I have been away for a while but back at least for a bit and would like to address some information posted from another commenter here on the Patch. The first being this...
"You are comparing the average wages that a WPS teachers receives for 185 days of less than 6 hours"
Find a Westford teacher, find as many as you want, ask how many hours they work. The one that I know does 50+ every week, goes in in the school vacations to work, last time I checked had already worked 7 days this summer. They have meetings before & after school. Staff meetings, curriculum meetings, team meetings, parent meetings. Teachers not only manage 23 kids, but also their parents. Bus duty, detention, extra help, progress reports, assessments - the literally never ending assessments, report cards, correcting homework, tests, quizzes, parties, classroom decorating and preparation, organizing field trips, chaperoning, emails from parents, from the school, from the department heads…the list is endless. None of it is optional. None of it can be during the very same hours they are teaching and a lot of them are not small projects, it’s complicated and stressful stuff. Physically impossible to do in 30 hours a week while teaching kids. There is a reason they are paid salary, if they worked 30 hours a week and had all the vacation time people claim they get the would be paid hourly.
Every time anyone espouses that 6 hour day it becomes evident they know nothing about the subject. When I'm talking to anyone about anything, and it becomes evident to me in the first few minutes he/she has NO IDEA what they are talking about I no longer take them seriously. Most sane people wouldn't.
Here is another one that needs clarification
“BTW you are comparing the average wages that a WPS teachers receives for 185 days”
The 185 day thing I have many times showed how if you worked M-F w/no vacation or sick days you would only work 260 days. Factor in 3 weeks of vacation, the 14 state holidays, (13 + 1, many people get two days for thanksgiving) 2-3 personal days, the sick days you actually use the average private sector worker only works 225-ish days.
That’s a difference of 40 days and that diminishes as they accrue more vacation time. Many masters’ degrees have 5 weeks vacation after not too long, that’s a difference of 30 days. Factor in that teachers go in during vacations, and during the summer the difference is almost non-existent. But everyone is stuck on that 185 day figure. Firemen work far less days than that but no one begrudges them of it. I certainly don’t because I appreciate what they do. But for some reason people have it out for teachers.
All of the 3 week vacations during the year coincide with a holiday/s. And the holidays they do get off, Thanksgiving for example, don’t count towards their 185 days, for most people it does (ie it gets subtracted from your 260 days) Personal and sick days are a hardship because all that is required of your replacement is a pulse and CORI check. The teachers have to lay out the lesson plan, leave all the materials, the schedule etc. Most other jobs there is someone who can cover for you easily. Calling out sick or taking a personal day is a phone call. Not for teachers. Do you ever get a snow day, even if it’s unpaid. Teachers have to make that up. People forget to deduct how many days off they actually get. Or they compare a job that only requires a H.S. Diploma, it’s unfair. And anytime you want you could take out the loans, do the schooling wait for a job and be a teacher too. Unless you’ve committed a felony you can have the same dream job.
Another point needing clarification
“The Median Household income includes the wages of all wage earners plus any dividends, capital gains, etc. (i.e The AGI line on your 1040). Over 60 percent of the households in Westford are composed of 2 wage earners which leads a ~$119,000 median household income which would be exceeded at $136,000 by two teachers earning the paltry average of $68K for 185 days of less than 6 hours. Comparing health benefits and cost is a complex process since the coverage and co-pays can be modified to achieve a desire monthly cost.”
See above about the hours.
The math here is incorrect both in method & application, at least for the way it is being used. The original example is actually mine, but I leave plenty of wiggle room so that if someone calls me on it I can show that my math is more than honest. I do that because I want it to be honest. I don’t want to trick anyone into thinking something is in a state that it’s not. So, someone has called me on it, here you go.
First off the author made it clear they are using gross income for Teachers, but Adjusted Gross Income for the comparison group. It was my example to begin with but the disparity works for the point I was making. It does not work here. So let’s look at it but this time we’ll use apples to apples.
I know a teacher in Westford and it took some time but got to look with my own eyes at the AGI line (line 37) This teacher grosses $65,658, the Agi is $47,499. Line 7 if you are interested, Wages, Salaries and tips is $47,495. This scenario the author posted adds in the 2-3 items that could possibly inflate the median income but left out everything that reduces it which is almost always the normal result barring a windfall. Your health insurance, your retirement contributions etc. If your AGI is regularly higher than your Gross you are either doing very well in the stock market or you need a new accountant.
The reason this teachers AGI is so low is because 11% taken off the top for the pension, that’s $7,222. Medical insurances is another $6k+ for the year (that’s only medical an HMO. No dental or vision and this is just for two people) the other $5k is put in a separate pretax 401k type account. All of these are options that are open to everyone. There is no teacher perk there.
