Warwick Payrolls

Over the weekend I was at a neighborhood July 4th get-together. The group was a mixed one. If I had to guess, most were either a-political or run-of-the-mill Rhode Island Democrats. The topic turned to the recent closing of a local Warwick elementary school and how property taxes just got a big bump (believe me, they did). There was anger over the tax hikes and the school closure. One parent questioned why a school would close when money could have been saved elsewhere, mentioning the fact that the teachers make a lot of money and that you could find it all out at the “Ocean State Policy” website.
The parent then listed off some of the salaries of teachers from the local elementary school. There were a few surprised faces amongst those who heard the numbers, to which the parent then said, “Yeah, I know…I thought they made like $45-$50,000 or something, not that much!”
In an attempt to shed some more light on the situation, I decided to take a ride on the Transparency Train to analyze the actual school payroll numbers for Warwick. It’s more time consuming but also more illustrative of the actual situation than the teacher contract.
I looked at the 2007-08 salaries of full-time teachers in a variety of categories. The below table, based on the 2007-2008 Payroll, summarizes my findings. It shows the number of teachers in each category, the total amount of money dedicated to their salaries and then average salary, average low and high salaries (the average high salary at the Jr. High and High School level reflects the pay received by department heads), and the average median salaries.

If you compare these numbers to the salary schedules in the teacher contract (page 109 in this PDF), you’ll find that that, for the most part, the median Elementary and High School teacher salary in Warwick is the equivalent of a Step 10 (or more) with some longevity and probably some advanced education bonuses thrown in. Overall, elementary teacher salaries are the highest, followed by High School and then Junior High.
Given that most people think teachers make about as much as the average Rhode Islander, around $50,000$54,000 a year (in 2007), it’s understandable their surprise when learning about these numbers. While it is true that new teachers enter the work force at the average income level, that doesn’t last for long. It is apparent that the majority of teachers are compensated at a level at the top or above the traditionally negotiated step scheme. While the teacher salaries are arguably commensurate with other professionals of similar background and training, the benefits they earn–in addition to the shorter work-year–are something those in the private sector don’t enjoy. In addition to their salaries, teachers also receive $10.5-$12,000 in pension contributions from the district in addition to $15,000 in medical/dental benefits.
But these numbers also help explain some other things, too. In general, teachers at the Junior High level are paid less than their Elementary or High School colleagues. This is unsurprising given the additional challenges faced when teaching this age group. In short, once they get they’re time in, a lot of teachers go to Elementary or High School, where the kids are generally more receptive or, in the case of High School, you know what you’re dealing with. In Jr. High, every day is a mystery with a cohort that is feeling their oats. Unfortunately, that they are so challenging is the very reason to keep the best, most experienced teachers at the Jr. High level. If only they had incentive.
It can also be inferred that, because Warwick has closed a few elementary schools in the past two years, the job openings are in the secondary education area (Jr. High and High School). This means that the elementary schools are “top heavy”, with the result that the median income is higher at the elementary level. It would take some additional analysis of other school districts that haven’t experienced so many school closings to determine if this is indeed a factor.
As I was looking at the teacher payroll, I thought a comparison with the payroll of the other big ticket items–Fire and Police–would help add some context. The data available was for 2008-09— a year later than the teacher info I used– so the data isn’t contemporaneous. (The actual low, high and median salaries for each position are given, not an average as with most of the teacher data).

I don’t have much analysis to offer for these last examples. They are what they are. Additionally, a quick survey of the municipal payroll reveals a lot of salaries that fall within the “average Rhode Islander” pay range or below, with a few high-salary, supervisor positions, as well. (For further comparison, this site purports to supply salaries for a range of private sector jobs in Warwick). I’ll conclude with this: taxpayers should be aware of these numbers so that they can determine whether they think these are legitimate wages to pay for the jobs being done or not.

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Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
14 years ago

Pretty sweet for 180 days of only “x” hours actually spent in a classroom!

14 years ago

As a graduate of Warwick schools, I have some experience dealing with how the teachers union operates. While in my final 2 years of HS around 02-04, the teachers stepped up their efforts to get a better deal. This effort included refusing to stay after to help any student in need of help , less hw and quizes (more in class asg.) to cut down takehome load for teachers, and discussing the issue so that we would inform our parents. My science teacher at the time was Union Rep for the school and daily went on tirades. The Warwick school system, as seen, has high salaries and decent buildings to teach in. One only wonders what labor unions do to the level of education students receive. Many over on other blogs don’t see issues this way, maybe going to private schools all their lives blinds them to the impact that labor unions have on public education. You take away a decent education from a populace, you get a state like Rhode Island. You take down the unions and institute pay based on quality not quantity of years, you will be surprised at how quickly the students of this state begin to actually get a clue about the mess we are in. You so called progressives care about education and the working class? cut out the unions

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
14 years ago

The first thing to be recognized is that the majority of parents want the best for their children and are, perhaps grudgingly, willing to pay for it. All solutions that I see regularly proposed, such as smaller classes, favor the teachers unions. Smaller classes means more teachers. It also flies in the face of the apparent success in Japan of very large classes. More ESl programs mean more teachers, etc. My favorite is the masters degree which can be obtained by reading and discussing Stephen King. That gets you an automatic salary increase, without any showing your performance has improved.
A basic tenant of business management is that a problem is rarely solved by “throwing more labor at it”.
What is needed is more and better ideas. Charter schools seem to get an idea off the ground. Whether this is really a better idea remains to be seen (I suspect that part of their success is that parents who make the effort to get their kids in provide more support at home). In any case, charter schools threaten the unionized base of the teaching business. I think that is good.

14 years ago

It is funny how people look at the idea of education and how much money is being used to teach children. The reality though is the increase has been fueled not just by salaries, but by laws instituted to “help” increase the education standards of all students. 10% on average of all students are classified special education. This 10% cohort is usually in the 30 to 33% of all dollars spent in a school budget. Warwicks avg. ratio of student to teacher is 15. Special education students are usually on avg. of 1 to 4 teacher to student ratio which does not include aides and the overall classification/support staff (psychologists, social workers, guidance, legal staff). This means if a districts enrollment was 1000 students and a school budget was 10 million dollars– 100 students would receive 3 to 3.5 million and the other students would end up with 6.5 to 7 million (spread out over the remaining 900 students). The need for this is not driven by unions but by law (federal and state mandates). Imagine the actual teaching that could occur if class sizes were on average 15 students? Teachers typically teach a class load of 5 to 6 classes–thats means an overall roster of 75 to 90 students versus a load of typical class sizes of 24-28 or a load of 120-140. That is a tremendous difference. While I agree teachers are compensated well, get rid of some laws–including making teachers get a masters or extra credits to be licensed– and then salaries would be reflected in actual education of the students. Then again, I bet any parent of a special education student would be in line to talk at the next school board meeting! On a side note– does anyone know what the average salary in Rhode… Read more »

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