I've found this thread very interesting. I worked for the public school system in Louisiana... not as a teacher, but as a school psychologist. I have to say that teachers (at least in Louisiana!) are terribly underpaid! I had a Master's degree and my starting salary was $28,000. And the teachers made less than me. And yes, the benefits were good and retirement is good... but a huge chunk of my paycheck went to paying for those benefits/retirement. I also had my checks spread out so that I would be paid over the two months of the year that I didn't work. My take home pay ended up being around $750 twice a month. My pay did increase over the years and when I finally left in 2001 my annual salary had risen to $38,000. But again, my salary was higher than what the classroom teachers were making.
And then I would watch what those teachers did (and had to put up with) every single day... all day long. I remember thinking that I just couldn't do it! I do think that teaching must be a calling and there are some wonderful teachers out there who do a great job! Like nurses would say about nursing... until you have actually worked in the system, you have no idea how hard a teacher's job can be. I know that my job as a school psychologist got harder and harder every year as new procedures and paperwork would be mandated. And I took work home constantly.
When I moved to the pacific northwest, I didn't even bother to get licensed... I stayed home to be a mom. And now that my baby is almost ready to start preschool, I'm going to school to become a nurse! Hmmm... maybe the grass is always greener on the other side?