8 months ago

Thinking Again about Make-Up Lessons: Part 1

This is the first in a series of short articles, all intended as a response to Chad’s article on Cerebroom titled Thinking Twice About Strict Make-Up Lesson Policies. I do not know Chad personally or frequent the Cerebroom website; however, this article was the second search result when I was looking for the often-referenced Make Up Lessons from an Economist’s Point of View.

Chad’s article has a lot of good points, both for his own policy and against a strict policy.

However, the are some flaws in the argument and inconsistencies that only get revealed when the comments are read. I think these flaws need to be pointed out for the benefit of all the teachers out there who read his article and make their studio policies based on it.

I wrote a response to the blog post; however, Chad declined to publish it. So I’ll put it up here and hope it gets some traffic.

Private Lessons vs Public School Teacher

One of Chad’s arguments is about pay rates:

“We private teachers are the spoiled brats of the teaching field – we work less hours than K-12 teachers and earn more per year for it”

I see two small mistakes and one big one with this statement.

First, plenty of teachers don’t make more than public school teachers. Obviously, a full teaching schedule is easier to reach for piano, guitar, and violin teachers. Other instruments tend to struggle. Additionally, plenty of people try to become private music teachers and give up (because they aren’t making enough money).

Second, K-12 schools are notoriously underfunded in the US, and this includes teacher salaries. Private music teacher’s shouldn’t charge less because politicians won’t adequately fund private schools.

Finally, the big one. Let’s just assume the premise is correct; that private music teachers make more than K-12 teachers. That makes perfect sense. It is Economics 101. Greater risk = Greater Reward.

Public School Teachers have:

  • Employer-Subsidized Health Insurance
  • Job Security (i.e. a steady paycheck)
  • Retirement Plans; Pensions or 401k
  • Opportunities for advancement/raises
  • Summers off
  • etc

Private Music Teachers have:

  • Self-Employment Tax
  • Unsecured income
  • The risks of self employment
  • etc (I wrote out a much longer list when I tried posting a comment to Chad’s article)

In short, one must first consider the total compensation package before comparing salaries. Any sensible job-hunter knows this. Second, one must adjust for the benefits and risks of either position before determining a fair price (or studio policy, as it may be).

Now, I don’t know enough about economics to know exactly how to calculate that1. But I do know enough to say that the argument “They make less than us” is too simplistic to be useful.

1.[The general view is that this rate is calculated automatically by “The Market”. Just ask what the going-rate for lessons is (or, more accurately, what the annual net Compensation is for both jobs). That’ll give you a rough sense of how the market values the risks and benefits of both positions relative to one another.]




    Kale Good