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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charter Schools=Low Teacher Pay

Some of you may be wondering why, as a teacher, I spend so much time questioning the orthodoxy surrounding charters schools. Part of it is that I really can't stand the mendacity surrounding so much of the hype around charters. Part of it is that charter-mania feeds into a notion that everything is just fine for poor kids with the exception of their greedy, disinterested teachers.

But, I must confess, part of it is that charters often seem to be a clear threat to teacher pay, benefits, and workplace protections. Take our friend Amir Khan and his Regis Academy Charter School. Khan, for example, is very scared of the Tenured Boogeyman:
Also, he said there will be no tenure for teachers and that he believes in merit pay.
“They do bad [sic] we let them go,” Khan said.
Well, it's going to be kind of difficult to get around tenure, as it's a part of state law. Maybe the founder of a "public" school should know such things. Like he should know that merit pay has never worked in schools and even the business world is starting to back away from it.

But what about salaries? Surely charter schools are looking to retain the best talent with good pay, yes?

Here's the Regis Academy application for a charter. Budgeted teacher salaries are on page 2-118. The cost? $50,000 for each teacher.

Now, in the world of reforminess, I'm sure many people would go on and on about how awesome that salary is, and teachers get (unpaid) summers off, and super-duper health care, and just be grateful you have a job, and blah, blah, blah...

But here are a few facts:

- The median salary for a NJ teacher in 2008-09 was $57,467.

- Regis Academy will serve students from Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Lawnside, and Somerdale. Median salaries and median years of experience in these districts are:
  • Cherry Hill: $56,044, 8 yrs.
  • Lawnside: $59,000, 18 yrs.
  • Somerdale: $52,924, 11 yrs.
  • Voorhees: $81,175, 17 yrs.
- The average salary for a NJ teacher in 2008-09 was $63,154.

We can't quite compare median salaries between Regis's future teachers and the sending districts' teachers, because we don't know how Regis will decide to distribute their payroll. But it's certainly worth noting that the average salary will be over $13,000 less at Regis than the salary for the rest of the state. And two of Regis's sending districts have higher median salaries than the rest of the state.

I think we have more than enough evidence to reasonably suspect that Regis is not going to pay its teachers well in comparison to its sending public districts. Does anyone think Regis will be attracting an experienced faculty with this kind of inducement? Or is it more likely we'll see a young, constantly churning staff?

That may keep the Tenured Boogeyman at bay, but is it best for the students?

Yarrgh! My tenury teeth will eat your school! But charters give me cavities!


Deb said...

One interesting stat to look at is teacher mobility in charter schools in Nj. In the charter schools for which I have been able to access that data so far, the mobility is significantly higher than the state average.

Here is an example for Leap Academy in Camden from 2007:

Percent of faculty who entered or left the school during the school year: 27.7%
State average from 1610 schools:

Read more: http://www.city-data.com/school/leap-academy-university-charter-school-nj.html#ixzz1liInpQ7y

I do not know all the reasons behind that high percentage, but it certainly is worth looking into.

Anonymous said...

Jazz, you jump sll over the place between median and average, they are different.

And if Regis can get teachers at 15 or 20 percent less than the "market" (sarcasm) , then good for them. Maybe some teachers prefer their working environment. And, sneer if you will, but 50k plus summers off to earn plus obscene benefits and pension is a deal many would take gladly in this economy.