What Can $51K Buy in Education?
by Stuart Singer, The Teacher Leader
In previous blogs I have written about the financial and rhetorical issues surrounding the teachers in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, too little has been written about the performance of those individuals in the classroom. At a time when high school graduation rates in the United States are at alarmingly low levels, how well are those beleaguered educators in the Badger state performing?
Getting their money’s worth
Based on data compiled in 2008, the nationwide high school graduation rate was 70.1% which translates into only seven of every ten students earning a diploma. In that same year in Wisconsin the rate of success was 85.57%. Not only was that more than 15% higher than the U.S. average, it was the second highest in the country trailing only Vermont which had a score of 86.63%. Meanwhile, in 2008 the average teacher in Wisconsin ranked 24thin the country in terms of earnings. There is little doubt that the teachers in that state were overachievers.
Some mathematical expectations
So how much “bang for the buck” are the taxpayers of Wisconsin receiving from their teachers? In 2008 the national average for teacher salaries was slightly more than $52,000 and the graduation rate was 70%. These numbers would indicate that for every $1,000 in salary the graduation rate is 1.34 (70 divided by 52). In Wisconsin the salary compared to graduation is 1.66 (85 divided by 51). Comparing those two outcomes indicates that the graduation rates in Wisconsin exceeds the national average per dollar by 31% (1.66 – 1.34, then divide by 1.34). In the context of this metric these educators are quite a bargain.
There are other indicators of their dollar value. When comparing average teacher salaries to the median income in their state, the teachers in Wisconsin earned 89%. That percentage placed them 28th in comparison to the other 49 states.
Where is the controversy?
During the very public debate over the fate of teachers and their unions in Wisconsin, much was made of the avarice and selfishness of these educators. And yet the latest round of budget cuts in Wisconsin will result in their salaries being reduced by about 8%. Could it be that the targeted unions are not nearly as good at negotiating as the public is being told? And are the best interests of the highly successful students in Wisconsin being served?