This morning, I don’t get paid enough.
I know that’s not a complaint unique to me, and it’s not one unique to teachers. But it’s the truth: I don’t get paid enough. The job is appallingly stressful, and also poorly paid compared to other careers with similar requirements as to education and credentials. 11.1% less than comparable careers, according to this article. In the past, this was compensated for by the benefits, which were better than most other careers offered; now, of course, that is no longer true. Teacher benefits are not any better than most other careers, or not much; and it still doesn’t make up for the pay gap — that article actually shows that teacher pay is 18.7% less than other careers; the 7% boost in benefits that teachers average is what brings us to almost ten percent lower pay.
But none of this is news, neither to you nor to me.
What was news, though, was this. Turns out, I’m paid WAY better than I thought.
I got this — letter — in the mail. It describes my compensation.
This is strange for a few reasons.
First, because why is this in the mail? Why wouldn’t it be an email?
Second, because — I already know my compensation? I signed a contract for the year with a number on it; that number doesn’t change. It’s a year-long contract. That’s what I get paid. There isn’t any change to my compensation in the letter. (There is a single notification that they will be increasing their 401k contribution. But that’s buried in the 5th paragraph, and doesn’t apply to me since I don’t donate to a 401k so they don’t match.) So why send it?
The letter says (And I would include a picture, but I don’t actually want to throw the school I work for under the bus; even for those who know what school I work for, this post should not and will not have their name on it, so as not to make this inappropriate for an employee to post. I thought about redacting names and addresses and such and then posting an image, but the company logo is in the background of the compensation chart. Is that why they used letterhead? To prevent me from doing exactly this? Whatever: the letter is addressed to me, it’s my property; I’m going to share its contents, at least in part. Consider it part of my compensation.) “The leadership is pleased to provide you with your annual, personalized total compensation statement.”
Notice it doesn’t say why they’re pleased to share this with me. I’ve worked there for five years, my wife has worked for the same school for three years; we’ve never gotten these letters until this year, when we both got one.
It goes on to say that my compensation package includes a benefit program “designed to furnish you with protection against financial devastation due to illness, disability, loss of work, retirement, or death.” As a rhetoric teacher, I find the order of the items on that list fascinating. The letter also says that my compensation package includes the contributions made directly by my employer. A strange statement: contributions to me? Of course. Contributions to a third party? How is that my compensation? Is this like one of those deals where you donate to a charity in someone’s name and call it a Christmas gift?
The letter says that some of these benefits are mandated by state and federal law, but “most” are provided by the company because “your wellbeing is important to us.” Then they encourage me to review the statement and share it with my family, so that they are aware of the benefits that apply to them. Seriously? You think my family doesn’t know what benefits I have? You think if my family doesn’t know, it’s because I forgot to tell them? They do, actually, because it says, “Often our day-to-day responsibilities distract us from truly knowing and understanding what protections we have and the value of that protection for our loved ones.”
So they think I don’t actually know what my compensation is. Not my TOTAL compensation. Including contributions made by the company. Well, let’s turn this bad boy over and look at the graph on the back!
Here’s what we see: a header that reads “Cash Compensation and Benefits Summary,” over a passage that reads: “The amount of your total compensation is much more than what is indicated in your yearly earnings statement. In addition to direct pay, your total compensation includes the value of your health care insurance, disability, life insurance, retirement benefits, and government mandated benefits.”
Oh it does, does it? See, I was under the impression that my compensation was what you paid me. Money that goes to the government doesn’t seem like my money, somehow. I also like how they’re taking credit for what the government mandates. “And also, we didn’t murder you. Not once. That’s 365 days of no murder, every year. You’re welcome.”
Regardless, here’s where the breakdown starts. And it’s immediately weird, because it has my salary (That would be the “direct pay,” which all other compensation is in addition to) as $48,585. Then it adds the $2,200 I earned for being Highly Effective on my last evaluation, to hit $50,785. But the odd thing is, my contract salary is actually $46,785. And that includes the $2200.
