It’s hard to take teachers’ cries of poverty seriously once you know their salaries.
The Clark County School District and the Clark County Education Association are locked in negotiations over teacher pay. To build support for their cause, many teachers have publicly decried how little they’re making.
One example is kindergarten teacher and union executive board member Kristan Nigro. She has worked for the district for around a decade. She sounds like a caring teacher and even helps manages a school garden. Good for her. But she’s very upset about her pay. This summer she drove for Uber Eats to help pay her bills.
“No educator should have to do that,” she complained.
Quick: Predict how much Nigro makes.
For context, the 2021 median household income in Clark County was $63,700. That’s for households, not individuals. Given this, you might expect Nigro only makes $40,000 or $45,000 annually. Nope.
In 2021, she made $66,500 in pay, per the invaluable Transparent Nevada. Her total compensation was $92,700. Unlike most other full-time employees, teachers get a chunk of the summers off.
She’s hardly alone. Kelly Edgar is a longtime district music teacher. In a recent op-ed, she spoke in very personal terms to push the union’s pay demands.
“I did not become an educator expecting to be wealthy, but I am not a martyr,” she wrote. “It’s not unreasonable for someone with specialized training and advanced degrees to insist on a living wage so we can own a home, afford groceries and health care, and provide for our families without needing a second job.”
Edgar made more than $100,000 in salary in 2021. Her total compensation topped $138,000. She’s right about one thing. She’s not a martyr, even if she wants you to think she is.
Then, there’s Chris Percy. He teaches at Fremont Middle School. His wife is a kindergarten teacher. They have two children.
“Between the two of us every pay period, it’s you’re squeezing pennies together to try to make it last through the next paycheck,” he said.
Assume both he and his wife make the minimum teachers’ salary. That means their household income is more than $100,000 annually, plus benefits. If you’re making six-figures a year in Clark County and pinching pennies, you have a spending problem. The solution is a Dave Ramsey book.
I can already read the emails of those who disagree — and keep them coming. I enjoy hearing from all my readers. “How dare you attack teachers” and “You must hate teachers.”
Let me submit that those assertions are dodging the issue. It would be one thing if these teachers sought more money based on high performance, longer school days or a willingness to teach in tough schools. But that’s not what they’re doing. They’re crying poverty in a dishonest attempt to leverage the public’s goodwill toward their profession.
Another likely objection is, “You should write about the administrators union and its 10 percent raise.” That’s another attempt to change the subject. The teachers union, not the administrators, is the group threatening “work actions.”
For the record, administrators shouldn’t have a union. Paying people that much more to do the same thing is a waste of money. Given Nevada’s collective bargaining laws, that level of increase was likely unavoidable. The district did well to limit next year’s raise for administrators to 2 percent.
The district is also prepared to give teachers substantial raises as an overall group. But it wants to move teachers to a traditional salary schedule, which it had prior to 2016. That would help most teachers earn more. But it’s more complex than an across-the-board raise.
As educators say: Knowledge is power. No wonder the teachers demanding a “living wage” don’t want you to know they’re already living on way more than most taxpayers.