Blue Jersey’s Ed Reform 101
Part 4 – Myths about Teachers Unions
Governor Christie’s attacks on teachers unions have been simply astonishing. Rather than reach out to unions to work for real educational progress, Christie has instead demonized unions to the point that he would rather give up federal funds than work with the NJEA.
What Christie ignores in all of his bluster, however, are a few important facts. Teacher pay has not kept pace with the average pay for all workers in the state. Teachers do not get “Cadillac” benefits, and they pay for those benefits themselves. And the teachers unions have supported meaningful versions of some of his reforms.
It appears that Chris Christie is more interested in making teachers unions the enemy than working with them. Let’s take a look at some of the myths about unions and teacher pay that Christie continues to sell to New Jersey.
What you should know about Teachers Unions:
Myth: Teachers are very well-paid compared to similar professions.
The Truth: Teachers are underpaid compared to workers in similar careers.
– Teachers are paid about 67% of the annual wage of similarly educated workers.
– In the last 20 years, teacher pay in NJ has risen more slowly than all other workers’ pay.
– Teachers in Southern New York counties make considerably more than teachers in Northern New Jersey counties directly adjacent to them.
Myth: Teachers get “Cadillac benefits.”
The Truth: The benefits teachers earn are not enough to make up for their lower pay.
– Any difference in the value of benefits between teachers and others does not make up for teachers’ lower pay.
– Because benefits are part of total compensation, teachers truly pay 100% of their own benefits, including health care and pensions.
Myth: Teachers are paid a high hourly wage compared to other professions
The Truth: Teacher pay should not be compared to other professions using hourly wages, as not all hours working are counted.
– This comparison runs counter to specific guidelines from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on how to use compensation data.
– Teachers in the United States work longer hours than any other country.
Myth: Teachers unions hold back student learning.
The Truth: States without union negotiated teacher contracts rank lower on the NAEP than the states that have them.
– The ten states that have no legally binding K-12 contracts score significantly lower on average than the states that have collectively bargained contracts.
Myth: Teachers unions are against any reform of tenure.
The Truth: Teachers unions back meaningful and fair tenure reform.
– The NJEA has proposed overhauling tenure so cases can be settled in 90 days or less.
– Both the AFT and the NEA have proposed meaningful reforms to tenure.
Myth: Teachers unions hate charter schools.
The Truth: Teachers unions have no problems with charter schools.
– Both the AFT and the NEA publicly support charter schools.
– Former AFT president Albert Shanker first endorsed charter schools in 1988.
Myth: The public pays teachers’ union dues.
The Truth: Teachers pay their own union dues – NOT the public.
– IRS rules state that teachers can deduct their union dues; therefore, the teachers themselves pay them.
Next in our series: Charter Schools & Vouchers
Tuesday, 8/30/11: Standardized Testing
Wednesday, 8/31/11: Teacher Quality
Thursday, 9/1/11: Merit Pay, Seniority & Tenure
Friday, 9/2/11: Teachers Unions
Sunday, 9/4/11: Charter Schools & Vouchers
Tuesday, 9/6/11: Recap