Math Mea Culpa
An apology may be in order for my having not been fast enough on my feet as I’ve attempted to keep track of Tiverton teacher union negotiations amidst all of the other things on my schedule. I should have caught the accounting trick in this, but the reporter’s and the union’s presentation left me merely confused:
Teachers changed their proposal from a three-year contract to a two-year contract, but deMedeiros said the percentage salary increases did not differ much from a previous proposal. Instead of asking for 3.75 percent each year for three years, the latest proposal was for a total of 8 percent over two years. …
A second offer made by the union at the end of the night was for 3.5 percent salary increases in year one, 3.75 in year two, and annual health benefit co-shares of $1,150 in year one and $1,300 in year two, Crowley said.
The Providence Journal clarified some today:
The financial impact of the two union proposals made on Tuesday appears to be in the eye of the beholder.
The one with 2 percent raises every six months would have resulted a cumulative hike of 8.25 percent in teachers’ base pay at the end of the second year.
The subsequent union offer raised the base pay by a cumulative 7.25 percent, or 1 percent less.
But because of the way the 2-percent raises were timed in the first offer, the cumulative 7.25-percent increase proposed in the second proposal would have cost the town more.
And here’s how the NEA’s Patrick Crowley attempted to deceive Anchor Rising readers into buying his spin:
Their proposal would cost you, as a Tiverton Taxpayer, more money. You should be outraged. Also, even using their math, what is more… 8 or 7.25? Obviously, it is 8. Unless you are a Tiverton School Committee member, and then 7.25 is more than 8.
Crowley’s assessment is correct, I suppose, if one is mainly concerned with the rate at which teachers will find themselves when they negotiate their next contract in two years. But from the point of view of the school committee — and the taxpayers who elected them — the second proposal would indeed cost more. If (on top of step increases, remember) teachers get two percent raises every six months, that is equivalent to a little over three percent more money for the year.* Therefore, putting the first proposal in the terms that Crowley uses for the second proposal, the comparison is actually between 6% and 7.25%.
I guess we can take comfort in the knowledge that any teachers seeking examples while explaining to their students how numbers can be used for deceptive (dishonest) purposes need look no farther than their own union. Me, I’m still shaking my head that teachers want this to be their representation to the public.
* It’s “a little over” because the second two percent would be based on the first two percent raise: Starting from $100 per year, the first raise would bring the six-month pay amount to $51, and the second raise would yield $52.02, for a full year salary of $103.02, or 3.02% more.