Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

It seems like every paper in Jersey is running the Asbury Park Press story (later picked up by the AP) that blares, “New Jersey public schools added more than 1,200 new positions in 2008, bringing the total number of teachers and administrators to 143,733.” The squib adds that last year’s total payroll was over $9.6 billion, and links to a DataUniverse spreadsheet for those interested in the minutiae.

Let’s settle down a bit. There are 2,430 schools in N.J. If there’s 1,200 more positions, on average less than half the schools added a position. And as we bring more special education students back to home districts, there is a requirement for more classroom aids, therapists, and special education teachers.

The real reason for the extra $400 million in payroll has nothing to do with more positions and everything to do with the local bargaining agreements overseen by NJEA, which proffer annual salary increases of 4%-5% per year. That doesn’t include benefits packages, way up this year, which cost each district over $18,000 per employee. Wrong target, folks.