In 2008, Clinton P. Murray made $231,687. He is a California prison guard.
Hold that thought.
A long time ago, when I was a junior in high school running around campus before class defacing the pro-war posters put up by student government by writing rebuttals in sharpie across the propaganda, I had more than a war to be pissed off about. I’d just heard that prison guards in California made more money than K-12 teachers, and I was shocked. I was shocked because back then I hadn’t yet lost my faith in humanity.
Like I said, that was a long time ago.
With the state boasting a highly impressive net worth of negative $42 billion for the next 18 months, I wondered, given how broke we are, if things still stood as bassackwardsly as they used to.
To answer the question, I did some research, came to some conclusions and will now voice those conclusions loudly in public. But since I don’t have an amateur film crew around, I’ll instead use this column, which will no doubt be lost in some archive somewhere sometime soon.
Diving right in, Adult Correction and Rehabilitation Operations (i.e. the prison system) was allotted $5.3 billion of the $9.8 billion annual budget of the California Department of Corrections in 2008. Another $1.8 billion went to Correctional Health Care Services, but I won’t count that in my analysis because it’s not itemized specifically for prisons; though I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s pretty much all being spent behind bars giving inmates totally baller grills and repairing shanked kidneys.
Anyhow, all of those 5.3 billion dollars were allocated for 34,700 prison guards and 155,000 inmates in 2008. On the other hand, the school system got $66 billion for 310,000 teachers and over 6.3 million students. Those numbers should give you pause. What they mean is that there are only 4.5 prisoners per guard but over 20 students per teacher, and that each year we spend $35,500 per inmate but just $10,500 per pupil.
Keep holding that thought.
Next come the qualifications for each job. To be a prison guard, you need only be a U.S. citizen over 21 who has a GED. You then go through just four months training, for which you are paid $12,200. After that, you get paid an extra $1,560 per year for not failing the physical fitness test. The starting salary for a prison guard in the state of California is $42,400. Oh, and until 2005 guards got on the job training credits for doing crosswords. Seriously.
To be a teacher, you need to complete at least a bachelors, earn a credential and meet a bunch of bullshit No Child Left Behind qualifications far too complex for me to delve into here and which the Obama administration is keen on adding even more bullshit to. It takes four to six years, costs an average of $70,000 and is paid out of your own pocket. There is no bonus for not being fat. The starting salary for teachers in California varies by district, but it took the state legislature to mandate a minimum of $34,000 before there was ever a lower bound.
Your thought. Hold it.
Guards also take home bonuses for working in “less desirable” prisons ($2,400), being bilingual ($1,200) and having an associate‘s degree or completing 60 units of college credit ($1,620). And let’s not forget the overtime.
Yes, the overtime. In addition to those other bonuses, the average guard in 2006 (most recent data) took home $9,000 in overtime pay. All told, the average yearly pay is $72,000 not counting benefits, and 8 percent of the guards make over $100,000 every 12 months.
Now, I know a lot of teachers. None of them makes more than $80,000 a year. The ones that make near that much have been teaching since the ‘70s and have either a master‘s or a bachelor‘s with 75 units on top of it. There is no overtime. Bonuses are rare. The average pay is $58,000.
OK. Release that thought.
Good. Now apologize to everyone around you for violating their virgin ears, and keep reading.
After thinking long and hard, here’s my solution: officially recategorize all California public schools as state prisons, students as inmates, teachers as guards.
Problem solved, everyone wins.
For their part, teachers would get a higher starting pay; they would get bonuses for teaching in shitty schools; they would earn overtime for helping kids after school, preparing lesson plans, grading papers and chaperoning dances, fieldtrips and sporting events; they wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for supplies, books and tools; they would have amazing student-to-teacher ratios; and they would finally, finally, finally be able to mace a kid in the face for being a disrespectful, disobedient twit.
Prisoners, whose average age is 37 yet have an average reading level of seventh grade, might actually get corrected and rehabilitated. Either that or just keep getting maced in the face.
Students would benefit huge, too. They’d get over three times as much money spent on them as before, which would mean more face time with teachers, more technology in the classroom, more equipment, more fieldtrips, more nurses, more advisors and more counselors. They would get at least two, maybe even three meals a day and they would slash childhood obesity rates thanks to the daily yard time.
Every school would have its own doctor, its own psychiatrist, its own dentist, its own fucking barber. The learning environment would finally be structured again, kids would be supervised until their parents picked them up after work and I can’t really think of a better way to keep teens from ditching class; if you played hooky you’d be breaking out of jail and would be summarily hunted down and maced in the face.
Also, lets be real: the school to prison switch would probably be a relief for most. The schools, and the bathrooms especially, would be better kept, the food would suck less, there wouldn’t be as many lame spirit rallies, and since campuses would be closed, there would no longer be that bum masturbating in the locker room.
And with all the armed guards, metal detectors, “English language learners“, dress codes and face macings in our schools these days, the switch would probably go unnoticed to about half the state.
This is especially true for our governor, who, after all, pioneered the concept; Kindergarten Cop, it turns out, was more than just a movie.
K.C. CODY has never been maced in the face. Mace him in the face electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org.