Lopping Off the Competition Camel’s Nose

Suppose you had a variety of tasks, none of them highly specialized, for which you wished to hire workers. Of the several people whom you interview, one declares that he can do everything himself, provided you sign a contract to that effect. Now, do you expect him to offer an hourly rate that is:

  1. Substantially less than,
  2. About the same as,
  3. Roughly double the market rate for each job individually?

I ask, because it looks as though, in its relationship with the local educational support personnel segment of the NEA, the Little Compton School Committee may have chosen C:

The two [non-union] summer painters, Stephanie Chapman, 21, of Warren, and Corey Leite, 18, of Tiverton started work July 2 and have since been painting parts of the school building, outside and inside. They are being paid $7.40 per hour for 30 hours weekly, working from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for seven weeks of work until August 18, for a combined total of $3,108.
The union has asked the labor board to order that the school cease and desist its employment of Ms. Chapman and Mr. Leite, and instead post and fill the positions with bargaining unit employees at the union pay scale rate of pay, $14.73 to $15.58 per hour (reported figures differ), which for the seven weeks would amount to between $6,186 and $6,543.
Jane Argentieri, who filed the complaint, is assistant executive director of the National Educational Association Rhode Island/National Education Association (NEARI/NEA), the parent organization for Little Compton Local #862 that represents the approximately 20 educational support personnel in the local school bargaining unit.
Ms. Argentieri said the two positions should have been posted first to members of the union, who would be hired on the basis of their seniority if any of them wanted the work. The work belongs to the union. Only if no one “inside” wanted the work could the positions go to “outsiders.”

Inside, outside… “the work belongs to the union.” With an eye toward charity, the union may conceivably be imparting a tough-love lesson to Stephanie, who just received a degree in psychology from Roger Williams, and Corey, who just acquired a trade school GED: Get out of the state now if you want to have a future. Don’t take a quiet summer of symbolic school painting to figure out what steps to take at this critical juncture in your life. Leave. All the work is owned ’round here.
The message for the school committee is more of a warning. According to the fantastically named Sakonnet Times reporter Tom Killin Dalglish, the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement with the union says nothing at all about painters or painting. And although it does spell out a “grievance procedure” to resolve alleged violations of the contract, “for reasons not explained the grievance procedure was not utilized in this case.” Surely the committee is capable of doing the math necessary to understand the “reasons” — and the message:

  • $6,186–6,543 to hire two workers who will keep the union happy, or
  • $3,108 to hire two young Rhode Islanders trying to get a jump on their adult lives, plus the services of the school’s $135-an-hour lawyer

We own the work. How far yous want to take this?
From the Rhode Island taxpayer’s point of view, the mystery is what benefit this sort of extortionary relationship provides to the school. Ours is not, however, a point of view that is commonly considered in these matters, and one gets the sense that politicians and administrators sold that soul long ago. The question that ought to concern union officials — before they go rendering our college-aged sons and daughters unemployed for the summer — is whether there’s a threshold at which we’ll come to claim the soulless body.

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Frank
Frank
14 years ago

The sooner we get rid of the teacher unions the better. The don’t care about the kids or the community. In a somewhat similiar example, Coventry lost middle school sports last year (in the second half of the year sports were restored thanks to private donations) due to a lack of funding (or overspending on adult entitlements, depends on how you choose to look at it). The money that was lacking was needed to pay for coaches salaries. At one point the some of the coaches, who are teachers themselves, came forward to offer their services for free rather than see sports lost for the year. This was put to rest when the union stepped in and declared that those coaching positions were contracted union jobs and they were not giving them up. So rather than see a $2,000 to $3,000 union job go unpaid, even voluntarily, in the midst of financial crises, Coventry lost middle school sports. At least the teacher unions are consistent with where their misplaced priorities.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

The teachers unions could be banished from this State merely by repealing the statute that permits them to be here.
You see, they don’t have a Constitutional right to darken this State, they have permission from the General Assembly to be here. Permission that could be withdrawn at any time.
Think of it,if we banished the teachers unions we’d get: schools mission-focused on education rather than “what’s in the contract”; teachers hired and promoted based on merit and performance rather than seniority; no union / contractual protection of slackers and incompetents; teaching being restored to an honorable profession rather than a sanctuary for union hacks, etc. etc. etc. – and, thus, much higher quality public schools than we have now, and so a much brighter future for the children of Rhode Island.
That the Democrat General Assembly won’t rescind that permission demonstrates how much they really “care about the children.”
Follow the money – the only thing the Democrats care about is teachers union political support in the form of “campaign volunteers” and union dues recycled into campaign contributions … the children be be damned.

