Education

Some Eye-Opening
Public Education Stats

Statistics are used every day to frame the debate on public education. Teachers use state and district salary rankings to bargain for higher pay. Principals use enrollment figures to call for class size reduction and infrastructure support. Per-pupil spending is used as a barometer to determine a community’s commitment to quality education. Critics of the education establishment also use statistics. Stagnant or declining SAT scores, lack of correlation between spending and achievement, and growth in school bureaucracies are their arguments of choice.

Unfortunately, we may have reached the point where the statistics themselves are driving the debates.The use of most education statistics is to build a foundation for a particular perspective or agenda. These tables, part of a study by the Education Intelligence Agency, attempt (in the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet) to "delve one yard below." The study offers a different perspective on the facts and numbers of public education "inputs," "outcomes" and descriptions.

Although the tables include many state rankings, higher is not necessarily better nor lower worse. Is it better to be a high-salary, low-benefit state or a low-salary, high-benefit state? Who knows? But suddenly the debate over teacher salaries contains more nuance and subtlety, perhaps even more room for agreement. Unlike many studies, this one does not aim to supply answers but merely to change some of the questions we ask.

Percentage by which average teacher’s wages exceeded average worker’s wages

1) Pennsylvania 65.2
2) Rhode Island 59.8
3) Vermont 53.9
4) Oregon 53.7
5) Wisconsin 52.1
6) Alaska 51.8
7) Kansas 48.2
8) Indiana 47.3
9) Michigan 46.7
10) Montana 43.1
11) Connecticut 43.1
12) Maine 42.2
13) Iowa 41.5
14) Maryland 41.3
15) Wyoming 41.3
16) Kentucky 40.8
17) Ohio 40.8
18) Nebraska 40.8
19) Delaware 39.2
20) New Jersey 38.7
21) Washington 37.9
22) New York 37.7
23) California 37.6
24) West Virginia 36.9
25) Illinois 35.9
26) Arkansas 35.8
27) South Carolina 35.8
28) Nevada 35.7
29) Idaho 35.3
30) Minnesota 34.9
31) Florida 34.9
32) New Hampshire 34.5
33) Hawaii 32.7
34) Tennessee 32.3
35) South Dakota 32.2
36) North Dakota 31.6
37) Mississippi 31.1
38) Massachusetts 30.6
39) Colorado 30.4
40) Missouri 29.9
41) Utah 29.5
42) Virginia 29.4
43) Georgia 29.3
44) Alabama 28.4
45) Arizona 28.3
46) New Mexico 26.6
47) Oklahoma 25.3
48) North Carolina 25.0
49) Texas 19.0
50) Louisiana 2.2
51) DC 2.9
U.S. Average 43.9

Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers closely track teacher salaries. They release these results every year, ranking the states in order of average teacher salary. Their figures differ, but are close enough to each other, and to independent data, to suggest they are reasonably accurate.

But what do such rankings really tell us? That Connecticut pays its teachers more than South Dakota pays its? That is hardly surprising, since Connecticut pays workers at all levels more than South Dakota does. Mississippi cannot be expected to keep teacher salaries on a par with New Jersey’s.

The above table takes two sets of figures: NEA’s average annual teacher salary state rankings for 1995-96 and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics average annual salary state rankings for all workers in 1995. The difference between the two is expressed in percentage terms. The state that pays its teachers the greatest percentage more than that state’s average worker is ranked first.

Salary is only one component of teacher compensation. Benefits are a significant expense for school districts and therefore a significant factor in teacher recruitment, hiring and retention. Salaries and benefits, taken together, are so significant that they constitute almost the entire amount of what we call "instructional spending." This table ranks the states in salary and benefits as a percentage of instructional spending. The figures are computed from U.S. Department of Education data for 1994-95.

 

Salaries & benefits as percentage of total instructional spending

1) Arizona 96.03
2) West Virginia 96.00
3) Kentucky 95.96
4) Indiana 95.46
5) New York 95.37
6) Nevada 95.36
7) Virginia 95.08
8) Michigan 94.70
9) Louisiana 94.60
10) Georgia 94.47
11) Arkansas 93.97
12) North Carolina 93.88
13) Kansas 93.84
14) South Carolina 93.72
15) Alabama 93.46
16) Tennessee 93.44
17) Idaho 93.26
18) Ohio 93.04
19) Wisconsin 93.02
20) Minnesota 92.98
21) New Mexico 92.91
22) Delaware 92.87
23) Rhode Island 92.71
24) Mississippi 92.45
25) Colorado 92.09
26) Illinois 92.02
27) California 91.97
28) Washington 91.93
29) Oklahoma 91.88
30) Hawaii 91.82
31) North Dakota 91.51
32) Maryland 91.44
33) Montana 91.43
34) Nebraska 91.26
35) Texas 91.01
36) DC 90.80
37) Connecticut 90.67
38) Wyoming 90.66
39) Oregon 90.42
40) New Jersey 90.37
41) Missouri 89.54
42) Alaska 89.49
43) Florida 89.20
44) Pennsylvania 89.01
45) Maine 88.58
46) Iowa 88.55
47) Vermont 88.41
48) South Dakota 88.38
49) Utah 87.89
50) New Hampshire 87.80
51) Massachusetts 85.61
U.S. Average 92.26

Perhaps the biggest eye-openers in the above table are the relatively low percentages that some high-paying states — Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,and Massachusetts — allocate to salaries and benefits. On the other side, Arizona, West Virginia and Kentucky are all middle-of-the-pack states in salaries, but they hold the top three spots in percentage allocated to salaries and benefits. Are the lower-ranked states in the above table spending more on books, supplies and other student services? Or are they simply generous with employee benefits relative to salaries? The table below gives us more insight into these questions. Using the same Department of Education data the table below ranks the states according to a salary/benefit ratio. The figures are the number of cents spent on employee benefits for every dollar spent on salaries.

