What If Teachers Got Million-Dollar Deals Instead of Athletes? In Key and Peele's World, They Do

The comedy duo's SportsCenter spoof is the most exciting look yet at how awesome things would be if we made teaching a priority.

Just for kicks, let’s imagine that teachers were treated like professional athletes. The media celebrates and scrutinizes athletes, while teachers toil away in classrooms in relative anonymity. What would it look like if those roles were reversed?

That's the question comedy duo Key & Peele asked in a recent episode of their Comedy Central show. The comedians create a new TV series, modeled on ESPN's SportsCenter, called Teaching Center. All the music and graphics of an overblown sports talk show, only this time, dedicated to achievements of high-school teachers.

As far as alternate realities are concerned, we could do worse than Teaching Center.  It’s unlikely we’ll see million-dollar signings for public schools any time soon, but Key and Peele at least remind us that our priorities are skewed.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income of a high-school teacher in the U.S. is $55,000. First-year salaries are much lower; public school teachers' average starting salary, the NEA reports, is $36,141.

On top of that, teachers can also look forward to the stresses of standardized testing, which has made nearly half of all American teachers consider leaving the profession. And they can expect to use their own money to provide supplies because of funding shortages. (A Denver science teacher, for example, said that his annual budget is usually gone at the beginning of of the year.) They can expect to face ever-increasing encounters with angry and bullying parents, and then, after a few years, they can expect to face teacher burnout.

Is it hard to imagine why nearly half of all teachers leave the profession within five years?

There is another profession where employees can expect a similarly brief tenure: Professional sports. The average length of a professional baseball career is 5.6 years. In basketball, it’s 4.8 years.

The average salary of an NBA player at $5.15 million. Across professional male sports leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS), the average annual salary of a professional athlete is $2.6 Million. (For more on stats on money in sports, see this infographic from Sports InterAction).

With athletes' salaries comes fame and celebration. We have 24-hour access to athletes and their lives. Wikipedia lists 36 national TV channels dedicated only to sports. There are no channels dedicated to the lives of teachers. Though there is a public television program, Teaching Channel Presents, that lets viewers watch inspiring teachers in action.” Check out this action-packed programming on socioeconomics and history in "Social Studies Essentials," below.