January 31, 2010

A Refresher on Teacher Salaries

Justin Katz

Pat Crowley's in the comment section slinging mud at my numbers. For consistency's sake, here's the relevant chart for the state as a whole:

Crowley's claim is that the increases in teachers' salaries are not keeping up with inflation. One could argue the relevance of that fact on the grounds that everything else must therefore really not be keeping up with inflation. One could argue the relevance of that fact, I should say, if it were a fact. There are two ways in which Crowley likes to make the inflation claim deceptively. The first, less applicable here, is to look at the category of "instruction" and draw his inflation numbers from that.

When he tried this trick back in 2007, I explained that, while the "instruction expenditures" category increased 19.8% from 2000 to 2006, in comparison with 19.9% inflation, teasing out teacher pay showed their salaries increasing 28.1%. Last year, I put the point in graphical form:

Another method that Crowley employs, that is probably more relevant in the current context, is to lump all teachers together to hide the continual increases in all of their salaries. I've looked at this, too, and the trick is that Rhode Island has been on a teacher-hiring spree:

Obviously, hiring young teachers will bring down the average salary. Indeed, the more teachers we hire, the more it appears that their pay isn't going up:

Of course, the system must then deal with this mass of teachers as they progress through their sometimes double-digit salary increases, what with cost-of-living adjustments and steps combined. Brace yourselves, Rhode Island; salaries and benefits are going to be absorbing much more of the budgets for your students' schools, and the odds that the very same teachers will be able to turn around their abysmal results with even fewer resources are slim to none.

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Even if (for the sake of argument only) we accept that Crowley's assertion that teacher pay (for now) isn't keeping up with inflation, it is a straw man argument.

The ultimate question is whether they are being compensated equivalent to the value that they're providing. We know that, when one accounts for gross pay (including the add-ons for degrees and longevity and such), benefits (current and post-retirement, which is deferred compensation, but compensation nevertheless), that they are grossly overcompensated for their part-time jobs.

Particularly in light of the poor results that they're producing across the United States, and even poorer results in Rhode Island.

But don't just take my word for it:

How Much Are Public School Teachers Paid?


Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at January 31, 2010 9:42 AM

Great analysis, Justin, and excellent point, Ragin'. The average parent out there has got to be educated about the fact that the reason their kids' school programs (sports, gifted, etc) are being cut is because that is one of the only available parts to tinker with in school budgets. And a small portion it is- the vast majority goes to the teachers benefits, pay, healthcare, and pension liability, all of which are written in granite, and all of which the teachers union leadership refuses to budge on.

So the next time parents hear about the union leadership grinding and gnashing their teeth about their compensation, and then blather on about how much they "love the children", they need to ask why they do so at the continued expense of the kids they purportedly adore so much.

Posted by: MadMom at January 31, 2010 10:22 AM

I assume Pat used the information from an NEA press release last week making the same claim, that inflation has outpaced teacher salaries in all US states. Education blogger Jay P. Greene (jaypgreene.com) has refuted the numbers, and asserts the press release uses incorrect data from the NEA's own report. According to Greene, an NEA PR person has "confirmed the mistake". Teachers' salaries have risen faster than inflation in all by 15 states. Not sure whether RI is one of the 15.

Posted by: mikeinri at January 31, 2010 12:12 PM

Part of the failing of Pat Crowley's argument is the fact that the teachers’ union doesn't view step increases as raises. I know it sounds absurd but that is what they (believe?) say. So when you take ten and twelve percent increases in salary out of the equation you are left with a mere three percent (aprox.) raise. So it is really more outrageous than most know.

Posted by: bobc at January 31, 2010 12:17 PM

Let's use Patrick Crowley's own words and analysis.

Specifically, in early 2008, he wrote in a widely published oped piece where he wrote "The cost of teaching has risen slower than overall inflation".

Crowley based his incorrect conclusion on the fact that "instruction expenditures" (which includes the cost of teachers) as reported by the RIDOE had grown at a rate of 19.8 percent from the period 2001 thru 2006.

