Teacher Salaries in NJ and NY Counties

Here’s some more statistical fuel for the fire on the question of whether New Jersey teacher salaries are “spiraling out of control.” Here are comparisons of projected New Jersey and New York teacher salaries based on statistical models of the actual teacher level salary data for individual teachers in these counties in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York State.

Fitting a statistical model of salaries to teacher experience, year, and degree level allows me to project salaries of comparable teachers in the same year and to project the average annual salary growth. I am then also able to hold year and degree level constant and map the changes in salary that are associated with changes in experience levels.

Here it is:

First, here is the location of the counties in question – with background shading of poverty rates. Each county includes some very affluent areas, but also some higher poverty school districts.

The first graph shows that Westchester County, NY teacher salaries are well above those of nearby New Jersey counties, and on average, Westchester salaries have increased more in recent years. Rockland County, NY salaries for teachers with a BA surpass the highest of the New Jersey counties in the figure by 2007, because Rockland salaries are also growing faster than NJ county salaries. Bergen County teachers, immediately adjacent to Rockland and closest to Westchester, fall well below those counties and have grown, on average, more slowly.

New Jersey school districts place less premium on holding advanced degrees. The second figure shows that the gap between NY teachers and NJ teachers is actually slightly larger for teachers who hold a masters degree. Here, both southern NY state counties are higher and growing faster than all three northeastern NJ counties.

The next two graphs map out the returns to years of experience for the NJ and NY counties. Only in one zone of experience (around 20 years) do teacher salaries in NY counties surpass those of the average similar teacher with a BA in Rockland County, NY. On the front end and back end, Rockland teachers beat out all three NJ counties in the graph. Westchester teachers far surpass all others in the graph. One issue of concern that I see here is that New Jersey teachers during the early-mid career stage seem to fall well behind. New Jersey salary schedules tend to sag during this period (5 to 10 years), but NY salaries continue with relatively linear growth. NJ salaries then bump up quickly around step 13 to 15 in many districts. I’m not convinced that this makes sense in terms of recruiting and retaining the best possible teachers.

Again, because the masters bump is smaller in NJ, when one maps the returns to experience for a teacher with an MA in these counties, NJ teachers fall further behind.

RECAP: So, lets recap this new information with my various previous posts on the question of the supposed exorbitant growth of New Jersey teacher salaries –

1) Over a nearly 20 year period, New Jersey teacher salaries relative to New Jersey non-teacher salaries of workers at the same age and degree level and based on an hourly wage comparison, have fallen further and  further behind over time. Teacher salaries sit at about 80% (for MA or BA) of non-teacher salaries in NJ, in same labor market at same age. Further, related research from Corcoran and Mishel suggests that it is highly unlikely that the total difference between teacher and non-teacher benefits closes much if any of this gap.

…overall K-12 teacher compensation was 27.5% greater than teacher wages alone, while overall professional compensation was 23.5% greater than professional wages. These differences in benefit shares translate into a benefits “bias”of 2.8 percentage points in 2006.

2) The total cost of certified elementary and secondary education employees as a share of the total state expenditure (current), has declined over a 10 year period from 1997 through 2007.  That is, certified teachers and administrators in elementary and secondary public schools in New Jersey have not, by way of salary increases, posed an increased burden on the state budget. Not at least as far as my most reasonable estimates would suggest.

3) In addition, analyses of financial statements as well as analyses of personnel data indicate that administrative shares have remained remarkably stable over time and are by no means disproportionately higher in New Jersey’s large, urban and Abbott districts.

Given these findings, I would have a difficult time arguing that the New Jersey “tax burden,” which is also not highest in the nation is caused by either or both New Jersey teacher and bloated administrative salaries growing out of control.  I would also have a hard time making the argument to teachers that their evil, greedy administrators have been hoarding the goods to the disadvantage of the teachers. I wrote very early on about school administrator compensation.





Here’s a more extreme portrayal:



Published by schoolfinance101

Bruce Baker is an Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. From 1997 to 2008 he was a professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. He is lead author with Preston Green (Penn State University) and Craig Richards (Teachers College, Columbia University) of Financing Education Systems, a graduate level textbook on school finance policy published by Merrill/Prentice-Hall. Professor Baker has written a multitude of peer reviewed research articles on state school finance policy, teacher labor markets, school leadership labor markets and higher education finance and policy. His recent work has focused on measuring cost variations associated with schooling contexts and student population characteristics, including ways to better design state school finance policies and local district allocation formulas (including Weighted Student Funding) for better meeting the needs of students. Baker, along with Preston Green of Penn State University are co-authors of the chapter on Conceptions of Equity in the recently released Handbook of Research Education Finance and Policy, and co-authors of the chapter on the Politics of Education Finance in the Handbook of Education Politics and Policy and co-authors of the chapter on School Finance in the Handbook of Education Policy of the American Educational Research Association. Professor Baker has also consulted for state legislatures, boards of education and other organizations on education policy and school finance issues and has testified in state school finance litigation in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona. He is a member of the Think Tank Review Panel, a group of academic researchers who conduct technical reviews of publicly released think tank reports on education policy issues.

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