With government and business interests pushing for a reopening of schools with insufficient safety precautions in the middle of an uncontrolled pandemic, many teachers are left wondering if teaching is worth risking their lives over. One poll suggests that 20% of teachers may not return to classrooms if schools open in the fall. Can you blame them? The driving force behind why teachers are being told they need to go back to school is not to help the kids. Let me repeat, it is not to help the kids. It is to provide childcare so that parents and guardians can go to work to help businesses make money and to help politicians get reelected.
So what are teachers to do? Teachers need to survive. And surviving means more than not contracting Covid-19; it means being able to pay for housing, food, and healthcare. Some entrepreneurially minded folks have encouraged teachers to start homeschooling pods for parents. And some teachers are doing exactly that. Can you blame them?
Let’s do some math. We can start with the supply side. The starting salary for a teacher in the Austin (TX) Independent School District is about $50,000, which is generally higher than what private schools pay, and comes with benefits such as healthcare. Because of the cost of healthcare and other lost benefits, as well as the loss of job security, let’s assume the teacher would need to make about $65,000 to justify leaving the classroom for the sake of their health.
On the demand side of the equation there are plenty of parents who are eager to avoid schools during the pandemic (mostly for safety reasons, but some just want to avoid having their kids wear masks). We could look at the $11,000–14,000 local average private school tuition to figure out what parents would pay, but we are also entering into unabashed childcare territory so we could also go with an average babysitting rate of $15/hr. At six hours a day for a 180-day school year we are looking at a cost of $16,200 per child. In high-income Austin it is reasonable to believe that many parents would be willing to pay teachers at least $25/hr to teach their kids in small homeschooling pods that drastically reduce the likelihood of contracting Covid-19, particularly if all the families who send their kids to those pods commit to not interacting with families outside those pods.
So if you are one of those teachers in a conventional school, imagine going out and marketing yourself for a $25/hr rate to lead a homeschooling pod. That is actually $750/week, or $27,000 per student per year. A teacher would only need to find three students whose families were willing to pay $25/hr to justify leaving the classroom behind. At $15/hr it would take four. At $10/hr it would take six.
While we are advocates of Self-Directed Education and believe that teaching is problematic for the many reasons that we have blogged about or have shared on our website, and we do not advocate simply removing kids from schools so they can be schooled in pods, or schooled at home, we understand why teachers are seriously considering catering to the families who simply want safer schooling for their kids. There is no reason why teachers should have to sacrifice their lives for the institution of schooling, just like there is no reason why families should sacrifice their lives by sending their kids to school.