The $100,000 Plus Head Start Teacher?


New Orleans I admit a hot headline on the front page of the New York Times about paying kindergarten teachers $320,000 per year absolutely caught my eye!

The back story was straightforward.  A huge study under Project Star in Tennessee tracked 12,000 children in that state.  The study was trying to determine whether or not class size effected a series of educational and life outcomes.  A bunch of Harvard economists analyzed the results and came up with some unexpected conclusions.  The main determining factor in significantly improving adult prospects for citizen wealth was whether or not the child had a good kindergarten experience.  If they did:  cha-ching!  By 27 years old they would be making another $100 per month, $1200 a year, and so forth.

The “money shot” in the article is below:

“Mr. Chetty and his colleagues — one of whom, Emmanuel Saez, recently won the prize for the top research economist under the age of 40 — estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesn’t take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.”

Since I’m obsessed (as we all should be!) with what it takes to create citizen wealth for lower income families, my first thought was simple.  If we now know what a kindergarten teacher might be worth, then what is a Head Start teacher worth for lower income families?!?

Admittedly, we have lots of horses in this race since Local 100 United Labor Unions represents Head Start teachers with several companies in Houston, Shreveport, and Little Rock, but if kindergarten teachers make that big a difference, logically it seems that early childhood education in programs like Head Start may be more powerful than we had imagined.

Study that, professors, and let’s see if we can’t make a difference for low-and-moderate income families!

And their beleaguered and underpaid teachers!!