How Much Do You Make?

The Sun-Sentinel poll over the weekend:

Broward County may give teachers a 6.45% pay raise, hiking salaries to $37,000 a year for beginners and $70,000 for the most experienced. What do you think of the pay scale for teachers?

57.8% Teachers are grossly underpaid, considering the importance of their work. (6481 responses)

15.4% Teacher salaries are a little low. (1731 responses)

17.0% These salaries are just about right. (1901 responses)

9.8% Teachers make too much money. (1093 responses)

11206 total responses

Stop. This is just ridiculous. What percentage of those "grossly underpaid" respondents do you think have Frank Till's signature on their paycheck? It's time to stop whining. Thirty seven G's a year out of the gate is a nice cut -- especially considering they only work 3/4 of the year. And $70,000 at the top end is about right, too.

That's better than what most reporters get -- and I'd venture to say that reporters are as important as teachers. More so, really, since the country depends on enterprising reporters to not only write about upcoming young talents like Ace Young but also to save democracy itself. I'd say most reporters, out of college, would be happy to snare $25,000. That hasn't changed much since 1993, when I started at the Fort Myers News-Press for $21,000. Those who start at larger newspapers like the Sentinel or the Herald probably pull mid-30s, but the majority of people who get jobs at those newspapers already have experience at smaller papers. As for the higher end of the scale, my guess is that less than 10 percent of all reporters in South Florida make $70,000 or more.

In 2000, the median salary for reporters across America was $31,256, according to the Census Bureau. That's pathetic and I doubt it's changed much. If it hasn't, that means the median reporters' salary across the country is less than starting pay for teachers in Broward County.

Are reporters' salaries too low? Of course they are, but that's nothing new. All that's changed is that instead of greedhead owners hoarding the lucre as they did 50 years ago, it's now going to corporate executives and shareholders. It's not all that bad, though. Once established in the industry, salaried reporters tend to make a decent living. But it seems to me that newspaper corporations are exploiting kids out of college more and more. The thing is that those kids are happy to be exploited, considering the alternative. It's the market, baby.

The point: Teachers are doing pretty well these days, all things considered, so they should shut their traps and concentrate on helping us fend off China as the dominant country in the world.

Speaking of China My newspaper has lost one good journalist and is about to lose another. First, Wyatt Olson has left New Times for, yes, China. The NT veteran is heading to a teaching job at Shantou University to teach journalism. It's a good career move, I think, since the Red Goliath is, as previously stated, on the way up. Wyatt's always been one to stay ahead of the curve. Seriously, I think it'll be a hell of an adventure. I mean, what can be more challenging than teaching journalism in a place that doesn't allow free speech?

But he'll be sorely missed, both as a bud and a reporter. Wyatt has been quietly producing stellar journalism at NT for nearly six years. This year he won a bucketload of awards -- at the national, regional, and state levels -- for his work on killer weeds (as opposed to another popular topic, killer weed), the ill effects of "zero tolerance" on crime in Palm Beach County schools, and on a dastardly but politically connected insurance company, among others.

Also leaving in a couple of weeks is young Sam Eifling, my basketball pal at Holiday Park (where he's been compared to both a waterbug and Steve Nash). Sam's heading to New York City for an internship at Harper's Magazine. The kicker: It's unpaid. That's okay, though, he should be able to live fine off a small bundle he'll make selling his condo. It's a fringe benefit of boning up on your skills in South FLA. Sam is a special writer who has ginned up some great feature stories for NT. My Top Two: This story on his fishing trip to the Amazon and this ditty about wheeler-dealer Robb Tiller.

The NYC magazine game has eaten up many a fine young reporter, but Eifling's got the chops. And besides, it's not like he's going to China or something.

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