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, September 19, 2013

The Shafting Of the American Teacher

Well, isn't this just lovely:

New Jersey teachers are returning to their classrooms this month with smaller pay increases than in previous years.
The state schools boards association said the average pay increase in settled contracts as of this past spring was about 2.25 percent for the 2013-14 school year. That’s down from 2.37 percent last year and half of the average pay hike of almost 4.5 percent five years ago, according to the association. [emphasis mine]
Ah, the good old days of 4.5% pay raises... when everyone else was getting more than that! The truth is that teacher pay in New Jersey has historically never kept pace with the rest of the workforce:

Look at that: less than 80% of the hourly wage of all statewide workers, down from about 93% back in 1990, before the jihad against educators began. The truth is that teachers have never enjoyed "big" raises:
Meanwhile, a look at data from several decades shows that while average teacher pay is higher than the average of all workers salaries -- everyone from landscapers to surgeons, for example -- it grew at a slower rate than all workers' pay grew.
Teachers average pay rose nearly 150 percent between 1985 and 2008.
The average wage for all workers in the state in 1985 was $21,107, according to state Department of Labor and Workforce Development data. The average pay for all workers in 2008, the last year currently available, was $55,282, an increase of 162 percent.
Overall, the rate of inflation over that same time period was 122 percent for an area including New York, Northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 
And Jersey, believe it or not, is one of the better states for teacher pay (of course, it's also one of the more expensive states in which to live). In North Carolina, the average teacher makes $45,933. If a that teacher tried to raise a family of five on that salary, they'd qualify for reduced price school lunches.

I should also point out that New Jersey teachers are paying more into their pensions and health insurance. This is Year 3 of the Pen-Ben law, and teacher contributions to health insurance at the same salary level are 50% higher this year than last. Pension contributions went up as well (and there's no plan in sight for how the state will meet the $5 billion pension obligation it will have in a few short years). So take home pay for New Jersey's teachers is actually decreasing, even when you add in the meager raises we are now getting.

Again: it's like this all over the country:
At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible.
The response to all this from the reformy right has been to point to merit pay. "Just pay the great teachers more!" they shout, neglecting to think the idea through: if every child deserves a great teacher, won't we have to pay every teacher more?

Given the meager merit pay raises in Washington and Newark, there's no reason to believe these schemes will lead to broad wage increases for teachers. Which means that teaching is increasingly becoming a dead-end, low-paid job with eroding benefits, little prestige, and capricious evaluation systems.

I, like millions of other educators across the country, love to teach. But I, like millions of other educators across the country, love my family even more.

Are we really going to ask teachers to choose between their careers and their families' financial well-being?


Albert Vargas said...

the answer is not more money but rather empowerment and innovation

ms-teacher said...

I would love to see an analysis on the pay superintendents receive and other district level administrators.