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The Educational Mandarins and their Policy Fables

On cue from City Hall and Tweed, Manhattan Institute fellows Jay Greene and Marcus Winters appeared on the op-ed page of Thursday’s New York Post to declare that New York City public school teachers are already very well paid. And just in case someone might miss the immediate import of those comments [this is, after all, the Post, which never overestimates the intelligence of its readers], the piece begins with an explicit reference to Tuesday’s UFT Delegate Assembly resolution which laid down a deadline for the completion of contract negotiations.

Someone is overpaid here, but it isn’t the public school teacher.

There are two extraordinary features of Greene’s and Winters’ argument. First, they build their entire edifice on a premise that they know to be false, and that the scholarly literature clearly and unambiguously refutes: the notion that teachers only work the contractually required hours. And to add insult to injury, they suggest that teachers do not even work the contractually required number of hours: “if we make the generous assumption that the average teacher in New York works the maximum 6.6 hours a day allowed by the union contract…” In this intellectually dishonest way, Greene and Winters misrepresent the contractually required minimum as the maximum a teacher can work, as if the collective bargaining agreements somehow prevent teachers from working a minute beyond the official teacher work day.

In point of fact, all of the scholarly literature which has examined the work day, work week and work year of teachers has found that the actual work of teachers is, on average, at least 30% greater than the minimum time required under collective bargaining agreements. The last national Schools and Staffing Survey produced by the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that American teachers were contractually required to work a minimum of 37.9 hours per week, but that they put in, on average, an additional 11.9 hours of work every week. A study published in the Monthly Labor Review, the publication of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor, concluded that teachers engaged in over ten hours of school related work every day, even though the contractually required time was only six and a half hours. Moreover, there is evidence that the work of teachers has intensified over the last decade, and that teachers are now working longer hours than they have anytime since scholars began studying these questions. And these are studies produced not by teacher advocates or ‘special interest’ groups, but by government agencies with a well-deserved reputation for the production of independent and accurate information.

So when Greene and Winters do all of their calculations of how well teachers are paid based on the contractual minimum a teacher must work, they knowingly understate, by rather significant magnitudes, the actual work time of teachers. This produces, in turn, a rather overstated hourly wage of teachers. They then go on to compare that understated hourly wage with the hourly wage of other occupations, such as police, firefighters, biologists, chemists and mechanical engineers, almost all of whom receive overtime [time and a half] pay for any work beyond the contractually minimum work day. They also incorrectly suggest that the latter three occupations require more of an education than teachers, which is certainly not the case in New York, where all teachers must possess a Masters’ Degree.

The same sort of disingenuousness characterizes the Greene and Winters discussion of the median annual salary of NYC public school teachers, which the DOE reports as $53,017. Without any consideration of the cost of living in New York City, which is second highest in the United States [behind only San Francisco], or any consideration of teacher salaries in the metropolitan area [the median salaries in suburban districts range are between 31% and 33% greater the NYC median salary], they pronounce NYC school teachers “especially well paid.” Yet New York City teachers rank near dead last among teachers from major metropolitan centers in the United States on key indices, such as the ratio of teacher salaries to the average annual salary and per capita income in the metropolitan area.

The secondary extraordinary feature of the Greene and Winters argument is the way they simply disregard and ignore a whole body of data and analysis on the subject of teacher salaries which does not conform to the thesis they advance. Consider the following data, which they never address.

* Among college educated professionals with advanced degrees, American teachers’ annual earnings are at the bottom of the salary scale, below not only doctors, lawyers and business executives, but also accountants, nurses, sales supervisors, writers and artists, and social workers, the Economic Policy Institute reports.

* According to the Quality Counts 2000 report of Education Week [registration required], American teachers at the start of their career [ages 22 to 28] with Bachelors’ degrees earn $7894 less than similarly aged college graduates; at the height [ages 44 to 50] of their career, the gap has grown to $23655. The differentials are even greater for teachers with Masters’ degrees, such as those in New York; at the height of their career [ages 44 to 50], they earn $32,511 less than other similarly aged Masters’ degree holders outside of teaching.

