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

Friday, April 8, 2011

Christie's Lying Education Statistics - Part II

I'm going to be at this a while, but it needs to be done. Here's the next deceptive use of statistics from Christie's education "reform" plan (pdf):

New Jersey Paid The 4th Highest Teacher Salaries In The Nation For ’08-’09, 17% Higher Than The National Average. 
The average full-time teacher salary in New Jersey was $63,051 for 2008-2009. 
The National Estimated Average Teachers Salary was $53,910 for 2008-2009. 
That would sound terrible, if it weren't for the fact that New Jersey has the 2nd Highest Household Income in the nation.

  • The median household income in NJ was $68,324 for 2009.
  • The national median household income was $50, 221 for 2009.
See, New Jersey is an expensive place to live, and has higher wages because of it. Duh.

In fact, let's use this same source to apply the Cost of Living Index for New Jersey, which is 128.47; that means it's roughly 28% more expensive to live in New Jersey than the national average. Apply to the data Christie's report uses:
  • The adjusted average full-time teacher salary in New Jersey was $49,078 ($63,051/1.2847) for 2008-2009. 
  • The National Estimated Average Teachers Salary was $53,910 for 2008-2009.
In other words: using this source, NJ teachers are paid significantly LESS than the national average when adjusting for regional differences.

Caveat lector: I'm an amateur, and I'm using Wikipedia. But I've got plenty of other solid research to back me up. Bruce Baker compared NJ teachers' salaries in the greater NYC are to those of teachers right across the border in NY: in general, NJ teachers make less than NY teachers. Bruce summarizes other data about NJ teacher salaries here:
Teacher Salaries
c) Teacher salaries have actually declined with respect to non-teacher wages over time in NJ, even when comparing wages for the same number of hours and weeks worked, and at same degree level and age.
d) Despite a mythology that all non-teachers work every day of every week of the year and that teachers work about half the year, non-teachers actually report working about 48 weeks per year compared to teachers 42 weeks. Teachers worked about 87% of the weeks worked by other non-teacher workers in NJ.
e) Comparing different data sources (something I prefer not to do), teachers at specific experience and degree levels appear to earn an annual wage about 67% of that of their non-teaching peers – annually. Okay, but they don’t work as many weeks. So, they earned 67% of the wage for working 87% of the time. Still a significant disparity.
f) Teachers’ annual income return to experience (or age)  is well less than that of non-teachers over much of their careers. Assuming teachers and non-teachers start at a similar wage at age 23 with a masters degree (around $50k), by age 40, the average non-teacher will be earning over $100k, while the average teacher will be approaching $80k.
There's little doubt that Christie is once again cherry-picking data to make his case. He's counting on the statistical ignorance of the press and punditocracy to distort the real facts about teacher compensation.

And there's a very good chance he'll get away with it...

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