Today’s Chronicle has a story from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA, part of the ultra-liberal National Education Association) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, a union group, part of the AFL-CIO). Of course, reading the article you’d have no idea the NEA and the AFL-CIO were involved.
In fact, most Houston teachers would say, “Who?” when asked about AFT and TCTA. Houston teachers belong primarily to 2 groups, either the Houston Federation of Teacher (HFT) or the Congress of Houston Teachers (CHT). HFT is the local chapter for the AFT, and CHT is affiliated with neither; CHT is part of the more conservative Center for Education Reform (CER) that apparently wasn’t consulted for input to this article. Why is that, Chronicle? Why not consult the two local groups that Houston teachers associate? Why not show the relationship to the NEA and AFL-CIO? And why skip the conservative voice completely?
The story leads off with
AUSTIN – Teacher salaries in Texas rank significantly lower than the national average and 30th in the country, according to a study by the American Federation of Teachers.
Horrors! This is obviously a problem that must be rectified immediately! The story barely hints at trying to put this in context.
The first sentence should be the first clue: 30th in the nation is not “significantly lower that the national average.” 30th out of 51 (including the District of Columbia) nearly *is* the national average.
The story barely mentions in the last paragraph that the cost of living isn’t included, yet this is important when trying to put teacher’s salaries into perspective. For instance, Orange County, California is 33% more expensive to live in than Houston Texas. Teachers should be paid comparatively more in Orange County in order to maintain a similar lifestyle to Houston teachers. Salary alone without cost-of-living is meaningless.
How about state taxes? Texas has no state income tax; most other states do. Those teachers in typically pay 6-7% of their salary back to the state. If taxes are included, Texas’s ranking should improve. The Chronicle doesn’t even attempt to address this.
When compared to our neighbors, the story slants the facts again:
Texas teachers fared slightly better than those in neighboring states – Arkansas ranked 44th; Louisiana, 45th; New Mexico, 46th; and Oklahoma, 50th. The District of Columbia was included in the count; South Dakota ranked last at 51st.
“Slightly” better? It looks to be that Texas pays teachers considerably more than our neighboring states.
The average pay in Texas was $39,972 in the 2002-03 school year, compared to the national average of $45,771. Texas’ ranking did not change from the previous year, despite a 1.9 percent increase in average salaries.
“Texas historically has not kept pace with the rest of the nation on teacher salaries,” said Lonnie Hollingsworth Jr., director of governmental affairs for the Texas Classroom Teacher Association. “We move forward, then fall back.
There are no figures given to back up the statement that Texas “historically has not kept pace with the rest of the nation.” The 1.9% increase in pay should be looked at in a far more positive light; the country has been in a recession, yet teachers are still getting raises.
First-year teachers in Texas are in slightly better shape, with average beginning salaries ranking 17th nationally at $31,874.
The state has a minimum teacher salary scale, which starts at $24,240 for beginning teachers. However, most school districts set their own salaries well above the state minimum.
So being ranked 30th out of 51 is “significantly lower” than the national average, but 17th of 51% is only “slightly better.” This article gives the impression that the NEA and AFL-CIO are unhappy unless *every* state is ranked at the top of the pay scale, something that is just not possible to do.
The article should have addressed favorably the starting teacher salary. If state law only sets the minimum at $24,240 but districts are averaging $31,874, it appears that school districts have already provided competitive salaries to attract teachers. In the simplest of supply and demand systems, it appears to be working.
Teachers, of course, deserve our support for their efforts in educating our children, and I’m glad they received a 1.9% increase last year. That’s more than many private enterprises were able to give their employees this year. But the Chronicle isn’t doing any sort of diligent work to de-liberalize the unionist propaganda provided by the left-wing teachers unions. They just printed it practically as-is with no examination of the numbers included to see if the words surrounding them made sense.
So Chronicle, how about publishing a more upbeat article? One titled, “Texas teachers some of the best paid in the United States.” No, make that, “The World.” Take into account taxes and cost of living and compare Texas to our neighboring states. Make it a point to stress that even with the recession, Texas teachers received a raise last year. Point out that since school property taxes are going up for most homeowners at 10% a year, and teacher salaries are only going up 1.9%, that some sort of examination about where the rest of that money went would be in order. And if teachers are only going to get a 1.9% raise, then maybe the 10% property cap could be decreased to 1.9% to match.
Now *that* would be an interesting story.