Adding to a growing controversy over teacher pay, a new survey, partly funded by the Education Department, said Tuesday that teachers earn more than other people with comparable education and that they are a highly satisfied group.
The findings, released by the National Center for Education Information, a private research group, incensed the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Assn., which has been trying to make a case for pay raises. But Education Secretary William J. Bennett praised the report, using it to bolster his assertion that teachers earn enough money.
Daily Earnings Compared
Public school teachers earn $136 a day, while other workers with at least four years of college are paid $129 per day, the report said. However, because other workers average 250 days a year, their salaries work out to more than $32,000, compared with close to $25,000 for teachers, who usually work only 180 days, the report said.
The report said that teacher raises more than doubled the inflation rate during each of the last four years.
“Teachers have made great headway” on pay, said C. Emily Feistritzer, author of the survey. And they have “a much higher level of satisfaction in almost every aspect of their lives” than do people of comparable ages and education, she said at a news conference.
Feistritzer, director of the center, said the year-long survey, which cost about $150,000, is the most comprehensive profile of teachers ever produced. It surveyed 1,592 teachers--1,144 in public schools and 448 in private institutions--asking them about matters ranging from their pay to politics.
NEA Report Released Earlier
The 92-page survey was released a week after the National Education Assn. issued an annual report complaining that, though teacher salaries have increased to an average of about $25,000 a year, 31 states still pay less than the national average. NEA President Mary Hatwood Futrell said the salaries “remain too low to attract large numbers of talented young people into the teaching profession.”
Bennett retorted: “Only the NEA would be gloomy in the face of good news.”
The education secretary called Feistritzer’s survey “clarifying data” which “indicates that the attitudes and interests of American teachers are routinely misrepresented by their leaders and spokesmen.” He said that teachers “are not despairing and impoverished malcontents.”
But NEA spokesman Howard Carroll assailed the Feistritzer report as “deliberately contrived to mislead” the public. Carroll said the salary figures are not accurate because teachers “put in many hours of uncompensated time. It’s not a 9-to-5 job.”
Wages Not Highest Priority
For her part, Feistritzer stood by the data and said she was not surprised at the NEA reaction to her report. “They’re a union,” she said. “That’s what I expect them to say.” Teacher labor organizations, she added, “have distorted the reality of teacher pay.”
Although most teachers said they were underpaid, the report found, wages did not show up among the three most important job factors.
Instead, when asked what was “most important to you on the job,” teachers checked these answers: “a chance to use your mind and abilities,” a “chance to work with young people” and “appreciation of a job well done"--all of which were marked ahead of “a good salary.”
Many Voted for Reagan
Ninety-six percent of private school teachers and 90% of public school instructors said they were satisfied with their work, compared with 80% of college graduates in general, the survey said.
It said that almost 60% of public and private teachers classified themselves as politically “moderate” and that more than half of all teachers voted for President Reagan in the last election.