If a teacher is working a 1432 hour work year and is making the starting salary in my district
, he or she is making $32.12 per hour.
I'm a teacher so I'll admit I'm biased on this and you're certainly entitled to your opinion. I've had many a similar discussion at the bar with my softball team over the years (a team made of lawyers, police officers, salesmen, etc.).
So starting pay for teachers in your district is $46,000? My district's starting pay (suburban Twin Cities metro) is about $10,000 less than that. Is it possible your district pays higher starting pay because they've had a hard time attracting quality teachers to that district? I know Texas and California recruit Minnesota hard for teachers - they both have huge contingents at the big teacher job fair every spring (forgot what they call it). I even had a school in Arizona offer me a job right out of college and I never even applied there (must have got my name from the U of M), so I know there are areas in the country looking for teachers.
One thing about teacher pay scales is that your first 10-15 years your pay rises steadily, but then you're at the top of the pay scale and you will only see minimal cost of living increases after that. They will likely barely keep pace with inflation (the past few years they have not).
My wife and I are the same age, both have masters degrees, but she works in the private sector. She's very good at what she does and I'd like to think I'm good at what I do. After both of us starting with very similar pay out of college she now makes a fair amount more than me. Check back in 10 years and she will be making quite a bit more than me (I'm at the top of my payscale, her pay has no upper limit). I make about the same or less than most of my peers with similar levels of education.
Last thing I'll say about the union/tenure stuff. I'm all for having bad teachers removed. The thing most people don't realize is that administrators already have the ability to remove teachers. I've seen at least 3 removed from my school in my 15-year career. There is already a process in place. The problem is how does administration fairly evaluate a teacher. I think the fairest way is to be observed fairly often and for administrators to know what's truly going on in your classroom. Most schools have one, maybe two administrators and maybe as many as 100+ teachers at a high school. It's pretty hard for them to be observing teachers on a regular basis along with all of their other duties. Test scores can be part of the equation but that can be tough. I track my students test scores on every test I give, year to year. I have seen huge fluctuations in my time from class period to class period, and from year to year.