* The last decade has seen the lowest increases in teacher salaries in the last forty years [since the advent of collective bargaining] and a decline in the relative standard of living of teachers [ratio of teacher salary to per capita GDP] to the lowest mark in the last forty years, and teachers are losing ground to other professions, according to the AFT’s annual surveys and analysis of teacher salary trends.

    So upon investigation it is not the notion of an “underpaid New York City public school teacher” which is mythic, but rather, Greene’s and Winter’s argument that those teachers are “especially well-paid.” And make no mistake about it: they know they are promulgating a fable of the “over-paid teacher” here. This is one of the highlights of their new book they are promoting, Education Myths: What Special Interest Groups Want You To Believe About Our Schools. The book is full of arguments such as the one we just dissected, leading Richard Lee Colvin to describe it in the Los Angeles Times as a “selective and unconvincing” journey through “the labyrinth of educational research.” While Greene and Winters present themselves as ‘independent’ and ‘neutral’ voices in educational policy discussions and debates, they are well-known partisans of vouchers and other efforts to privatize public education. They are modern versions of the traditional Chinese mandarins, intellectuals trained and committed to the service of those within the state who would impose a ‘laissez-faire market’ solution to every problem.



    • 1 shouldhavegonetomeds
      · Sep 24, 2005 at 7:00 pm

      I for one am embarrassed by the large numbers of teachere who even dignify The Post by buying it. To me even seeing a teacher carry The Post is almost as bad as hearing a teacher say “that’s mines”.

      The Post is simply Robert Murdoch’s personal pulpit and in no true sense is it a newspaper at all. It is disgusting. Starting nurses with BSN’s at NYU make $70K per year and work 36 hours per week divided among three days. However hard and draining those hours there is little to bring home besides the emotional toil.

      Dentists earn more than doctors in many cases in recent years because they have fewer constraints from insurance companies on them.

      This is just propoganda promulgated by our billionaire Bush buddy bastard mayor.

    • 2 Jackie Bennett
      · Sep 24, 2005 at 9:46 pm

      Greene wrote that Post article? It was Greene who was pushing the idea of publishing ‘working’ research papers, that is pseudo-scholarly articles based on research that had not yet been subject to any kind of peer review. The benefit, Greene claimed, was that it would get more information out to the public faster, but the real agenda was to make it easier to publicize trumped-up data for the vouchers, or to keep unions out of the charter schools.

      Of course, pseudo science has been all the rage these last five years, so no reason Greene shouldn’t take advantage. But I’m just curious. I didn’t read the article, but what is so shocking about making 44 bucks an hour? During the 1970’s, I was a poor girl (my parents were teachers) growing up in a rich Long Island suburb. At 14 years old, I routinely took home $75.00 for two hours of babysitting for someone in the neighborhood. The father of that household made cardboard boxes for a living.

      Now, granted, that was very good pay, the $75, but then, I was a very good babysitter. In any case, if Greene is right, I haven’t moved up, and if Casey is right (as I strongly suspect he is, judging from my bank account), I ought to go back to babysitting.

      But the real lesson here, is not how much should a teacher make, but how much is a child worth? In the spirit of Mr .Greene, then, I publish my ‘working’? paper’s thesis: my research clearly shows that based on what we pay our children’s caretakers, the child of the wealthy suburbs is of far more value to us than the child of the city’s public schools.

      But, of course, that’s just a hunch. Anybody care to do the math?

