by the Aspen Institute

Nicholas Kristof makes an interesting point about teacher pay in today’s New York Times.

In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.

But then, as is Kristof’s habit, he feels the need to “balance” this plea for higher teacher pay with some rather shallow union bashing.

Look, I’m not a fan of teachers’ unions. They used their clout to gain job security more than pay, thus making the field safe for low achievers. Teaching work rules are often inflexible, benefits are generous relative to salaries, and it is difficult or impossible to dismiss teachers who are ineffective.

These anecdotal bugaboos are just that: anecdotal. The fact is, there is no evidence that strong unions lead to poorer student performance. In fact, the data suggests the opposite.

Whether or not Kristof likes them or not, teachers’ unions are the only thing that has kept a belleguerred, unappreciated profession from total collapse. It’s because of unions that teachers, who are vastly underpaid and overworked in our society, can retire with some dignity. More importantly, they’re the mechanism through which teachers will get that higher pay Kristof thinks they deserve.

Does Kristof think this new generation of Teahadist governors like Scott Walker are going to double teacher salaries just because he writes a few op-eds?

Dream on, Nick.