Cents Spent on Benefits
For Every Dollar of Salary
1) West Virginia 36.5
2) Michigan 36.3
3) Utah 35.5
4) Delaware 34.7
5) Oregon 34.6
6) Maryland 34.3
7) Maine 33.5
8) Wisconsin 33.3
9) Florida 33.2
10) Rhode Island 32.0
11) Pennsylvania 31.5
12) Washington 31.1
13) Idaho 30.3
14) California 29.6
15) New York 29.4
16) Indiana 28.8
17) Wyoming 27.9
18) Hawaii 27.7
19) DC 27.5
20) Georgia 27.5
21) Nevada 27.3
22) Ohio 27.1
23) Massachusetts 27.1
24) Louisiana 26.9
25) Minnesota 26.8
26) Montana 26.7
27) New Mexico 25.7
28) Virginia 25.4
29) Vermont 25.3
30) North Dakota 24.9
31) South Carolina 24.7
32) North Carolina 24.4
33) Alaska 24.3
34) Nebraska 24.3
35) Mississippi 24.2
36) New Jersey 23.9
37) Iowa 23.9
38) Arkansas 23.8
39) Alabama 23.2
40) Connecticut 23.1
41) Tennessee 22.8
42) Illinois 22.1
43) South Dakota 21.9
44) Oklahoma 20.6
45) Kentucky 20.5
46) Colorado 20.3
47) New Hampshire 19.5
48) Missouri 18.1
49) Kansas 17.4
50) Arizona 15.9
51) Texas 14.9
U.S. Average 26.6

 

 

The differences between the salaries of an average teacher and a new teacher can be significant. It’s useful to know about the average teacher, but when we seek to increase education spending, and therefore teacher salaries, our primary purpose is to attract more highly qualified candidates to the profession. The evidence suggests that once teachers successfully complete their probationary status, they are unlikely to leave the profession until retirement. Increasing salaries to improve teacher recruiting may be necessary.

This table ranks the states by starting teacher salaries, based on the AFT data for 1995-96. It also includes a percentage figure termed the "climb." The difference between starting salary and average salary for each state is expressed as a percentage of starting salary — the higher the number, the steeper the "climb" to average salary, and the smaller the number, the more shallow the climb. The reasoning behind the climb statistic is that prospective teachers would be more likely to take a $20,000 position with a steep climb than a $20,000 position with a shallow climb.

 

Starting salaries of teachers and subsequent "climb"
1) Alaska 34,800 36.1
2) New Jersey 31,435 55.6
3) Pennsylvania 29,514 56.2
4) Connecticut 28,840 76.6
5) Maryland 26,846 53.6
6) New York 28,749 67.4
7) Illinois 26,753 51.4
8) DC 25,937 63.6
9) Massachusetts 25,815 66.7
10) California 25,762 63.7
11) Michigan 25,635 85.0
12) Nevada 25,576 54.6
13) Virginia 25,500 36.0
14) Hawaii 25,436 45.6
15) Alabama 24,824 26.2
16) Rhode Island 24,754 69.0
17) Georgia 24,693 38.2
18) Oregon 24,592 59.9
19) Washington 24,590 54.5
20) Wisconsin 24,560 53.0
21) Vermont 24,445 48.3
22) Delaware 24,300 66.8
23) Indiana 24,216 55.6
24) Oklahoma 24,187 20.6
25) Arizona 24,042 28.3
26) Minnesota 23,998 53.5
27) New Hampshire 23,510 52.2
28) Florida 23,508 41.8
29) Texas 2,642 39.7
30) New Mexico 22,634 28.6
31) Kentucky 22,457 47.3
32) West Virginia 22,011 46.1
33) Missouri 21,996 47.2
34) Wyoming 21,900 44.2
35) South Carolina 21,791 44.1
36) Kansas 21,607 50.6
37) Tennessee 21,537 53.8
38) Colorado 21,472 69.4
39) Iowa 21,338 51.7
40) Nebraska 21,299 47.9
41) Arkansas 21,189 40.9
42) Maine 20,725 58.6
43) North Carolina 20,620 47.5
44) Utah 20,544 47.9
45) Ohio 20,355 87.1
46) Mississippi 20,150 37.4
47) Montana 19,992 46.9
48) Idaho 19,667 57.1
49) South Dakota 19,609 34.5
50) Louisiana 19,406 38.1
51) North Dakota 18,225 48.0
U.S. Average 24,507 53.6

Compiled by Managing Editor Erica Olsen from an Education Intelligence Agency report.


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