Bobby Oliveira
Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear Tom W,
American workers have a right to organize.
Don Carcieri has been trying to take away that right since he has been in office.
Since elections are the only true reflection of what the public thinks and the RIGOP holds less seats now then when they started using this message, what do you think would happen if they tried to overturn that statute??
I love union haters, bigots, you did suggest that arabs sleep with sheep, and out and out racists reveal themselves to be what they are.
Every study that’s ever been done shows states that have unions perform higher than states that don’t. The same is true for safety and highway projects.
Lastly, you have obviously never worked on a Democratic campaign. Therefore, you have no idea how much teachers’ money shows up, it’s a lot less than you think, and how many volunteers you get, campaign managers across the state are laughing as they read this.

Pat Crowley
Pat Crowley
14 years ago

Permission? Permission! That is why we have Unions. To protect us from people like you. People that want to keep us “in our place.”
Why don’t we repeal the anti-slavery amendments too! You guys would have supported the confederates on “State’s Rights” grounds, wouldn’t you’ve…
Tom W… have you figured out how to add yet? Or were the pension changes still just “tinkering around the edges.”

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Anti-slavery amendments, Pat? Sounds like you ought to get somebody from the union to put the pins back in your hinges.
Help me out here: who is “us” and who is “people like you”? I guess if “us” means union workers with early-retirement pensions who demand to make twice what a painting job is worth on the market, and if “people like you” means folks who are struggling to support their families in a collapsing state and young adults who need a few bucks to get through their first post-school summer, then you’re right: you do need unions in order to continue to strangle the state and put less fortunate workers completely out of work for the sake of your own overtime.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“Why don’t we repeal the anti-slavery amendments too”
lol
We have slaves in this state – they’re called taxpayers.
Pat, if you needed your house painted, would you go with the highest bid? So why should we have to?

BAM
BAM
14 years ago

Justin: Are you implying that the market rate for painters (non-union? union?) is $7.40 per hour? I would suggest to you that this young woman and young man are, in fact, being cheated by the Little Compton School Committee. As to who “owns” the job, that’s a legal question that neither you nor I have enough knowledge to address. I’m not a lawyer, and neither are you.
As an aside, I have known many teachers over the years, and all of them have been dedicated and devoted men and women. They surely earn every penny of their salary; I work in financial management in Boston (live in RI) and my earnings are substantially more than what teachers make. Teachers have a difficult job any way you look at it, whether they’re in Barrington teaching precious self-entitled little assholes (where I live) or inner-city mindless nitwits.
Just something to think about!

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>Permission? Permission! That is why we have Unions. To protect us from people like you. People that want to keep us “in our place.” Gee, funny how professionals such as engineers, doctors and lawyers seem to do OK without a union. Talented and dedicated individuals – including educators – don’t need a union, in fact they are harmed by them, for they’re forced to subsidize the unmotivated and/or incompetent. As to the latter, they need unions to keep them from being “put in their place” – i.e., fired and/or relocated into an occupation more consistent with their abilities and ambition levels. Labor unions have a place in the private sector, but not the public sector. >>Tom W… have you figured out how to add yet? Or were the pension changes still just “tinkering around the edges.” The changes were very much tinkering around the edges. Not only do I know how to add, I am aware of market realities. The reality is that the pensions should be frozen – whatever an individual has vested so far, let them keep, along with the associated pension benefit. But there should be no further vesting, and government employees should be in a 401(k) – with a match commensurate with those offered in the private sector. Welcome to the real world. >>As an aside, I have known many teachers over the years, and all of them have been dedicated and devoted men and women. They surely earn every penny of their salary; I work in financial management in Boston … Without a doubt there are good teachers out there, who persevere in spite of the unions’ protection of their underperforming peers (it is criminal that a great teacher with less seniority is paid less than slackers with more seniority). But as a financial professional… Read more »

