Chariho School Parents’ Forum

February 7, 2007

Questioning teacher salaries

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,National,State-wide,Unions — Editor @ 9:11 pm

An interesting letter in today’s Westerly Sun is worthy of your attention.

Format for paying our R.I. teachers shows fundamental need for reform 

Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal ran an article comparing teachers’ pay with many other vocations throughout the country. 

The data was derived from the fed­eral government’s Bureau of Labor statistics report of 2005. The question posed was whether teachers were bet­ter paid than other white collar or spe­cialty technical workers. Cities in California, New York, and the District of Colombia were identified as high cost places of living and their numbers mentioned specifically, but the figures were national. The bottom line was, without benefits, the average teacher’s pay per hour in the high cost areas was over $45 in the high-priced areas and over $34 per hour nationally. 

That made wonder about how Westerly compares. So I took our teachers’ work week, 36 hours, the school year of 181 days and multiplied to come up with roughly 1,296 hours of work time at the schools. I then took the school department’s instructional payroll and divided that by the num­ber of full-time equivalent teachers. Using that data, I calculated the aver­age teacher’s hourly wage in Westerly is $50.25 per hour – without benefits!

Is my math right? Instruction by the school department’s definition relates to instructional teachers, substitutes, instructional para-professionals, pupil use technology and instructional materials. This computation was made for teachers giving direct instruction only. 

The article went on to point out that there was evidence to suggest that bonuses paid to teachers who improved academic performance did, in fact, make a difference to overall quality. 

The way we pay our teachers is more important than what they take home. Our current methodology of basing pay on seniority and advanced degrees, not student improvement, is completely off base. 

According to the Journal, while teacher pay looked less impressive on an annual basis, teachers worked fewer hours and had summer, winter and spring breaks, during which they could pursue travel, education, outside employment or family activities.

Lastly, many of the other compared professions required time outside of the workplace, so all things being equal, teachers really could not be described as “under compensated.” 

Hello, Rep. Peter Lewiss. Maybe now you have something worthwhile for you committee to digest. 

Real accountability and transparen­cy should be on your plate. It is cer­tainly on our minds. 

Dick Anthony Westerly

An in-depth study was done by the Manhattan Institute on this very subject.  It did not evaluate Westerly or Chariho but shows Providence teachers average $38.92 (not including benefits).  The average white-collar employee (excluding sales) earns $26.93. 

According to the Education Partnership Contract Evaluation Report, the average teacher salary in the 2005-2006 Chariho budget was $59,800, not including benefits – ie. health care, pension AND social security (yes, teachers here get both pensions and social security.  Many private enterprises also provide 401k’s and social security, but the contributions made by schools are much more than in the private market).   This salary, using the same formula outlined above, shows an hourly wage of  $46.14. 

The average cost per teacher for these benefits is $22,475 for a total average compensation of $82,275 or $63.48 per hour. 

The letter not only brings to light the issue of teacher compensation but also introduces the merits of teacher “Pay for Performance.”  There are several studies and articles on this subject in the “Pay for Performance” section of the Schools in the News page.

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8 Comments »

  1. I find it ironic that the whole country gasped when the price of fuel skyrocketed during the last year, but so many of these same people yawn when they hear about the unreasonable increases in the cost of education at all levels.

    When education goes through the roof, many turn to government and question why it doesn’t help us pay the cost (as if government is separate from us). When gas goes up, we investigate the businesses for price gouging. Of course, businesses exist in the free market system and fail or succeed based on their ability to deliver desirable goods. We are given no choice when it comes to the funding of schools, yet so few seem to care that we’ve been getting gouged for decades. Go figure…

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 7, 2007 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  2. That “White Collar” group, for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, includes far more respiratory therapists, LPNs, and paralegals than lawyers and architects.

    Teachers’ take home work is practically mandatory, and quite regular.

    It is ironic that those who cry about teacher quality would cut their pay. And that they take free shots at those who do a job that the critics would themselves be unwilling to do.

    Comment by jd2718 — February 11, 2007 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

  3. I’ve had no comments on teachers’ quality. I imagine, like every job, there are good ones and bad ones. Unfortunately, unlike most jobs…especially professional, high paying jobs…teachers are pretty much guaranteed employment no matter how pitifully they perform.

    Obviously, based on the subpar performance of Rhode Island students, money doesn’t buy us quality teachers.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 12, 2007 @ 2:42 am | Reply

  4. jd2718,

    Nobody doubts that teachers take home work. Most everyone does and some of the studies factor that in (also see the “Schools in the News” and “Links” for more info).

    The point made here is that RI has the highest paid teachers but our student performance is amongst the worse. I don’t think people would mind paying top dollar if we get top performance.

    I also think the low standards are a problem (and the fact that we have NO standards for history is ridicules). I posted before about Senator Dodd trying to get all states to use the same standards. It only makes sense.

    Comment by cspf — February 12, 2007 @ 6:56 am | Reply

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