Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Salaries for Bellevue and Mercer Island Teachers

Public employee salary information is public record -- as it should be, since you and I pay for it through our taxes.  Bellevue public school teachers went on strike over their low pay, so I was curious exactly what the pay scale there is, and how it compares to Mercer Island.  Here's the answer:

Bellevue

Gender

# Teachers

Total Salaries Paid

Average Per Hr 46 week equiv
F 990  $ 53,746,505  $ 54,289  $ 39.56  $72,781
M 302  $ 18,741,895  $ 62,059  $  45.22  $83,198
total 1292  $ 72,488,400  $ 56,106  $  40.88  $75,216

Mercer Island

Gender

# Teachers

Total Salaries Paid

Average Per Hr 46 week equiv
F

202

$ 11,495,884

$ 56,910

$ 41.46

$76,295

M

75

$ 4,720,192

$ 62,936

$ 45.85

$84,373

Total

277

$ 16,216,076

$ 58,542

$ 42.65

$78,482

 

Since annual salaries for teachers are based on a 1300 hour year, versus the 1800+ hours that you or I work, the extra column shows what the annualized salaries would be if teachers worked a more "traditional" schedule.

I also think it's interesting to break the salaries down by gender because it shows how silly it is to compare aggregates like this.  Are Bellevue teachers underpaid or overpaid?  the followup question that must always be asked is "compared to what?" Clearly, if you look at the raw numbers, women overall are paid less than men overall, just as teachers overall are paid less than many other occupations, and Bellevue overall is paid less than Mercer Island.  But unless you know something about the hours worked, the level of productivity and experience, and other work conditions such as quality of the students, total take home pay of a teacher's household, and the other zillion factors that go into any decision for whether one individual takes a particular job or another -- unless you know all that, it's impossible to say.

Well, almost impossible.  At free-market companies we know exactly what the correct salaries should be because they are based on competition.  A small business that pays its employees too little will soon find itself without employees, and employees who are paid too much relative to what they produce will soon find themselves without jobs.  Why don't we use the same, simple idea -- the one that works in every other successful vibrant industry -- for schools?

Am I wrong?  Do you have a better way to figure out the "correct" salaries for teachers?

[update: still trying to fix the formatting of those tables.  Also updated the MI salary data because apparently I messed up the number of teachers in the pool]

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do your numbers include "TRI" pay, ie training, additional duties etc?

Anonymous said...

The Bellevue School District completely lost the PR campaign. The strike was about pay and benefits. Yet, the many articles I heard or read, focused on curriculum. Striking for pay develops much less public sympathy than striking against structured curriculum. As a last note, private school teacher pay would give you a pretty good benchmark as to how the market values teachers. Of course this comparison would have to be adjusted to account for different work loads.

Richard Sprague said...

My numbers include "certified base salary", "base salary", and "other salary". As I scan down the list, "other salary" appears to correlate with TRI (some teachers get a lot, some get 0).

My numbers don't include "insurance benefits", which vary from 0 to about $20K.

I'd love to compare with private salaries if anyone has the data.

Apples to Apples said...

I believe the salaries are based on how much experience and how much education they have. Wouldn't it be more accurate to do an apples-apples comparison of teachers with similar experience and education instead of using the aggregate?

Bellevue has had the reputation of having among the highest teacher turnover in the state. That could mean, as a whole, the teachers there have less experience -- hence the problem.

Richard Sprague said...

"Experience" in the dataset I have just means number of years the person is employed, which isn't much of a guide to how much they are worth. Sure, theoretically a person who's been doing something a long time is better at it than somebody who just started, but some of the best teachers I know are relatively young.