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>Every study that’s ever been done shows states that have unions perform higher than states that don’t. The same is true for safety and highway projects.
Yeah, that’s why the economies of the highly unionized Northeast and upper Midwest are growing so much faster than the right-to-work Sunbelt states … NOT!
>>Lastly, you have obviously never worked on a Democratic campaign. Therefore, you have no idea how much teachers’ money shows up, it’s a lot less than you think, and how many volunteers you get, campaign managers across the state are laughing as they read this.
What’s the single largest contingent among delegates at Democrat Party national conventions?
Teacher union members and bosses.
Gee, I wonder if Bob Walsh or Larry Purtill or Marcia Reback have ever been delegates?

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

I think Tom W makes some very sensible points here. Still, I want to speak up for the teachers. >Gee, funny how professionals such as engineers, doctors and lawyers seem to do OK without a union. The AMA and the ABA do a pretty good job of constructing legal rules that create and protect very high incomes for doctors and lawyers. Did you see the article in the NYT today about how physician salaries are structured? (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/weekinreview/29berenson.html) >for they’re forced to subsidize the unmotivated and/or incompetent. I agree. I’ve seen it in my own workplace. But please be careful. Give unregulated authority over hiring and firing of teachers to principals and school boards and you’ll find your kids being taught by someone whose only qualification is that he/she is the principal’s son-in-law. (Yes, I believe in performance-based hiring, firing and evaluation, but it’s very hard to measure that in education). >government employees should be in a 401(k) – with a match commensurate with those offered in the private sector. OK, but a “lowest common denominator” approach will drain the profession of its best and brightest. Be sure you match teachers to *professionals* in the private sector, not the “average worker”. >(it is criminal that a great teacher with less seniority is paid less than slackers with more seniority). Agreed, but, again, measuring performance in a classroom is very, very hard. And don’t forget that the private sector old-boy network frequently protects incompetence at very high levels. >Now, also factor in their short workdays – and within those how many are actually spent in the classroom. It is a part-time job. Here, I have to disagree. In Providence, a teacher is at school from 8 to 3, with 1/2 hour lunch and 1 hour prep time. A *good* teacher will spend… Read more »

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

Bobby says:Every study that’s ever been done shows states that have unions perform higher than states that don’t. The same is true for safety and highway projects.
Tom W says: Yeah, that’s why the economies of the highly unionized Northeast and upper Midwest are growing so much faster than the right-to-work Sunbelt states … NOT!
Gentlemen- I hope you’ll both provide some evidence to support your claims. I hope to learn.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

Great posts, Tom W. It IS criminal that bad and mediocre teachers are compensated at the same high level as good teachers. But that is the main accomplishment of teacher unions. That and its corollary – putting the teaching of children a distant second behind the financial well being of those mediocre and bad teachers.

Frank
Frank
14 years ago

Thomas,
Teacher pay varies about 10% from the highest to lowest paid districts in RI. In Coventry, one of the higher paid districts, AVERAGE yearly salary is $75,000, combine that with an overly generous package and figure in the time they spend in school and it works out to be at least $80 per hour, probably more. I am a reasonable person, but I feel that this level of compensation is unnecessary and excessive.
Also your best and brightest theory sounds nice but is flawed. Because districts are typically strapped financially, when they have to hire a teacher it is necessary to hire a step one teacher, someone who hasn’t taught yet, someone unproven, because they count on that savings (the difference in pay between a step one teacher and the top step teacher they are replacing) to balance their budgets. Combine the need to hire unproven teachers with the ease of tenure and it’s doubtful we are getting the best and brightest. At best we are hopefully weeding those that are truly unfit for the profession.
There are plenty of teachers out there who claim to be “un-hireable” because they are a step 5-10 teacher, left teaching to start a family, and upon returning cannot find work in the public school system because they have to be hired at the step they previously achieved. Another example of teacher unions hurting their own, “the best and brightest” doesn’t figure in.

