Teachers don’t make a lot of money. That’s common knowledge. Still, it may surprise readers to learn that the average salary for teachers in Texas public schools is significantly less than the average pay for high school coaches, according to an article in the Austin-Statesman.
The paper reported that Texas high school football coaches in Class 5A and 4A schools (that’s 950 students or more) earn an average salary of $73,804, while the average salary for teachers in those same schools is about $42,400 (as mentioned on ESPN.com).
In its report, the Austin American-Statesman "asked every 5A and 4A school district in the state for the total compensation paid to Texas football coaches and for salaries of their highest-paid teachers, high school principals and superintendents for the 2005-06 school year." The results? Texas high school football coaches in 27 schools earn a higher salary than even their principals. The report also says five Texas high school football coaches earn more than $100K. Ennis High School’s Sam Harrell tops the list with an annual salary of $106,004; the lowest-paid is Houston Furr’s Cornell Gray, who scores $42,300.
While the reasons given for this pay difference are varied, there is one fundamental. The school boards and, indirectly, the taxpayers in Texas value the high school football coaches more highly than even their best paid teachers.
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Benefits of Being a High School Teacher
Maybe more surprising than the salary numbers is that Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley staunchly defended the steep average pay for high school coaches in the Austin American-Statesman, “I think all of these coaches earn every penny that they get. Those football coaches put in more hours than most people realize.”
There is some truth to this. Texas high school football coaches’ contracts are based upon a 226-day work year, compared to the teachers’ 187-days. One wonders why someone coaching a single season sport needs a longer contract than a teacher…
Not everyone in Texas is thrilled with the emphasis on sports. Texas State Teachers Association President Donna Haschke told the Austin American-Statesman: “The average teacher’s salary has gone up, and beginning teachers are getting better salaries, but this is Texas. In Texas, everybody expects us to have big football programs. In my opinion, yes, we need to emphasize academics over sports more than we do. Sports has its place, and it’s an important, positive place in the curriculum. But I think that we should be putting some of that time and money into education.”
High School English Teacher Salary, Less Pay for Fewer Hours?
Donna Haschke adds that teachers work 40-70 hours per week, but Texas high school football coaches claim to work 70-100 hours per week during the season. Okay, what about after football season is over? The Austin American-Statesman says, “It is unusual to find a 5A or a 4A head football coach teaching in the classroom, although large multischool districts such as El Paso, Fort Worth and Houston are exceptions. Most coaches at the 5A and 4A level also serve as the school’s athletic coordinator, overseeing the overall athletic program, or the athletic director if they coach in a one-school district.”
If we take a look at our PayScale Research Center, we find that athletic coaches in Texas, with 5-9 years of experience, earn an average salary of $44,366; that’s still way below the average pay for high school coaches in Texas. While we’re at it, let’s look up the average salary for high school teachers in Texas (public AND private) and compare them against the average pay for high school coaches. A Texas high school teacher, with 5-9 years of experience, earns an average salary of $42,178. That’s still way below the average pay for high school coaches in Texas of $73,804 reported in the American-Statesman.
High School Math Teacher Salary = School Income?
Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley says that Texas high school football coaches help kids academically by assisting them in securing scholarships to college. The coaches help the schools too, especially on the financial end. The further a high school football team advances into the post-season playoffs, the more money and exposure the school district receives. A high school math teacher is not going to bring in extra income for the school, unless her class wins in Vegas.
Here is an example of football and finances: Ennis High School has won three Class 4A state championships in the past five years. So it’s not surprising that Ennis High School Superintendent Mike Harper defends football coach Sam Harrell’s salary (the largest among high school coaches) by saying that the football program has brought in at least $200K for the each of past five years.
However, if that justifies the high average pay for high school coaches, then sportswriter King Kaufman at Salon.com suggests that high school football players should also be compensated. After all, they are the ones risking life and limb out on the field, generating income for the school district. If that sounds silly, consider this: the Wall Street Journal reports that some high schools offer skybox seating (for big donors) and sell “naming rights” of high school stadiums for a million bucks! It’s a whole new ball game.
Texas vs. Massachusetts: Isn’t It for the Love of the Game?
Texas today is a long way from the high school football program I knew in rural Massachusetts 25 years ago. The head coach, Bill Budness, who played in Super Bowl II for Oakland, was also the boys’ gym teacher, a full-time teaching job. He was busy with football every afternoon and Saturdays during the fall, and had a couple of weeks of preseason before school started.
My high school’s football program was not about revenue. The school did charge for admission to football games, but it was a nominal amount, and likely barely covered the cost of equipment for the team.
In today’s dollars, Bill Budness likely picked up $10,000 or so a year for the extra time commitment. Since it wasn’t about the money, why did he coach? Because he loved football, and loved teaching kids the game.
I suspect Texas could easily find head coaches who would be happy to work for $50,000, including a full teaching load. These coaches may not win as much, and the teams many not bring in as much revenue.
I guess the taxpayers of Texas would not be happy with “Mr. Budness”, but the high school students of Greenfield Massachusetts sure were.
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Dr. Al Lee