Last week, we awoke to yet another story in the Boston Globe featuring Paul Grogan, head of the Boston Foundation, attacking Boston teachers. This story claims that we earn too much money for the little work that we do.
The article was based on a new Boston Foundation report entitled “The Real Cost of the Contract: An Analysis of Salary & Benefits of Boston Public School Teachers”. The report laid out its case that Boston teachers work fewer hours and make more in salary than teachers in surrounding communities, i.e., our hours are short and our pay is long. The report presented a series of convenient half-truths and distortions to make its case.
Let’s examine the overall premise first: a teacher’s work day is defined from bell to bell.
“BPS teachers contractually have a shorter school day than their counterparts around the country. An elementary teacher is required to be at school six hours and 30 minutes, of which four hours and 42 minutes is direct instructional time. A secondary teacher is required to be at school six hours and 40 minutes, of which five hours and 7 minutes is direct instructional time.”
The teacher workday is not measured from bell to bell.
It is disingenuous for Grogan to say that teachers work only 6:30 or 6:40 per day. The ‘work’ day spans more than opening bell to dismissal bell. There isn’t a teacher in Boston who works only 6:30 or 6:40 per day. Teachers arrive before the opening bell, leave after the dismissal bell, and do work in between and at home. Between parent conferences and phone calls, grading papers, planning and preparation, the typical teacher probably spends 15-20 or so additional hours per week.
Anyone connected to our schools, even peripherally, knows that. Anyone who knows a teacher knows that. Anyone whose brother-in-law knows a teacher knows that. Even Grogan from his lofty perch knows that. But for him “ and others like him — our true work day is not a convenient truth.
It is also disturbing that the report implies that time not spent in direct instruction is somehow not valuable time. Again, anyone in education knows the importance of lesson planning and thorough review of student work. Yet the implication is that somehow teachers are not earning their pay when they engage in such activities.
Now let’s look at his second premise: that Boston teachers are overpaid.
Teachers are not overpaid when compared to other professionals with similar credentials in the Boston area. The typical Boston teacher earns $71,830. This is a decent “ but not a great salary “ certainly not enough to be comfortable given the high cost of living in Boston. Considering that it takes a Masters degree to get fully licensed, and up to three more courses or so every five years to continue licensure, our salary is not out of line with other similarly-educated professionals.
What’s more, most of us spend an additional $500-$700 every year to bail out the school department for its lack of supplies and resources. In our world this is a significant amount of money. In Grogan’s world, it may not be. When all is said and done, we are hardly overpaid.
Look who’s talking:
Grogan earned $570,000. in salary and benefits in 2009!
According to IRS tax filings (form 990 filings) reported in the Boston Herald (11/30/09, 12/22/08), Grogan earned $570,000 in salary and benefits in 2009. That wasn’t a particularly good year for him. He earned $600,000 in 2008, $553,434 in 2007, and $442,747 in 2006. Incidentally, the average charitable CEO earns $150,000.
And Grogan says we make too much money? Figure that one out.
Grogan’s world is a world that many of our critics inhabit. They claim to speak for the taxpayer and the families of the Boston schools. But as we saw in the recent push for school closings, their “education reform” proposals are less about school improvement and more about driving down the costs of public education. Insofar as teachers and their union and parents of BPS students stand in the way, teachers will be demonized by Grogan and BPS parents will be marginalized.