Well, they must be including some of the value of my insurance and so on.
But no, because the next row is where we hit the insurance: my contribution ($6,557.98 annually for employee+spouse for medical, $609.96 for dental, $67.08 for vision) next to the company contribution, which is $7,386.02, apparently. Now interestingly, when you add up my three contributions, which this form does not do, you get $7235.02. That is a lot closer to their number than the single number that theirs is listed next to, which is just my medical contribution. Why, if I were the suspicious sort, I might think they intentionally put their largest possible number next to a number that is not as large as it could be, so that their number seems relatively higher.
Good thing I’m not the suspicious sort.
We drop down a few rows of zeroes, because I don’t have life insurance listed on here (Which is also odd, because in fact, I do have life insurance through the company, as does my wife. Maybe the value of that explains the discrepancy in my salary. But you’d think that value would go here, and also, since the life insurance policy is, if I recall correctly, for $50,000, I’d think they’d stack all $50K onto my total compensation. Maybe they could offer a murder program so I could collect on those benefits. Anyhoo.) or long term disability or HSA contributions. Then we hit the Social Security and Medicare contributions. Mine are $3885.05, and the company’s are the same.
See, here’s that Charitable-Gift-In-Your-Name thing. It’s real nice that the company gives money to the government — also known as “taxes” — but I don’t see how that’s my compensation. It’s not money that I owed the government. I paid the government what I owed them. You could argue that I will get that money back from the government in my SS and Medicare benefits, but we all know that’s not necessarily true. So I question this being part of my “total compensation.”
Hey — it must because this is a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, so really, the taxes the government collects? That’s my money. My compensation.
Then we hit a subtotal line, where they put my contributions at $11,120.07, and my employer’s at $11,271.07. (I’m really just curious now about that extra $151.) And then comes the final math and the grand total. Ready?
“Cash compensation,” $50,785. Benefits, $11,271.07. Total, $62,056.07.
Hold on. So not only are we including the company’s contributions to Medicare and Social Security — you know, paying their own payroll taxes — but also, we are NOT subtracting MY contributions to the same government funds? Nor my payments for my medical insurance? So the money I pay to the government, and to the insurance company, which I never get to spend, is somehow still my money? And the money the company pays to the government, which I also never get to spend, is also my money?
Here’s what I really want to know. I want to know why the administration can’t comprehend debits and credits, first of all; but really, I want to know why they sent me this paper. To make me think that they pay me better than they do? Even though I see what’s on my check and what’s in my bank account? Is this so that if anyone questions their budget numbers, they can claim this is what they actually pay me — are they hiding money somewhere, and using this letter to blur the numbers? Is this so that teachers will think that we already get a big enough piece of the pie, and thus we won’t demand more money? Because they’ve magicked another $15,000 into my compensation? I can accept their contribution to my medical insurance as my compensation; I gain a benefit from that, namely medical insurance. But that still only puts me at $54,171.02 (The actual $46,785 on the contract I signed plus their somewhat dubious number for company contribution to my medical insurance).Where’s my other eight grand, homey? DUSTY NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF SHOES.
This upsets me. Partly because they think I’ll believe this nonsense. Partly because they seem to be imagining me not only buying this wholesale, but then proudly sitting down to share this with my family so they can see just how much bacon Daddy brings home. Partly because this is the kind of shit that gets out into the world and gives dumbass anti-teacher conservatives their ridiculous arguments about how well-compensated teachers are. “Hey, I wish I made $60,000 a year!!!” I’m just surprised this paper doesn’t also say, “And look, you get summers off! And you only work until 3 in the afternoon, and most of your job is just playing with kids, right? Am I right?”
No. You’re not right. You already pay me less than what I’m worth: don’t try to dazzle me with this malarkey. It just gives you one more reason why you should be apologizing to me.
You already have enough of those.