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

Hi Frank,
It sounds like Coventry is an outlier. RIPEC’s latest report has the statewide average at $54, 730. I also believe this is a mean, not a median, and the latter is probably lower. Further, if you index the salaries to control for the fact that RI’s cost of living is higher, the indexed salary comes to about $42.4K, putting us at rank 37 in the nation.
I agree that contract-based rules may harm teacher quality. I know it happens in Providence. I would support changes in the contract, but lowering salaries is not one of them.
I hear that “teachers should not be treated better than private-sector employees” a lot. This argument only works for me if A) private-sector employees are being treated decently and B) the comparison to the private sector is being made at an appropriate level.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

Thomas: You raise some excellent points – many of which I agree with. I’ll respond to your major points in a general sense simply because these posts are getting rather lengthy. ABA and AMA have their influence, but not to the degree you suppose. In medical, so much now is determined by insurance and Medicare / Medicaid reimbursement rates that the days of easy money for doctors is over. As for law, nationally and particularly here in RI there is such a glut of lawyers that while respectable, the days of easy money are over (the ProJo had an article about this a few years ago). As for school board / principal control of hiring firing, and the issues of nepotism, favoritism, etc. those are real issues, particularly with the dysfunctional civic culture here in RI. While we’ll never get a perfect system, “merit / performance” pay for administrators would help – they can hire their incompetent relatives if they want, but they’ll pay a price for it. Public reporting of performance in comparison to state, national and international metrics, along with vouchers, would go a long way in addressing this as well (to use an analogy, look at what the information provided by Consumer Reports has done to the “Big Three” automakers vs. Toyota and Honda). I don’t question that there are teachers who go above and beyond – but this of their own laudable character, and they do this in spite of the fact that the contract doesn’t require it. And when it’s done well, it is not easy work by any means. I believe that teaching CAN be a noble PROFESSION – but that the union model (and mindset) prevents this. Tenure and seniority are inherently incompatible with high performance. Ideally teachers should be held in regard… Read more »

WJF
WJF
14 years ago

Thomas, Asking good questions – nice to see someone open to info. The RIPEC data is for salaries – not the complete picture. We must include yearly bonuses for longevity ($700-$1100), continuing education achievements ($2160-$4240), leadership stipends ($2500-$7109), in-service facilitator pay ($5700), mentor stipends ($900), extra-curricular activity stipends ($1300), instructional duty stipends ($3063), athletic stipends ($2750), extra class teacher load pay ($10,959),and extra work day pay ($3300). The education partnership reviewed this material for the Westerly and Chariho schools and has the info available. Obviously, not everyone gets every bonus, but it does add up. Then you need to include the value of having 2.5 months off, 15-20 sick days, gold plated healthcare and pensions, etc, etc, etc,,, Speaking of raises – don’t be mislead when you read that your school only gave a 3% raise to the teachers. This DOES NOT INCLUDE the step increases. HALF OF OUR TEACHERS GET RAISES (including steps) IN THE RANGE OF 6% – 20% PER YEAR – THE AVERAGE IS 10.7%! Is there any other profession (which does not base pay on performance), with these kinds of increases? You also said – “Give unregulated authority over hiring and firing of teachers to principals and school boards and you’ll find your kids being taught by someone whose only qualification is that he/she is the principal’s son-in-law.” Do you think we have “regulated authority” now? At our school, the chairman of the board has a wife and son employed at the school (and we have him on tape asking the Dir. of Admin to get his son the job). But the unions strongly support him and he continues to rule the roost. How many similar examples could we find across the state? You also said – “(Yes, I believe in performance-based hiring, firing and evaluation,… Read more »

WJF
WJF
14 years ago

ps.
We had a teacher who missed 80 of 185 days one year. It took us almost 3 years to fire her and we will probably still have to fight the union in court.
AND she got her yearly raises during this time!
How can we afford to pay for the best and brightest when we continue to pay the worst teachers the same rate?

