Would Paying Rich Teachers More Improve Public Schools?
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) The Philadelphia School District is awash in red ink - about $300 million worth. An enterprise in such dire financial straits would go out of business, but the Philadelphia School District (PSD) cannot do so. So it asked its employees to take pay cuts.
Philadelphia teachers are not about to take a pay cut, though. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) is offering the School Reform Commission (SRC), a state agency that took over operation of the school district in 2001, a one-year pay freeze with added benefit changes. But the SRC wants to reduce teacher salaries by as much as 13%.
The SRC took control of the PSD, because Philadelphia's school board was inept at solving its fiscal problems twelve years ago. The SRC is proving just as ineffective. Why? Because the real problem with the PSD is more about politics than it is about management. The PFT is well funded and has access to a sympathetic Philadelphia media.
The teachers feel they are not paid adequately now, ergo, they are unwilling to be paid less. The PFT is using its considerable political and economic clout to marshal public support to get what its wants. The PFT will put pressure on city and state politicians.
Are they not paid adequately?
The PFT compares their pay scale with wealthier suburban districts. They maintain they are paid much less than those teachers - and this is true. But some may say those suburban teachers are overpaid. Indeed, some have said this.
It is worth noting that the average salary for a Philadelphia schoolteacher - according to a WHYY/NewsWorks analysis - is $70,790 per year. Yet, the median household income in Philadelphia, from 2007-2011, was $36,957 per year. The mean wage in the U.S. is about $45,790 per year, and the mean wage for secondary school teachers in the USA is $57,710.
Simply put, schoolteachers in Philadelphia make almost twice as much money as the people who pay their salaries and are among the highest paid workers in the U.S.. Now some of this can be ascribed to the fact that the cost of living in Philadelphia is no doubt higher than other parts of the country, but - as some public school critics have claimed - some of this is due to the monopoly that is the public school system. After all, $70,000 per year is a comfortable salary by any standard.
It is also worth noting the Philadelphia School District (PSD) gets a sizeable portion of its operating budget from the state - 48% of the PSD budget comes from state funds. By comparison, only 16.7% of the budget of Wissahickon School District, in suburban Philadelphia, comes from the state.