I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Pitchfork" Bob "Looks" at Teacher Pay

"Pitchfork" Bob Ingle, like his idol, Chris Christie, just loves teachers. So I'm sure he takes no joy in blogging:
Marcus Winters, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has looked into teacher compensation in New Jersey. He concluded that when the differences in hours worked is taken into account, the salary for the average teacher in New Jersey translates to about $86,382 annually in the private sector. 
Apparently, none of the young whipper-snappers at the Gannett IT department have bothered to show Bob how to create a link in his posts, but you can find the brief here (see, Bob, not hard at all!).

How does Winters calculate that difference in hours? What data set does he use?
Our primary data source is the 2008 Occupational Employment Statistics and Wage Survey made publicly available by the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.... Unfortunately, reliable data on hours worked is not available from the OES.[4]
Um, hello? Your primary data source isn't "reliable"?

Dude, have you ever heard of "peer review"? Probably not - that's why you're at a Scaife-funded conservative think tank. Might not be a bad idea to get some next time, so you can avoid rookie mistakes like comparing teacher work hours to the entire workforce, as opposed to the college-educated workforce.

But let's look at your numbers some more:
We acquire a national estimate of hours worked by those in the civilian workforce from the National Compensation Survey, which is administered and reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.[5] The NCS reports the number of hours an employee is scheduled to work, exclusive of overtime. According to the NCS, the average civilian employee in the United States worked 2,014 hours in 2008 at an average of 36.9 hours a week. We utilize three different estimates of the number of hours worked by public school teachers in New Jersey. We derive our first, and preferred, estimate from the NCS, which reports that public school elementary teachers were scheduled to work an average of 1,401 hours in 2008. The hours worked translates to an average of 36.9 hours a week for thirty-eight weeks, which is consistent with a 191 school day calendar.
OK, I see how he got 38 weeks for teachers: 1401/36.9 = 37.97. So 2014/36.9 must equal 48-50 weeks (not a lot of college educated folks work 52 weeks a year). Plug it into Excel...

2014/36.9 = 54.58.

I'd like to congratulate Mr. Winters in creating a time-warp where the year is now 54 and 1/2 weeks long. Perhaps he should move into the field of theoretical physics.

I don't know why I should have kept reading after that glaring error, but I did. He bases another estimate of teacher hours on contract negotiations in Newark - yes, just the one district. Dude, sample size? And the argument that a contract number is a good estimate of actual hours worked is beyond stupid. Both sides negotiate hours as part of a total compensation package, and use it as a tool to get concessions on other parts of a contract - of course it doesn't reflect actual hours worked.

Common sense tells us that hours worked is a very poor metric for comparing the actual time put into a job when looking at PROFESSIONAL careers. Which is why, in the tables Winters cites, the footnotes clearly say:
Mean annual hours are the hours an employee is scheduled to work in
a year, exclusive of overtime. [emphasis mine]
What you are scheduled to work is not what you actually work, see? Which is why pilots in this survey are only listed to work 1240 hours a year, and post-secondary teachers (professors) are only listed to work 1621 hours a year. But they both work a lot more.

I'm a music teacher. I'm expected to do concerts, to practice my instrument, to study scores, to arrange music, etc. None of that work is part of my "schedule," but I am expected to do it - like any other professional.

I'll make this easy: teachers work a ten-month contract. 5/6 of the year. Not really that hard to figure out.

One last thing that never, ever gets mentioned - the 10-months a year thing works both ways. If you want to be a teacher, you can't work 12 months a year, even though many, many teachers would like to. You actually make a sacrifice in only being able to work 10-months when you become a teacher.

Bruce Baker posts some real research on this topic at his Twitter page; "Pitchfork" Bob, I highly recommend it. I'll leave it to experts like Bruce to determine if the other parts of Winter's methodology are sound.

Oh, and again - get someone to show you how to create a link on your blog. It's embarrassing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a critique of an earlier similar study:


The report relies on hourly earnings data in an attempt to provide an apples-to-apples comparison of pay for a standard unit of work. Unfortunately, this approach is fundamentally flawed because the NCS calculation of weeks and hours worked is very different for teachers and other professionals. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics — which publishes the NCS — has explicitly warned its users not to use hourly rates of pay in this exact same context. It is unclear why the authors of this report have apparently have chosen to ignore that warning, but what remains is a measure of compensation that is of very little use in informing policy discussions of teacher pay.