Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Teachers are “underpaid,” and other fantasies…

As often happens here on Other Side, one thing leads to another, and then another thing leads to a second thing.  And then the second thing leads to another thing….and then, well, you get the general idea.  Or you don’t.  Either way, here we are.

And that’s what happened in the last few days, which is why dedicated Side followers have had to endure several days without any new posts.  Oh, I suppose I could tell you that I’ve been busy revising our freedom of access request to the MRRA, which I have, but it’s more amusing to suggest that I’ve been intentionally teasing you.

Here’s how things have rolled out.  In this most recent post, I advised you of the message I sent to the School Board and the Town Council.  One school board member replied to my message, and among other things, asserted that teachers are “underpaid.”  I responded ‘au contraire’ – some may be underpaid, but some are surely overpaid. 

During these same few days, I happened upon detailed payroll information for the Brunswick School Department for the 08/09 school year, which is the prior school year.  I found it endlessly informative as I sorted, calculated, and otherwise examined it.

The more I studied it, the more astonished I became.  Especially when compared to the salary schedule for the town’s top officials.

If my research is correct, the highest pay a town official could earn, other than the Town Manager, for the 08/09 fiscal year, was $1,647 a week.  To repeat, that’s the highest they could earn, if they were at the top “step” for their position.  This was the maximum for 5 officials: the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, the Town Clerk, the Finance Director, and the Public Works Director.  This excludes benefits, overtime, and any additional payments.

The next tier down, consisting of 5 individuals, including the Parks and Recreation director, could earn at most $1507 a week.

Now that we know that baseline, let’s compare it to the “underpaid” teachers.  According to the current contract, teacher salaries are based on 182.5 work days per year, or 37 weeks, rounding up.

Looking at the School Department payroll records for the 08/09 school year, we find that 64 “classroom teachers,” or about 30%, make more for a week’s work than the top 5 earners for the town: the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, the Finance Director, the Town Clerk, and the Public Works Director/Town Engineer.  And this is without including various “stipends” and other salary supplements beyond the contract pay tables.

Dropping down a notch, 98 of the 214 “classroom teachers”, or fully 45%, earned more than $1507 a week in 08/09, the maximum that could be made by the top 10 municipal officials (excluding the Town Manager).  Again, this does not include stipends or other pay increments such as “teacher support team” sums.

Suffice it to say that sentiments that “teachers are underpaid” do not sit well with this reporter, especially when one considers that merit and/or performance matter not a whit when determining teacher compensation.  As I’ve pointed out many times, the very worst teacher makes exactly the same as the very best teacher with the same education and years of service.  Is that “fair?”  Is that “employment justice?” Does that prioritize concerns “for the children?”

I’ll stop here for now, and I don’t know when I’ll come back with something in the daily report range.  This discovery has motivated me to do a thorough study/analysis of pay policies for the town and school department.  The results, I’m sure, will be beyond a one or two page report here.

Instead, I expect a 15 or 20 page document will be the result, and we will have to come up with other means of ‘distribution.’

Perhaps the Ostrich will wish to publish it as a way to recapture their role as “watchdog of government.”

Or perhaps they won’t.

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