Frank
Frank
14 years ago

Thomas,
Coventry is not outlier!
The source for the data that RIPEC used was the none other than the NEA itself. They have used the midpoint between the first and tenth step of the salary scale as their “average” and it is grossly inaccurate. I’m surprised that RIPEC used this data, though it’s probably the only source for something like this, the figures are way off. These figures are inaccurate because at any particular time roughly half of any districts teachers are at step ten or above, while the other half are somewhere between step one and ten (rather than having an equal number of teachers at each step – in which case the RIPEC figures would be much closer to the truth). Also none of the reasons for extra teacher pay were taken into account, such as longevity, advanced degrees and college credits, certifications, and extra pay for curriculum coordinators, teacher facilitators, teacher mentors, team leaders, program coordinators, etc. The “average” teacher salary you have referred to can be nearly 40% lower than the actual average salary. If you don’t believe me ask your superintendent for a complete list of the teacher salaries (expect a few months of foot dragging) for your district and make sure you include all that “extra pay”. You are very likely to be amazed.
I agree wholeheartedly with Tom W, the teacher union’s policy of rewarding mediocrity over performance is the biggest impediment to improving education, and is reason enough to do away with the teacher unions, for the sake of our children.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

Frank is right about the add-ons. Just read ANY RI teacher contract – it’s like a compensation a la carte menu.
The best way to determine it is to take the total of the GROSS PAY of teachers as reported to the IRS, then divide by the number of teachers.
This will render accurate average salary data.
THEN factor in the value of benefits: working-years and retirement health care; pensions; etc.

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

Frank,
I’ve just looked at the NEA report from which RIPEC drew it’s figures. The report glossary says, “average salary figure is “The arithmetic mean of the salaries of the group described. That figure is the average gross salary before deductions for Social Security, retirement, health insurance, and so on.” i don’t mean to contradict you, but that doesn’t sound like the scale midpoint you describe. Then I went further and emailed the NEA to ask about this, and a staffer got right back to me. He says that the figure actually is a weighted average of actually salaries, not including “extra pay for extra duty”. (I’ll post his exact response if you like). So, Can you cite a source for why you say they didn’t really use a mean?
As for the “add-on” pay for extra work, I don’t see the problem with it. Teachers have long coached sports and taught summer school for extra pay. I can’t see why taking on leadership and other roles (coaching science olympiad, etc) should not be compensated. Of course, they had better be real, and not “make-work”. I’d rather see college credits earned go into the base pay than one-time bonuses though, and I think “longevity bonuses” are terrible…save the money to reward teachers who do extra to earn it.
Perhaps you are right and I will be amazed to find out how much this adds to salaries, Frank. I’m always ready to learn something new. But rather than me waiting months to get this data from Providence, perhaps you’ll share the data from Coventry?

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

I apologize for this, but I do want to add a PS:
What Tom W says about our teacher training and certification requirements can not be emphasized enough. I have been lucky in that the vast majority of my child’s public school teachers have been excellent. But I have seen some shocking examples of incompetence, laziness, bad faith and bad manners. I agree that we should make it easier to get rid of them, and we should at least stop rewarding them for hanging around longer.
I wish we would do a lot more at the front-end, to prevent them from getting into a classroom in the first place. I do not think that making the profession less attractive for everyone else helps.

Bobby Oliveira
Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear Tom W,
As usual, we have to correct what the misinformation you put out. However, that’s ok. Knowing that your side will lose the next election, in RI it might not even be competitive at any level, makes it worthwhile:
Sunbelt state economies grow, acording to the same folks doing the same studying, due to lack of overall utility cost.
Teachers and union bosses do not make up the largest contingent at the convention. It’s mostly regular folks making less than $75k.
In RI, I can’t remember the last time Mr. Walsh, Mr. Purtill or Ms. Reback ran as delegates. They do not qualify for superdelegate status.

