I do not believe their pay is exorbitant.. but their overall compensation is. If you were to say eliminate their pensions and tone down their medical than we'd probably be sitting where it belongs. Also the guaranteed pay increases by longevity don't make alot of sense.. Some of the best teachers I've seen are actually newer (vs. seasoned).
I would argue part of the problem is not the teachers but the sociological environment students are from. Moreso the way their parents teach them. Just for example today many parents go ballistic on their teachers when the child receives a poor grade. When I was young my parents went ballistic on me (not the teacher). We're even seeing a slowing disappearance of HW in many areas because.. um.. parents can't be expected to make sure children assist or finish. Maybe children should have a longer school day if that's the route that must be taken? Otherwise we will continue to fall behind other countries.
Just a thought.. but Japan obviously demolishes us in education. Are their teachers "that" much better than ours? Or is their family unit and importance of education that much greater than ours?
You have many good and valid points. I even agree with your disagreement with pay increases based on seniority. However, I do not agree that their total compensation package is high. Here, for example, is one retirement package that I am familiar with: you earn 2.5% of your salary per year of service and you also lose your employer subsidizing your health ins cost. (And with no cost of living increase after your retire.) What do people think a teacher should retire on, 50% of their salary?
And one question about Japan: does a major political party and a large segment of the population malign and badmouth teachers and use them as scapegoat? IMO, our other problem with our education system is the fact that it has become a political/partisan matter.