Once again, a Democrat needs a little help with math. This time around it’s state Sen. Marko Liias that is struggling. Of course, we can’t be too hard on Liias—he has a $60,000+ per year part-time job writing the City of Mukilteo’s newsletter, not taking care of the accounting.
In his latest legislative update, Liias argues that state officials “pay entry-level public school teachers so little they qualify for public assistance.” So, he introduced a state income tax to remedy the situation.
Liias claims that teachers with masters’ degrees receive only $40,820 from the state—a salary he calls “deplorable.” His bill would create a state income tax to boost these salaries to $48,000.
As the Washington Policy Center points out, Liias is right—$40,820 is a low salary for a teacher. But, the question that needs to be asked is: “Why has Senator Liias agreed to such low level of teacher pay in the first place?”
The low salaries levels of these starting teachers are not for lack of funding. The Washington Policy Center gives the math lesson:
On average, school districts receive $11,300 per student in funding from all sources, more than the yearly tuition at many private schools. That level of funding equals $293,800 for a typical public school classroom of 26 students. If state officials paid the teacher, say, $110,000 for a ten-month work year, that would leave $183,800 to cover all the other educational expenses for students.
Wealthy school districts have even more money available. Seattle spends $13,700 per student, nearly twice what it costs to attend a Catholic grade school in the city. That’s $356,200 for a typical classroom of 26 students. If officials paid the teacher $110,000 for the ten-month work year, they would have $246,200 to cover all other educational expenses for students.
But, that’s not the whole story. Teachers receive more than the base salary provided by the state. By not adding in the supplemental pay provided by local levies to his calculations, Liias is misrepresenting teachers’ pay. According to the Washington Policy Center, “the average statewide salary for teachers is $62,377 for a ten-month year, including a average of $9,800 in supplemental pay provided by local levies.” Comparing that to the median household income in Washington of $58,000 for a twelve-month year paints a very different picture than the one Liias presented.
The Washington Policy Center wraps up the math lesson by pointing out that state taxpayers are already providing “an extra $3 billion in tax revenue over the next two years.” That will give school districts a “record level of funding” from the state with which Liias “could increase pay for starting teachers substantially, without raising people’s taxes.”