Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
What does a wandering contemplative think about the issues of the day?
What Does the Data Show?
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By Daniel Wolpert
Daniel Wolpert worked as a research scientist, psychologist and spiritual director, farmer, teacher, and construction worker before earning his Masters of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). Over the past 25 years he has ...
A View from Nowhere
Daniel Wolpert worked as a research scientist, psychologist and spiritual director, farmer, teacher, and construction worker before earning his Masters of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). Over the past 25 years he has taught in the fields of psychology and spiritual formation and led retreats in numerous, diverse settings. Daniel currently serves as the church pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Crookston, Minn., and is a co-founder of the Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing (MICAH, www.micahprays.org). He is also the author of “Leading a Life with God, the practice of spiritual leadership (Upper Room 2006), “Creating a Life with God: the call of ancient prayer practices”(Upper Room 2003), co-author of “Meeting God in Virtual Reality: using spiritual practices with media” (Abingdon 2004), and most recently “The Collapse of the Three Story Universe: Christianity in an age of Science” (MICAH 2013). He is married to Dr. Debra Bell and they have two sons, Sam and Max.
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By Daniel Wolpert
Dec. 7, 2013 3:14 p.m.

I am very excited and grateful that, thanks to Mr. Brekken, we now have some real data to deal with regarding the salaries of our teachers (see the table both in the Times and on KROX).
What does this table show us, and how can we begin to make sense of it? I would suggest that there are several important observations that we can now make:
- The first is that our teachers have recently received one of the lowest increases in pay in our whole area. In the last contract, they were 29th out of 31 school districts in terms of their contract increase. Many districts received raises two and three times what our teachers got.
- The second is that our teachers are not, as was previously insinuated, wildly over paid. They don’t make twice what other teachers make. Yes our average cost is on the high end relative to other districts. But it’s not the highest and there are about 10 districts whose average is close to, or above ours. Furthermore, because it’s an average, these figures are of course affected by the average age and experience of the teachers in the district. A district with more young teachers would have a lower average, even if the cost of each step and lane was relatively similar.
- Thirdly we can see that while teachers certainly get a good wage and benefits, they still are at or near the bottom of the pay scale for professional fields in general.
- Finally, when it comes to the question of teacher salaries within the context of the school budget, what is rarely discussed is the fact that teachers, who obviously are the ones at the heart of the mission of schools, cost only about 35% of the total district budget!
I would suggest that, overall, what this table shows is that teachers in our area, in schools of similar size, are paid at fairly similar rates. Frankly this is what I would have guessed.
So now let’s talk about the bigger issue or question behind the data: Where in this table do we want our teachers to be? In almost every other profession, be it business, medicine, law, engineering, the military, or whatever, we frequently hear the comment that if ‘you want the best, you have to pay for it.’ We take for granted that people who are excellent at their jobs should get more compensation, and that in order to attract the best, you should pay the most.
As a comparison from another government sector, I was recently talking to a sergeant in the Army who said that the government had spent $1 million dollars on him in his training. We spend nothing even close to that for teachers.
Why is it that in America, we seem to accept this truth of high pay for high quality in every field except education? Why is it that teachers are continually told that they should take less pay? Why in fact do we sometimes even hear that ‘more money won’t give you better educational results?‘ In other countries, countries that have better educational outcomes than us, teachers do in fact get paid more. The United States consistently falls below average in various comparisons of teacher pay.
I hope that the members of this community understand what an educational crisis we are facing in this country. Business leaders across the land have lamented the educational deficit of our work force, and these same leaders petition the government to allow more highly educated foreign workers into the country to fill the skilled jobs that our citizens cannot fill. On a smaller level, when a new young family is looking to move to a community, one of the first things they ask about is the quality of the school system. Educational vitality brings vitality in all areas of life. This truth is so old that it's even in the Bible where we read that Wisdom is more precious than silver.
I want our teachers to be at the top of this pay list. In fact I wish we could pay them a lot more. I want to be able to attract the best and brightest people to our community to teach our kids and youth, and I want a School Board that is rooting for our teachers and our staff and helping them to be the best.
As a final thought, I’d like you to consider the facts of Christmas shopping. The average American family spends $750 on Christmas shopping. When we have a school levy most of them ask the average property owner to add $100 or so dollars to their tax bill, depending on value. All that we would need to do to afford that is spend $100 less on stuff that we probably don’t need at Christmas. Now that would be money well spent.

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