The poster mentioned AGI includes dividends and capital gains. Dividends are usually so small they aren’t even worth talking about, but the poster conveniently left out capital losses, which lowers the AGI. Go take a look at your gross income and your AGI (adjusted gross income) and I bet the vast majority of you will see it is thousands of dollars lower. So yes, I can compare the gross income of 2 teachers at $68K ($136K total) to Westfords AGI median income of $127K (that’s the figure I found) because the teachers AGI puts them closer to $110k if I’m being generous. If you want to use the same comparison to make it look like teachers are fairing better you can’t. My math is a little crude because it’s the best I had to work with at the time but it’s honest. If you are wondering why I just didn’t compare AGI to AGI in the first place it’s because I didn’t’ feel like calling this teacher and asking to see their W-2 but they didn’t mind because it was for a good cause and in the end I felt it was worth the clarity.
There are 7,073 households in Westford as of 2009. So if we use your comparison with apples/apples the two teachers = $94,998, which is about $25k less than your 60 percent 2 earner population.
20 percent have a masters degree, however many teachers are higher than a masters so that number favors teachers. Only 5 percent of Westford’s population has a higher degree.
So if we take that AGI number and use the $25k as a buffer, even teachers at top pay are making what 4,426 out of the possible 7,073 households are, which would be 63 percent of Westford’s households. Here is a link to all of these numbers.
I believe the person that made those comments mixed up mean, median and mode, which is ok to do if your transitions are sound and it coherently makes a point, sometimes there is no other way. But the method the author used is unsound.
What you really want to know is the “mode” income. To give a quick example if a Ford dealership out of all it’s cars/trucks sells 1000 Focus’, 1200 Mustangs and 1500 Fusions, the mode would be the 1500 Fusions. It’s the largest group/demographic. The reason “mode” is so useful is that it can be expanded to suit the data you need without distortion. That same Ford Dealership we could get the mode for Cars, Trucks and Vans. If trucks are their biggest seller that would be the mode. How do we apply this?
If you look again at the last link I posted what are most people in Westford making. Average (mean) isn’t very accurate in this instance because the people earning $2 million and higher throw off the figures. Median is a little better and the most readily available figure but it’s also not as accurate as we want and can be easily skewed. For what we want, the “mode” is top dog.
Regardless of how many earners, of the 7073 households in 2009;
- 883 of them made $125K-$150K
- 1379 of them (the mode) made $150k to $199k
- 1088 households made $200,000 & up. I can't find the link at the moment, but there are very few at $200k, it's mostly comprised of the "up" portion $600k to $1+ million.
That’s 3350 households (47 percent) making as much or more than two top paid teachers, almost half of those households have less education. If you want to keep teachers interested in doing the job there has to be other benefits. And there are. But everytime you disparage the differences in the jobs you are expressing they shouldn't have those benefits. Well, supply and demand is infallible. Make a an already expensive to attain, difficult to do, lower paying profession and a very lengthy break even point less desirable, people aren't going to do it. The thing that bothers me the most is that almost all of the "perks" people toss out there (days worked when compared to other jobs, 30 hour weeks, pension vs SS etc) they don't even truly understand. We need to stop with all the hearsay, incendiary comments and start using our own brains, outside of the box someone else has placed it in and do some fact finding. At least just try it. I'm confident that the first time you find that what you had been told was only half true or maybe not true at all you would be hooked. But I digress....
“If any WPS staff member thinks that private industry has superior pay and benefits, they are welcome to try it.”
No need. It’s already been studied. Here are a few tidbits for you and a link to read as much detail as you want. This is all specific to MA.
- Public sector employees with a master’s degree make significantly less than in the private sector.
- Public sector employees retirement packages are cheaper on the state and town level then private sector with Social Security
- Public sector employees pay significantly higher health care costs than those in the private sector. Soon with the mandate, it’s close to twice as much
The list goes on and on, so I ask Westford Patch readers to please read to become educated on the facts. You might find what you are being fed tastes more like bologna than fact. Without the truth, how can we expect to fix anything? It’s hard to find what you’re looking for when the waters are muddied. Which reminds me, if you find a pair of white sunglasses at the bottom of the East side of Cobbet’s pond please let me know : )
Lastly, I often hear teachers have such job security, and I’ve disproven it before, but just as an update here is an excerpt from the Globe a couple days ago about Lawrence MA.
“Nearly 50 teachers in the state-run schools have been identified as “teachers of concern” by a team of evaluators, and 16 have been fired, Riley’s office said yesterday. Eighteen teachers have resigned or retired since receiving the designation.
The firings and targeted review mark the early stages of the state overhaul of the schools, which have long been plagued by instability and poor student performance. Last fall, the state’s education board approved a takeover of the system, the first time state officials had seized full control of a local school district.”
Sixteen fired, Eighteen more chose to resign or retire after receiving the label “teachers of concern.” Another 13 have been put on the “shape up or ship out plan.” That’s 3.7% gone, another 1.4% in trouble for a total of 5.1% Teachers lose their jobs all the time, whether through layoffs, or termination. Ironically in one of my previous articles I talked about the demise of Lawrence and how one aspect of the municipality drags down the others. I can’t speak to how fair these terminations were, I don’t know the details. However, Lawrence has a hard time attracting talent for various reasons and from what I’ve seen from Westford’s behavior they are setting themselves up for a similar exodus but one of the Teacher's volition.