Thursday, March 3, 2011

Who Would Want to be a Teacher in Walker’s Wisconsin?

Craig A Olson, a University of Illinois professor of labor and employment relations, and an expert in employment relations and labor economics, shows the salaries of Wisconsin teachers have fallen behind changes in the cost of living as well as wage growth in the private sector over the last 16 years.

By comparing public data from 1995 to 2009 of the earnings of an average college graduate employed in the private sector in the US versus the earnings of an average college educated teacher in Wisconsin, after accounting for inflation, and not counting fringe benefits, Olsen found:

  1. in Wisconsin, the average teacher’s salary declined by 10 percent,
  2. the average private sector college graduate’s weekly earnings increased by 10 percent.

In 1995, the average college educated private sector worker in the US earned 17 percent more than a Wisconsin teacher, in 2009, this gap had increased to 36 percent. Olson commented:

Not only did Wisconsin teachers not keep up with inflation, their earning power also fell behind their private sector counterparts.

Many teachers accept that they have some security of employment compared with many in private industry, and have school holidays—though they seem a much better perk than they are because the have to spend more time preparing for the academic semester than many onlookers think. So they are content not to be paid the same salary as their fellow graduates in the sometimes riskier private sector, but this work shows that their wages are getting progressively worse, with no added benefits to compensate for the decline.

Governor Walker argued that Wisconsin public employees should be required to pay higher premium co-payments to match the higher co-payments paid by employees in the private sector. In Illinois, the average inflation adjusted premium for a family health insurance policy for Illinois teachers increased from $5,758 to $10,905 from 1993 to 2008. Health insurance premium costs for the private sector also have risen sharply during that time, increasing from $5,742 in 1999 to $13,770 in 2010, adjusted to 2009 prices.

But typically, when premiums have gone up the most, teachers, through their local unions, accepted lower salary increases or agreed to higher teacher health insurance premiums when compared to districts that faced smaller increases in premiums. And Wisconsin teachers did protect their health benefits when premiums were rising rapidly… by accepting lower wage increases.

Olson thinks that Walker’s budget bill will have ill considered consequences. While these changes will save Wisconsin school districts some money in the short term, he thinks it will have an adverse impact on the quality of the state’s teacher workforce:

My rough calculations of the changes in employee pension and health benefit contributions required under the proposal suggest the changes will cost the average Wisconsin teacher about $5,000 in total compensation. This reduction in total compensation is equal to about 10 percent of the salary for an average Wisconsin teacher. Since salary increases under the bill are limited without a voter referendum to changes in the cost of living, teachers will have great difficulty negotiating higher pay to offset these higher contributions. Obviously, it will make it more difficult for Wisconsin to attract high quality young adults into teaching. What parent in Wisconsin would encourage their child to become a teacher given the trends of the last 16 years and Governor Walker’s proposal?

The cause of the Walker attack is supposedly the deficit. And whose deficit is it? Clinton had a virtually balanced budget, but the aim of Republicans is to stiff the poor to give the rich more wealth. Theft from the poor is the source of the deficit, most obviously the manufacture and sale of junk bonds and the accompanying accumulation of banking bonuses in the so-called banking crisis. Banks now are back to their old tricks, and so Joe and Jane Public are forever coughing up their hard earned moolah for the benefit of the already sickeningly rich. Hillary Clinton tells us the US is losing the information war. Without proper education, the country will nosedive into the trough. The pigs at the top already have already had their nose in it for the last thirty years. If many Arabs, every American’s favorite bogeymen of the hour, can evict their corrupt leaders, maybe it is time smart Americans did.

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