    • 3 WebMachiavelli
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 2:04 pm

      I am not a regular reader of the Post because I prefer the sports section of another paper so much so that that single reason is the reason I purchase it. I did happen to buy the Post that day because I like to read more than one point of view from time to time. One of the arguements I have repeatedly heard various teachers make over and over is that they should be paid more because they take work home with them. It has always struck me as an odd reasoning for additional income because in many professions that is the norm. Even if the figures about hours worked are correct and teachers work about 50 hours in a week that isn’t at all out of line with what most employers expect of thier salaried employees so why should the public be willing to pay you more for working just as hard as they are?

    • 4 institutional memory
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 2:13 pm

      Do a Google search for Manhattan right-wing think tank and see how many of the references are for Manhattan Institute. It’s reassuring to know that the DOE relies on this bastion of intellectuality to inform their policies.

      What’s next? Intelligent design?

    • 5 WebMachiavelli
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 3:37 pm

      institutional memory,

      So is it you position that because Manhattan Insititute is a “right-wing think tank” they should be summarily rejected regardless position?

    • 6 redhog
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 7:46 pm

      In preparation for the “worst-case scenario” ( which most of us consider a strike would be),I, as chapter leader
      sat my principal down and told her that the staff needs to know how the administration would behave in the event of a strike that the UFT is doing all it can to avoid. I told her that one of her assistant principals, in particular, has taken teachers, especially new ones, behind closed doors and coerced them into “volunteering” for all sorts of extra-contractual ventures, with the tacit or overt linkage of job security dangled in front of them. In the spirit of truth-in-advertising, I told my principal that failure to publicly state that she and her designees would not interfere with the UFT would mean total war within our building and that it would not be pretty. She was charmed under duress to do the right thing. I suggest other chapter leaders start to serve notice also, just in case.

    • 7 NYC Educator
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 7:53 pm

      Are you serious? You’re contemplating a strike for a contract we’re better off without?

      What a shame the executive board lacked the integrity to vote it down. Hopefully the membership will react differently and dump this contract in the trash heap where it belongs. Let Klein take the money. I read in the Daily News that he has to spend 20K a month for PR.

      Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy a toupee?

    • 8 redhog
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 8:23 pm

      You guys are so right about The New York Roast. I had it on my desk at school. Kids saw the “models” on the cover and in the center of the paper, and I realized that if they reported this to their parents, and didn’t realize that this was a “mainstream” newspaper and not a Rag of Turpitude, I could get hauled down to the Office of Special Investigations. Now , if I get it at all ( it is a vital source for my unit on irresponsible journalism) I hide it from the innocent eyes of even our precocious kids.

    • 9 Leo Casey
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 9:31 pm


      It is important not only to read a variety of political viewpoints, but to have those viewpoints expressed ably and articulately. It is one thing to read the New York Sun, which certainly has a conservative perspective, and quite another thing to read the New York Post, which is sub-literate.

      Teachers are not asking to be paid more simply because we take work home. Rather, we are tasking to be paid more because when our salaries are compared to the salaries of other professionals with a similar educational background and with a similar workload [including taking work home], they are paid a great deal more.

    • 10 NYC Educator
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 10:47 pm

      Well, news flash–the UFT has sold us down the river. They’ve agreed to this crap contract, and in return for dumping the extra coverages, they’re giving Klein merit pay.

      Thanks, UFT. Well worth 991 bucks a year to be stabbed in the back by a bunch of people who haven’t got the remotest notion of what the hell this job is.

      For a pittance, you’ve sent us back into the lunchroom and forced us to teach an extra class. A bargain for Bloomie. Too bad we don’t have anyone on the ball negotiating anything for us.

      Thanks. Thanks a lot. And be sure not to endorse Ferrer, because God forbid we should throw our support behind someone who doesn’t hate us and everything we stand for.

      Oh, I forgot. We don’t stand for anything. We just take whatever the hell we can get and hope for the best.

      Thanks. Thanks UFT.

      Now I know why the teachers in CA are getting behind that anti-union thing. I can imagine how they’d feel if their leadership is half as impotent and indifferent as ours.

