Educators nationwide are losing spending power for themselves and their
families. In fact, while teachers’ salaries rose 2.3 percent over the past year,
inflation increased 3.1 percent. Check out the recent update to our annual
report “Rankings and Estimatesâ€¦” for additional key findings.
Are teachers unions so bad that they can’t get their members pay increases that at
least match the rate of inflation, OR do they think you’re so gullible that
you’ll accept the headline at face value and commiserate with the teachers? NY
is listed as one of the states with below-the-rate-of-inflation salary growth
and it’s a complete fiction–the result of an over-simplistic and flawed
Here’s what the NEA isn’t telling you. First, the average experience of teachers
is declining. That means average salaries are smaller than they would be had the
average experience level stayed the same. The decline in experience is being
caused primarily by two factors–a disproportionately high number of retirements
and the expansion of the number of teachers. When these two factors, alone,
are considered, average teacher salaries are above the rate of inflation.
Historically and on average, teachers have been beating inflation by about
5-tenths of a percentage point, which means their salaries are making real gains
of 5% per decade. In some places, the real gains are twice that rate. In other
places, teachers have made no gains at all relative to inflation, but at least
they haven’t suffered salary cuts of 10% to 35% like many American workers.
The second thing the NEA isn’t telling you is that many union locals have opted
for smaller increases in salaries rather than giving up free or low-cost health
insurance. When looking at the percentage increase in total compensation,
teachers are beating inflation handsomely–generally, between 1.5 and 3 times
the rate of inflation.
As for the NEA’s salary rankings, they’re worthless. They aren’t adjusted for
the state’s living costs and the wages earned by other workers. Beyond that, the
NEA’s average salary estimates are flawed, as I have demonstrated in my
extensive analysis of the NEA’s 2005 Rankings & Estimates.
The following two charts show where teachers are over- and under-paid, relative
to the state’s cost of living and the state’s median family income, and the
extent to which they are over- or under-paid. The red lines show the expected
average teacher salary in each state and the green squares show the average
teacher salary in each state, adjusted for discernible errors in the NEA’s data.
The following graphic provides a geographic perspective on
average teacher salaries. Most notably, teachers in the Rust Belt are paid much
higher salaries than justified by their economies, relative to the average pay
of teachers in other states.