Now that I’ve aired my opinion on the concept of "fairness" in regards to teacher salaries, I suppose it would be appropriate to discuss what I feel is "reasonable". Once again, we are dealing with an inherently subjective concept and I can only offer you my take based on what my lifestyle is and how I expect my salary to support it.
Basically, to be "reasonable" in my book, a salary should be able to support a lifestyle appropriate for the profession in question. To simplify things, the "lifestyle" I am referring to is in regards to a person’s financial status and has nothing to do with moral or social issues. For example, the "lifestyle" of a brain surgeon is certainly expected to be upper-class, whereas that of a fast-food restaurant worker would fall in the working-class, lower end. And this holds true practically anywhere – in the U.S., Europe, and, yes, even here in Thailand.
This leads to the question, what kind of lifestyle do I believe is appropriate for teachers? Though some may not agree with this, I believe the stereotypical teacher-lifestyle lands right at the center of middle-class society, complete with a middle-class home, middle-class transportation, middle-class meals, middle-class activities, etc.
And here is where most problems lie, many western teachers (certified or not) seem to arrive here with the delusion that, just because they are "native English speakers", they deserve a lifestyle that defies this norm. You want the "pie-in-the-sky", choose another, more appropriate profession! If you want to teach, you just might have to "settle" for what the middle-class world has to offer.
So, what kind of salary can support this middle-class lifestyle here in Bangkok?
For starters, I feel middle-class rent should be about 10,000 – 15,000 Baht/mo. What that gets you obviously depends on where you choose to live (key word here is "choose").
Next, I would say middle-class modes of transportation include BTS, MRT, buses and the occasional taxi ride. Assuming you take a round-trip on the BTS daily, you would be paying 1,080 Baht/mo. Sorry everyone, but personal drivers or air-conditioned taxis to/from work everyday fall in the upper-middle to upper class category.
For food, a typical member of the middle-class dines in more than he/she dines out. Doing this, daily food expenses can be placed at 150 to 200 Baht per day, or 4,500 to 6,000 Baht/mo. And for entertainment, middle-class citizens simply don’t go out every night. A few drinks at a middle-class club shouldn’t hit you for more than 500 Baht. Romp around those high-end clubs and you could easily be dropping a few thousand in one night.
All these things considered, along with others that, for the sake of time, I won’t bother covering, add up to a "reasonable", middle-class monthly budget of about 30,000 Baht. Add 25% (okay, a bit arbitrary) for savings or emergency, and you get my opinion of a reasonable salary at somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 Baht. And, guess what? That’s precisely what a lot of these schools are offering. Why? Because they can.
A school administrator once told me that a reasonable method to gage the kind of lifestyle you could support here in Thailand would be to convert your Thai monthly salary (example 35,000 Baht) directly into a pre-tax US$ yearly amount (example US$35,000). In other words, the lifestyle you could afford making US$35,000/year and living in middle-America, would be similar to the lifestyle you could afford making 35,000 Baht/month and living in Bangkok. For the short time I’ve been here, it seems to me that this is a pretty reasonable estimate.