Bobby Oliveira
Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear SusanD,
It’s called the Davis-Bacon act. It was passed to protect communities who follow the rules from communities who don’t.
Thomas,
The Department of Transportation and Highway Safety keeps this data. It’s a lot to slug through. By the way, I don’t diagree with Tom W.’s point that those economies are growing faster. I disagree that the problem is unions.
I also don’t disagree with him on, oh my God – check the alignment of the planets, making original certification more stringent.
The problem with merit pay always comes back to the same old thing: Just what in the hell is performance and how do you measure it??
I honestly don’t think you can due to the impact of parental involvement or the lack there of.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>As usual, we have to correct what the misinformation you put out. However, that’s ok. Knowing that your side will lose the next election, in RI it might not even be competitive at any level, makes it worthwhile: Yeah, and my side also consistently loses in Louisiana and New Jersey, states also notorious for their political corruption. Thank, I’d rather be on the side of the angels, even if they lose – this way I don’t have to associate with – or be associated with – people like Celona, Irons, Fay, Bevilaqua, Moura, Smith, Montalbano, Bianchini …. >>Sunbelt state economies grow, acording to the same folks doing the same studying, due to lack of overall utility cost. Lower utility costs are one factor for higher economic growth in the Sunbelt. So are lower taxes (which are greatly impacted by much higher public sector unionization rates in the Northeast). And so is lower union density and right-to work laws in the Sunbelt states – it’s no accident that the foreign manufacturers have been locating their assembly plants in the Sunbelt rather than in and around Detroit (which has plenty of laid-off but experienced auto workers that would just love to work in the new plants). >>Teachers and union bosses do not make up the largest contingent at the convention. It’s mostly regular folks making less than $75k. The density of teacher union members at Democrat conventions (“Teacher union members will be the biggest single contingent of delegates to the Democratic Convention in Boston later in July, just as they were in 2000, when more than 350 NEA members and 152 AFT members were Democratic delegates.” – http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/chavez062304.asp BTW, Davis-Bacon is a law requiring the paying of “prevailing wage” on public works projects. “Prevailing wage” is a euphemism for union rates –… Read more »

Frank
Frank
14 years ago

Thomas,
Regardless of what the NEA told you the fact is that there is a gross discrepancy between what actual average teacher salaries are and what the NEA reports them to be. It shouldn’t surprise you or anyone else that a teacher union would publish salary data that is misleading and much lower than it actually is. The figure I see in the RIPEC reports is an average RI teacher salary in year 2004-05 of $53,473. In 2004-05 if you take the highest step one RI salary (Central Falls $40,485) and average it with the highest top step salary (Westerly’s 11th step, $67,139) you get $53,812 which is pretty darn close to the NEA figure. You can get all of the RI teacher salary data from the RI Association of School Commities (www.ri-asc.org). The Bottom line is that the NEA figures are 30-40% lower than actual, they are not even close.
I cannot give you the Coventry teacher salary data. It was posted briefly on a website that set out to highlight the absurdity of these salaries but unfortunately lasted for only a couple of days. However on the Coventry town website (www.town.coventry.ri.us), you can go to the proposed 2007-08 school budget, in the appendix, and see the Blackrock Elementary School teacher salaries for an example of what I am claiming.

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

Frank, Our question here is not whether teachers are being paid too much or too little, but only “what is the average RI teacher salary?” My approach with pretty much everyone is to assume good faith unless I’m shown evidence why I shouldn’t. If you reject NEA data just because NEA is in interested party, then why shouldn’t I reject Ed Partnership data on the same ground? I don’t think we get anywhere that way. Thus, if NEA says their data is an average, I think it is incumbent on you to show evidence, rather than simply assert, that it’s an unweighted midpoint. The simple fact that the midpoint between highest and lowest salaries is close to the NEA figure is not conclusive. In fact, in a normal (bell-shaped) curve, the average and the median will be exactly the same. (Also, if NEA was using the midpoint, woujldn’t they start with the *lowest* bottom step, rather than the highest bottom step?) As for the Blackhawk School, that is indeed an impressive set of salaries. However, it’s one small school, and I don’t have any reason to think that this school is representative of RI schools generally. The sample size is just too small to conclude anything. I’m not saying you’re wrong that the average RI salary is higher than the NEA says, just that I haven’t seen the evidence that you’re right. In the interest of making sure arguments are based on accurate data, I called the research associate at the NEA who emailed me yesterday. He confirmed that the salary data is meant to be a true average which takes into account the distribution of teachers across steps. He did say, however, that the RI figures are estimates, because RIDE does not cooperate fully with the NEA in data… Read more »

