Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Leftovers

Alan Steinberg argues that Corzine can raise his poll numbers by using his education record as the “positive” piece of his message and relying on NJEA's strength. Some interesting analysis of the teachers’ union:
Perhaps the most important thing to understand regarding the NJEA is that they regard virtually every election as a battle for survival. When evaluating candidates for Governor or the Legislature, there are three positions critical to them: 1) Opposition to school vouchers; 2) Continuance of the current teacher tenure rules; and 3) Guarantee of the promised future pension benefits to teachers.
Art Albrizio, a former school administrator, argues in the Asbury Park Press that the current recession should have no impact on negotiated teacher salary increases because teachers have "been able to maintain productivity and service while operating under a 4 percent budget cap every year during the past 10 to 15 years.”

Rocky Hill and Millstone, two of the non-operating districts that were dissolved this year, are waging a battle to have their districts reinstated since residents didn’t get to vote on the elimination, reports the Trenton Times.

The Press of Atlantic City
juxtaposes the “real world,” where inflation is zero so seniors shouldn’t get COLA increases in their social security checks and casino owners have proposed wage freezes for three years, and the “surreal world,” where teacher salary increases "are hovering, statewide, at 4.5 percent - 4.3 percent for those negotiated since January. This, despite a school budget cap of 4 percent that was set when inflation was much higher than 0 percent and there was no recession."

Parents and Communities United for Education (PCUE), the Jersey City chapter of the Statewide Education Organizing Committee, which advocates for better education in low-income school districts, led a rally in front of School 11 on Tuesday. According to the Jersey City News, more than 450 kids dropped out of Jersey City school last year. An organizer of the rally said,
There's a schoolhouse to jail-house mentality here. We want kids to have the equal opportunity to graduate and go on to college or trade school.


Bruce said...

The interesting thing about this "real world" stuff (supposedly the "private sector?") is that in the long run in NJ, most teachers would have seen larger annual wage increases had they instead worked in the "real world."

In this post, I used census bureau data to show that compared to non-teachers at same age and degree level, NJ teacher wages have lost ground over time. I also control for hours per week and weeks per year in this analysis (so no crap about summers off, etc.)

It should also be noted that "real world" wages are often as sensitive to longevity and to degree attainment as are teacher wages and often equally insensitive to actual job performance or productivity. That is, workers in the "real world" are just as likely to earn more simply because they've been around longer and/or earned a higher degree. To suggest that they are not - that the "real world" is performance incentive based is a substantial overstatement. Yep... there's stuff that needs to be fixed in teacher incentives, but comparisons to this fabricated "real world" are unhelpful.

NJ Left Behind said...

Hi, Bruce. I don't know of too many people who are arguing that teachers get paid too much (though your analysis leaves out hefty benefits packages with rarely any contribution -- certainly a rarity in the private sector). In fact, some of the more interesting new models pay teachers quite a bit more, like the new charter school in NYC which pays each teacher $150,000 per year, or D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee's idea of offering higher pay without tenure or a lower pay scale with tenure. I think the argument is about performance that is irrelevant to compensation. Not too many places in the private sector where you'd turn that up.

Bruce said...

A few important responses here:

1) I don't think it's reasonable to make a blanket assumption that private sector wages are invariably performance based, or, if and when they are performance based that they rely on legitimate performance measures. Pay on commission basis exists in some sectors. And a small business owner certainly has an incentive to turn a profit. But those are only a small share of the "private sector." (small businesses may make up a sizeable portion of "businesses" but make up a relatively small share of workers)

Equally likely is the case where those in large industries/corporations who simply hang around longer and/or get their MBA accumulate higher wages and/or title changes. (One thing I've found over time is that the rigor of the average MBA program is equally lacking as many educ. grad. degrees).

The "private sector" or "real world" versus "government world" and "teacher world" delineations are largely built on myths and anecdotes.

2) There are some reasonable comparisons made between the benefits packages of teachers and non-teachers finding that as a proportion of wages, teacher benefits are higher... but the denominator... wages... is lower. (Mike Podgursky & Bob Costrell have done work in this area)

3) I'm all in favor of figuring out good performance measures for rating teachers, but all too aware of the problems with current proposed strategies... both in statistical terms ( and in terms of the incentives they create. Unfortunately, even the most precise value-added assessment based measures are likely to lead to disincentives to teach in high need schools, so a significant counterbalancing incentive is needed.

NJ Left Behind said...

Did you look at the impact of pension benefits over lifetime compensation? Teachers in N.J. are eligible for full pensions after 25 years of service and the benefits are defined. I'd think that's a rarity in the private sector.

Bruce said...

I've not looked at this yet specifically, and finding comparable data on accumulated wealth from pensions can be tricky. However, this may be more an issue of firm size and organization of the labor force than a public-private sector delineation.

Most school districts, and state school systems are large businesses, not small ones (Okay...New Jersey has a few to many mom-and-pop school districts).

Remember that large shares of private sector jobs are large industry jobs with substantial benefits packages (to some extent, their downfall). Defined benefit pensions may (now I'm just speculating) have seen their day in some industries when more workers wanted to control their own investments seeking better returns through stocks/mutual funds. Ooops. Public systems/state employee systems were more likely to be slow to move, if at all, in that direction. That seems to have worked for them this time (at least over a 10+ year cycle). Again, totally speculating here, but will likely explore this one more.