $325 million for a thirteen year contract with the Miami Marlins. So if you divide 325 by 13, then Giancarlo Stanton will average $25 million per year. But that deal does not out-rank Manny Machado’s deal with the San Diego Padres which came to $300 million over 10 years or $30 million a year! I will not accumulate anything close to those amounts in this lifetime or the next or the one after that, if there are lives other than the one we now know of.
Now compare these “earnings” with what public school teachers are paid. In my hometown, New York City, according to the 2018 agreement reached between the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) and the City, teachers will earn from $56,711 to $128,657. Checking with NYC’s Department of Education’s on-line website, starting salaries for a new teacher with a four years Bachelor’s Degree is $56,711 and the salary for a teacher with a Master’s Degree, eight years of prior teaching experience and some kind of “additional course work” is $85,794. (By 2021 the starting salary of a new teacher without experience will be $61,070; a $4,359 increase over three years.) After 10 or 13 years these professionals will have earned somewhere in the range of $567,110/$737,243 and $857,940/$1,115,322 respectively. Over a lifetime the best a teacher would likely earn would be a fraction of what a star ballplayer would receive in one year.
Now I know what you are going to say, “The average professional baseball player makes nowhere near the amount star players are paid.” So, not being savvy on salaries pro ballplayers are paid, I went to the Oracle (the internet) and queried: What is the average salary of a pro baseball player? I found an article by Maury Brown that appeared in the Forbes issue of November 30, 2016. He reported that for the five-year contract period of 2017 to 2021.
“The Major League minimum salary will increase from $507,500 in 2016 to $535,000 in 2017; $545,000 in 2018; $555,000 in 2019 and be subject to a cost of living adjustment in 2020 and 2021.”
Mind you, professional baseball players do not have to go to college, so the minimum a player can expect to receive in 2019 dollars is more than six times what a teacher with a Master’s Degree (that’s six years of collegiate studies) and eight years of experience is paid.
Baseball is America’s favorite pastime, or so it is said. Kids play baseball during the summer and dream of making it to the level of say an Alex Rodriguez. So, think about it. We are paying adults hundreds of thousands of dollars to play what is considered a child’s summer distraction. We have teachers who are passionate about their vocation, but the best they can hope for after fourteen years of combined study and experience is $85,794. Keep in mind that we place in their hands our most precious assets, our children and their future. I am told by friends who are teachers or know teachers, that they often hold down two jobs during the school year, teaching and some other job, and many hold summer jobs to make ends meet.
So I guess what I’m getting at is, what is work if there is no dignity in the sense of dollars and cents? I mean dignity in the sense that a person should be adequately rewarded for the time spent qualifying and the training for the vocation he or she has chosen. Do we dignify a teacher by paying him or her a minimum starting salary of $56,711 when we pay a baseball player, basically an entertainer, a minimum starting salary of $555,000?