Rhode Island’s Elite, Redux

In the pre–Anchor Rising days of August 2004, I put together a few graphs to add to Marc Comtois’s investigation into RI teacher salaries. The symbolically salient finding of one of my pie charts was that the average Rhode Island teacher could afford to pay another family’s housing costs, including mortgage, and still have the average Rhode Island worker’s remaining income after taxes and housing. Keep that in mind while reading a recent Providence Journal editorial:

Rhode Island devotes a greater share of its per-pupil expenditures to teacher compensation than do any of the 49 other states and the District of Columbia.
That’s right: Rhode Island ranks first — or last, depending on one’s point of view. The Ocean State apportioned 64.2 percent on teacher compensation, compared with New York’s 64 percent, Maine’s 60.4 percent, Utah’s 59.5 percent, and Georgia’s 59.4 percent. The average was about 55 percent.
Such an imbalance in teacher compensation might make sense if Rhode Island had all the money in the world, or if its public schools were among America’s top-performing. But neither is true.

At some point, the balance of self-interest will shift. After all, the state can only afford to drive out so many young families before the lack of clients (e.g., students) and taxpayers begins to affect its elite classes. (And won’t it be a gory mess when they begin to eat each other…)

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19 years ago

Saying that that figure is horrific, is an understatement.
The next logical question is, are teachers being over paid or is the state underfunded?
Example, if the state of RI gives a 100 dollars to fund education per capita, whereas most states give 150 then this figure is due to an inequity in state funding that is trying to keep teacher salaries on par with other states.
But if per capita, RI is on par with other states….this figure is bad….very, very bad.

Justin Katz
19 years ago

I don’t know about per capita, Don, but we’re seventh in the nation for per-pupil spending (PDF). Additionally, an unusually high percentage of that funding derives from the property tax.

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