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

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Teacher Salaries Rising? Not!

John Mooney is the best education reporter in Jersey, and NJ Spotlight is the best education news source in the state. But every now and then...
Nonetheless, the financial statistics certainly reflected the tough times that schools faced in 2010-2011, still reeling from the administration and Legislature’s deep cuts in state aid the year before.
Total cost per pupil for K-12 districts dropped to $17,469, from $17,885 the year before. In turn, the ratio of students to faculty rose, especially with administrators where there were close to 190 students for each supervisor.
Still salaries didn’t appear to much slow, with the average teacher salary rising slightly to $63,800, with 10 years experience, and $119,500 for administrators, with 19 years.
There are a few of problems with this:

#1: Go back two years to the massacre of 2010 - in many ways, that was the impetus for me to start this blog. Who got cut? The younger, less-well-paid teacher. This is, of course, the reformy whine: the older, burned-out, and expensive teachers were keeping their jobs while the younger, enthusiastic, and cheap teachers were losing theirs. There's no proof that older teachers suck compared to younger ones, and plenty of proof that experience matters, but whatever...

The NJ school report card confirms this trend: the average NJ teacher in 2008-09 had 9 years experience; in 2010-11, they had 10 years. What's happened is a partial hiring freeze across the state, where retiring teachers are not all being replaced.

If that's true, then the average teacher salary is naturally going to increase. But that doesn't mean the typical (not "average," trolls - "typical") teacher is going to see an increase in her salary; it just means the more expensive teachers are staying, and the cheaper ones are getting cut.

#2: Teacher contracts in Jersey renew every three years. Chris Christie called for a teacher pay freeze - sorry, a CUT - right after he was elected in the beginning of 2010. There's no doubt that Christie's jihad changed the negotiations climate, and teacher contracts in NJ took a severe hit. But there's a lag, because many contracts negotiated before the Christie War On Teachers hadn't yet been renegotiated in 2010-11.

Theres little doubt that, once all the contracts have been renegotiated, we will see a total decline in the growth of teacher contracts. And that doesn't even take into account...

#3: What teachers will now pay for their benefits. Under the Pen-Ben law, teachers are paying an additional 1% of their pay toward their pensions (which have been gutted), and that goes up another percentage point over the next seven years. And they will have to pay up to 35% of their health care premiums, with no cost containment: that premium can soar and employees can do nothing about it.

The practical upshot is that even if a New Jersey teacher gets a substantial increase in wages, the Pen-Ben law insures their take-home pay decreases.

So let's not try to convince ourselves teacher salaries "didn't appear to slow much." Appearances, in this case, are quite deceiving.

1 comment:

Deb said...

It did not convince me, but thanks for articulating it so well - as usual!