Indeed, the costs did grow at a whopping 19.8 percent, from $854.5 million for the period ending June 2001 to $1,023 million for the period ending June 2006.

However, Crowley incorrectly claimed that the inflation rate for that SAME period was 19.91 percent, hence his screwball claim that the cost of teaching grew a lower rate than inflation.

But, poor Pat simply demonstrated his inability to comprehend basic math and data.

The inflation rate per Pat's preferred source, "inflationdata.com", was actually 13.9% for the period Jun 2001 to Jun 2006 (i.e. the period that Pat was measuring expenditure growth).

So, in fact, using exactly Pat's own method of analysis (but using the correct dates), it is clear that the "cost of teaching" has grown at a rate far exceeding the rate of inflation.

The expenditures grew at a rate of 19.8% during a period of time when inflation grew at 13.9% ...thus, the cost of teaching grew at rate that was 42% HIGHER than the rate of inflation.

For the record, Pat compared 5 years of spending growth (Jun 2001 to Jun 2006) to 7 years of inflation growth (Jan 2000 to Jan 2007). But, hey, Pat's been called a lot of names, but "smart" was never one of them.

Of course the cost of teaching has risen far in excess of inflation. This is true when we dole out salary increases that range from 3+% to 15% ...no matter how much Pat, the NEA and other union hacks try to fool us otherwise.

To be sure, Pat and the NEA are never ones to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

So now lets update Pat's analysis to include the most current available data, which is for fiscal year ending Jun 2007.

The "instructional" expenses for the period ending Jun 2007 totaled $1,079 million, which is a 26.3% increase from Jun 2001. During this same period (Jun 2001 to Jun 2007) the inflation rate was 17.05%. Thus once again, Pat is wrong. The cost of teaching has outpaced the rate of inflation by 54%.

And you've got to love the way Pat's boss (Bob Walsh) and his flock of union teachers all sit silent while he spews forth his non-factual misinformation.

Yet there are some (even at AR) that still think the likes of Bob Walsh are credible. Go figure.

BTW - you can do the same analysis based on "per student spending" and the numbers are even worse. On a "per student" basis, the costs from Jun 2001 to Jun 2007 have grown at a rate 87% higher than inflation.

Looking forward to the NEA's next press release assuring us that these spending increases are sustainable and that there is nothing to worry about.

Posted by: Over-taxed at January 31, 2010 12:55 PM

"Obviously, hiring young teachers will bring down the average salary. Indeed, the more teachers we hire, the more it appears that their pay isn't going up:"

Well, this is an easy one. Just look at the last few contracts in each town and look at the step 1 salary for each. Do we really think that step 1 is staying the same every year? Heck no. And in how many professions can a 22 year old with zero experience start out making $40,000 a year with incredible benefits, as step 1 teachers do in most municipalities now? That's a great deal for them.

As for Crowley's "below market average" comments, the question I have is "what market?". When one group controls the entire profession, like the NEARI, that's not really a market, that's closer to scarier words like "collusion" and "monopoly", except this isn't a game.

Posted by: Patrick at January 31, 2010 3:24 PM

Has anyone here ever considered the idea that it might be time to throw in the towel on compulsory education altogether?

Radical idea,huh?

I know the well meaning folks blogging here won't agree,just throwing the thought out there.

Posted by: helen at February 1, 2010 10:39 PM

A common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

We have an antique educational system which costs us ever more money with less benefits to the students and to society as a whole, and yet no one will go outside the box enough to consider scrapping the whole public system.

It seems that all reports about our governmental educational system are negative. I believe,for a variety of reasons,we could have a much better system,free of governmental intervention,that really nurtured and educated children.

Why was compulsory education instituted?

Let's go deeper into this subject because it is taking so much money with ever less results.

Also,people are forced to fund a system that perhaps they don't agree with or don't use,or both.

There are other valid arguements against government schools.

Posted by: helen at February 3, 2010 12:25 AM
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