What are Wisconsin teachers really earning?

A few days ago the folks at The Daily Caller did something that the mainstream media so far has failed to do, and acquired salary and benefit information for Wisconsin teachers who have gone on the public record by complaining to the mainstream media about the impact of Gov. Walker’s proposed budget cuts:

Wisconsin’s 2010 Teacher of the Year, Leah Lechleiter-Luke of Mauston High School, told CNN the budget changes would force her to look for additional part-time work.

“When people say that public sector employees live high off the hog,
I’d like to share that for 13 of my 19-year teaching career I have held a
part-time job either in the summer or teaching night class at the local
technical college,”
Lechleiter-Luke told CNN. “In addition to tightening the belt even more
and crossing our fingers that nothing breaks, I will need to find
part-time work again.”

Lechleiter-Luke makes $54,928 in base salary and $32,213 in “fringe benefits,” which include health insurance, life insurance and retirement pay.

Brad Lutes and his wife, Heather Lutes, told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz that Walker’s budget would hit them twice as hard.

“Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year old that the governor of your
state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It’s just
really, really frustrating,” Brad Lutes told Schultz.

He makes $49,412 in base salary with $27,987 in fringe benefits and his wife makes $50,240 with $9,413 in benefits. That’s $137,052 annually between the two of them.
(Emphasis in original article)

So, are Wisconsin teachers overpaid?  Do they deserve the salary and benefits they receive?  To ask that question is to miss the point (or to deliberately mislead).  As far as I am concerned, teaching is a tough and demanding profession, and good teachers have a special talent, a ‘God-given gift’ if you will, not unlike successful musicians or athletes or business leaders.  Frankly I’m happy to see teachers earning money comparable to what other professionals are earning.  But as I said, that’s not the point.

The real point is that no one is indispensable or irreplaceable.  And no one is entitled to automatic increases in salary and benefits with no regard for the overall condition of the economy.  This should be even more true for public sector employees, who are paid with our tax dollars.  When the economy shrinks and tax revenues dry up, public employees should be expected to shoulder the burden just like the rest of us.

So if your family is earning $99,000 a year plus benefits in this economy, consider yourself to be extremely fortunate.  Stop whining.  Learn to tighten your belts like the rest of us have.  We’re currently in the midst of possibly the longest and deepest recession since WWII.  Welcome to reality.

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And how did you know this, exactly?
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