Frank
Frank
14 years ago

Thomas,
I do not think anything will convince you except the hard data itself, and there is nothing wrong with that. All I can do is encourage you to contact ANY school district in RI and ask the superintendent for the salary data. It is public info and you have a right to access it. You will have to take me at my word that I am familiar with the Coventry teacher’s salaries and that Blackrock Elementary is not out of line with the other schools. Keep in mind that the superintendent has been roundly criticized for mismanaging our schools financially, why in the world would he have ever made an example of a “high salaried” school in the budget?
I rejected the NEA data because it is wrong not because they are an interested party. Like you I want the truth, wherever it may lead.
Teaching staff are grouped quite disproportionately at the high end of the salary scale. And if you don’t believe this either, check with any school district. So you can throw your bell curve out the window along with your good faith that the NEA will give you honest answers. Generally speaking, the average pay listed by the NEA is very close to the median of the salary scale. Since there is nowhere near a proportional distribution of teachers across the salary scale and the NEA hasn’t included the myriad reasons for extra pay, which are part of teacher’s yearly salaries, their figures can’t possibly even be close to accurate. But then again I’m sure that was the intention.

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

Frank,
You’ve definitely have me pegged- I’m not going to take a position on an empirical question like this one without having reliable data to back it up. I appreciate your willingness to talk about this, but you haven’t given me any convincing reason (beyond one school and some innuendo) to think the RIPEC/NEA data are not reliable. Moreover, your position seems to me to be that the RIPEC/NEA data are wrong, you are right, and it’s my job to go out and do the research to show that you’re right. I don’t think that’s how it works.
I’m sure you are sincere in your feeling that the RIPEC/NEA data are not reliable, but unless you have better data yourself, I don’t think it amounts to anything more than your feeling.
I’ll take your suggestion about seeing if there are better sources of data. Until then, I’ll stick with the NEA data. If it was good enough for RIPEC- hardly a bastion of pro-union thinking- it’s good enough for me.
Didn’t I see Bob Walsh post here before? Frankly, he seems to be in a good position to settle this. After all, it’s an empirical question, not an ideological one. Calling Mr. Walsh!

Frank
Frank
14 years ago

Thomas,
Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems that despite your claim to not take a position without seeing the data, you have taken a position without seeing any data. Let me correct that, you have taken a position (siding with RIPEC/NEA) that conflicts with the only “hard data” you have seen.
As I have stated, I have seen data, plenty of it, which is how I knew you were way off when you claimed that average teacher salary was 50K. Why was the burden on me to prove to you that I’m correct? You’re the one who initially claimed to know what teachers got paid. Where is your proof that teacher salaries are only 50K?
There is only one source for any of this data, it lies with the individual school districts, there is no other way to get it. There is a reason why this information is hard to find, it’s because there are plenty of interested parties that never want the information to get out, and they have done a great job of achieving that end. And though you may see my reasoning as innuendo, I call it common sense. It’s one thing to be too lazy to get the data yourself but please don’t become a conduit of misleading information for the teacher unions.

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

Dear Frank,
It seems we are probably at the end of this particular road.
I DO have data that gives the average salary at about $53K. I got it from RIPEC, which is a well-regarded body. (http://www.ripec.org/matriarch/MultiPiecePage.asp_Q_PageID_E_157_A_PageName_E_HRISC2005).
That data may be wrong. Since I’m interested, as I assume you are, in getting the right answer, I have a completely open mind about that question, and am ready to be convinced by evidence presented. However, since you make the claim that RIPEC’s data are wrong, I do think it is your burden to provide the evidence for your claim. The data you offered from one smallish school in one town is suggestive, but it is much too small a sample to be sufficient to establish your point. If you don’t want to go further, that’s fine; but your suggestion that it is me who is “lazy” because I won’t do the work to prove your point for you is, I think, unreasonable.
Since RIPEC pretty clearly has no incentive to understate expenditures on teacher salaries, I wonder why they were willing to rely on the NEA data. But, if you are worried about people being a conduit for information you think is misleading, RIPEC should probably be of much greater concern to you than lil’ ol’ me.
Finally, in regard to the end of your last sentence, I have no interest in doing anything “for teacher unions” as such. I am actually working locally in my own small way to alter contract provisions that I think protect bad teachers, undermine incentives for good teachers, and are thus harmful to children. I do have a very strong interest in supporting good teachers, however, and am quite concerned to make sure that anti-union efforts do not harm them.

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