      We’re moving backwards. We’re working harder for a raise that will not even keep up with the cost of living.

      Who the hell needs a union like this?

    • 11 NYC Educator
      · Sep 26, 2005 at 10:47 pm

      Vote NO!

    • 12 letter in the file
      · Sep 27, 2005 at 3:49 am

      Here is a copy of my comment from the “UFT on the Public’s Side” thread:

      That unsigned editorial is nowhere near as damaging as an opinion piece entitled, “The Teacher-Pay Myth,” written by Jay P. Greene & Marcus Winters from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which appears on page 37 of the September 22nd New York Post:


      Mr. Greene and Mr. Winters make the ridiculous assertion:

      “But, if we make the generous assumption that the average teacher in New York works the maximum 6.6 hours a day allowed by the union contract for the full 181 school days, that works out to $44.38 an hour.”

      Next, they “justify” their statement with the following train of “logic”:

      “So, if teachers are underpaid, then workers in other professions are badly underpaid, too. But there’s no clamor to raise the pay of computer scientists, dentists or engineers.

      But don’t teachers spend a great deal of time grading papers and creating lesson plans while away from school? Some do — but the comparisons here are still fair —– because other professionals do work away from the office, too. Engineers and computer scientists are certainly no strangers to long nights working at home.

      Nor do teachers spend all of their time at school in the classroom. In fact, teachers spend fewer hours actually instructing students than many recognize. Stanford’s Terry Moe worked with data straight from the nation’s largest teacher union’s own data —– and found that the average teacher in a department setting (that is, where students have different teachers for different subjects) was in the classroom for fewer than 3.9 hours out of the 7.3 hours at school each day.

      With several hours set aside at school for course-planning and grading, it strains plausibility that on average teachers must spend more hours working at home than do other professionals.”

      # # #

      Read the full opinion piece in today’s Post or at the above link, and share your thoughts here. If anyone would like to contact Mr. Greene and Mr. Winters directly, here’s the information:




      Here is some interesting information about Mr. Greene contained in a July 28th article in the Arkansas Times:


      Mr. Greene has written a new book. Has anyone read it?


    • 13 a-realist
      · Sep 27, 2005 at 2:14 pm

      Teachers may wish to consider a 40 hour work week and being paid by a the hours shown on a punch clock. If I understand the Federal labor law, an employee is entitled to 1 1/2 times pay per each hour worked past 8 hours in a day during a 40 hour work week. Of course, the work we do at home would need to be done at school, but I am certain I could rack up at the minumum 8-10 hours overtime per work week beyond to 40 hours by punching a clock.
      Knowledge not shared is wasted!

    • 14 NYC Educator
      · Sep 27, 2005 at 2:39 pm

      Sorry, realist, but your plan is not covered under the UFT’s “Roadmap to a Sixth Teaching Period.”

      Look for new innovations, like revocation of tenure, soon coming to a contract near you!

    • 15 redhog
      · Sep 27, 2005 at 8:02 pm

      Imagine paying cops only for time they are in hot pursuit, or firefighters only for the time they are being licked by flames in a torched tenement. It is not a matter of misunderstanding on the part of the City and the Post Rag. It is a wilful, plotted, cynical mutilation of the truth as we all, including them, know it. Yet I know teachers who, repulsed as they are by these insults, persist bending to the blandishments of supervisors and volunteering their time as though their whole lives were evanescent company property.

    • 16 yospeech
      · Sep 28, 2005 at 5:36 am

      I personally will not give a penny from my overpaid pocket to the virulently anti-union hacks at the Post or the News. Perhaps as part of our job actions we might want to consider taking a page from some other advocacy movements, and “isolate and quarantine”the corporate and editorial offices of our enemies, and I do mean ENEMIES!

    • 17 shouldhavegonetomeds
      · Oct 3, 2005 at 7:31 pm

      Personally, I am embarassed everytime I see a teacher reading “The Post”!!!