Re: Losing Their Bargaining Rights Won’t Send Teachers to the Poorhouse

Last week I showed that, by one measure at least, teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually earn more than their union-protected peers–$64,500 on average versus $57,500. These numbers are for teachers with just bachelor’s degrees who have reached the last step on the salary schedule.

Matt Di Carlo of the Shanker Institute responded in the comments section with an important analysis of his own:


Why are you using the maximum BA salary as a measure of what teachers “actually earn?”  It would seem to me that this is the least appropriate choice for two reasons. First, unlike the starting and fifth year salaries available in the TQ3 database, the maximum salary doesn’t “control” for experience – the schedules vary as to how many years it takes to get to the top. Second, and more importantly, most career teachers (i.e., those who might get to the top of their schedules) get a master’s degree (and are required to do so in some states), so very few teachers are actually located at the top BA step. It’s probably the least appropriate choice as a measure of what the typical teacher earns.

I quickly replicated your analysis. My figures for the maximum BA salary are slightly different from yours, but close enough for the purposes of a comment.

Starting BA– Non-CB: $41,314; CB: $38696
BA 5th year —  Non-CB: $43,630; CB: $43,640
Maximum BA – Non-CB: $63,731; CB: 57,628
Starting MA – Non-CB: $43,960; CB: $41,771
MA 5th year – Non-CB: $46,455; CB: 48,258
Maximum MA – Non-CB: $68,249; $67,360

This is, as you note, an extremely crude analysis, but it seems that the CB/Non-CB difference in these 100 districts is seriously overstated when you’re looking at the maximum BA salary. CB salaries are actually higher for both fifth year BA (trivially) and fifth year MA. They’re lower for maximum MA, but by a much smaller margin (roughly $1,000, which, again, may be a function of differences in how many steps comprise these schedules). First year salaries are lower in CB districts for both BA and MA, but the differences aren’t particularly large (around $2,000). This trend (salary differences from first to fifth to maximum) is interesting and worth looking into (I’m going to take a closer look using SASS data), but it’s a somewhat different picture than the one presented in your post.


I wish I could claim to have had a brilliant reason to have picked “maximum BA salary” as my measure, but I can’t. (I needed to pick something, and it seemed as good as any other.) Matt is right: “maximum Master’s salary” is a better choice, for the reasons he explains.

Still, my argument stands: Losing their bargaining rights won’t send teachers to the poorhouse. For these districts at least, collective bargaining appears to have little impact on salaries. That’s not terribly surprising; teacher pay is probably influenced mostly by two other factors:

1. How much money is available in a given district;

2. Broader labor market conditions. (I.e., what nearby districts are paying.)

Bargaining rights seem to matter a lot when it comes to benefits, seniority protections, and working conditions. But not pay. Now we know.

-Mike Petrilli

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