Massaging the Numbers on Teacher Compensation

Yesterday, I pointed to a report showing that Rhode Island teachers lead the nation in pay compared with neighbors in similar fields within the state. With a methodology that selects specific occupations that require a comparable amount of education to teaching, the study’s authors found that RI teachers exceed their peers by 12%. Not surprisingly, the NEA’s Pat Crowley prefers a different study, from the Economic Policy Institute, which is funded in part by labor unions:

… in order to be a teacher, a person needs, as a base level, a bachelors degree. So if we are to do a fair comparison, we should compare teacher pay to other college educated professionals. According to the Economic Policy Institute, teachers in Rhode Island earn 90.9% of their educated peers. This includes the so called “summers off” idea. Even though a bachelor’s degree will get you hired, in order to keep working or to advance, a teacher needs to earn a Master’s degree (not by law, mind you, yet, but by the nature of the job). In Rhode Island teachers with a Master’s degree fair somewhat better, earning 96.3% of what their peers earn. Said another way, teachers in Rhode Island face a 5-10% wage penalty for working in the profession.

Right off the bat, it should be observed that the class of “college educated” residents includes a very broad range, with significant outliers on the high end. A college-educated entrepreneur who builds a business and nets himself billions of dollars will draw the pool well north of the more standard career path. Moreover, a teacher who reaches such heights through some innovation would have to cease to be a teacher to pursue it.
Secondly, wherever one places the parity line, the report (PDF) still places Rhode Island at an extreme: with the third highest teacher-to-private-sector ratio. Even if public school teachers have a raw deal, Rhode Island doesn’t have the economic health to be unique in combating the inequity.
At bottom, though, Crowley’s statement fundamentally misleading, if not flatly incorrect. The EPI’s measure adjusts for “the so called ‘summers off’ idea” by comparing weekly earnings. At least for some portion of teachers, however, the paychecks are spaced out across the year, not limited to the weeks of actual work. In Tiverton, the contract calls for biweekly paychecks year round, with the option for teachers to take a lump sum for the summer pay. And beyond it all, even the EPI acknowledges the importance of total compensation:

Improvements in the non-wage benefits of K-12 teachers partially offsets these
wage differences, such that the weekly compensation disadvantage facing teachers
[nationwide] in 2006 is about 12%, about 3 percentage points less than the 15% weekly wage

Unfortunately, the EPI (and therefore Crowley) does not offer a state-level comparison of compensation. Perhaps the results were not helpful to the cause.

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15 years ago

These unions want everything handed to them. How come the rest of us who have to work full time dont get automatic raises?
Besides Crowley just likes to make noise.
If he were a serious journalist people would take him seriously.
as oppose to just another left wing loon who just wants to blame everything on the governor.
what does he say when people ask him why we are in the situation we are in if his “progressive” champions have been in power for the last 70 years.

15 years ago

On a related note:
PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Supreme Court today declined to intervene in a salary dispute between the East Providence School Committee and the union representing city teachers.
The decision leaves the matter in the hands of the State Labor Relations Board.
The union, the East Providence Education Association, had appealed a ruling by the Superior Court.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
15 years ago

Crowley is a propagandist.
His credibility declines by the day – I think even the “progressives” now recognize that.
The number of commenters on RI Future seems to have dropped precipitously since he took over.
He should rename it “RI Pravda” – at least then there’d be some truth in advertising.

Pat Crowley
15 years ago

the obsession continues. Too bad you just knee jerk to anything I write Justin.

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