"Math class is tough!" --Teen Talk Barbie
Political scientist Jay Greene bravely decided to read the new NEA paper that is billed as showing that "Teachers Take 'Pay Cut' as Inflation Outpaces Salaries. Average teachers' salaries declined over the past decade."
But a funny thing happened when he reviewed the study: it didn't support the NEA's own claim. Here's Jay:
The only problem is that this is not what the data in the NEA report actually show. In Table C-14 “Percentage Change in Average Salaries of Public School Teachers 1998-99 to 2008-09 (Constant $)” we see that salaries increased by 3.4% nationwide over the last decade after adjusting for inflation.... I can’t find a single table or figure in the report that would justify the headline and claims in the press release. But when the Ministry of Truth speaks, who are you supposed to believe — them or your lying eyes?
Of course the real reason that public school labor costs have risen so much in the past 40 years is not that salaries have skyrocketed, but that employment has. We now have 70% more staff per student than we did in 1970, and students' scores are not a whit better for it at the end of high school.
Would the NEA be happy if we gave every teacher a raise but returned to the staff/student ratio of 1970? I doubt it. It would drastically cut the union's dues revenues.
In any event, the union's impact through collective bargaining, as I wrote in the Cato Journal recently, appears to be negligible. Where they make a difference is in effective lobbying to preserve the existing government education monopoly. The monopoly is great for public school employee unions, but lousy for kids, parents, and taxpayers.