Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'll Take That Kind Of Pay "Hit" Any Time

When somebody tells you they took a pay hit, do you assume they’re going to make more money, or less money? Usually, I guess, when you TAKE a hit, you’re going to make less. I suppose, in a poker sort of sense, if you GET a hit, you might make more money.

Matt DeFour’s article in the State Journal Monday says the average increase in teacher pay and benefits across Wisconsin is 3.75%. The headline writer didn’t do DeFour any favors when he or she headlined the article “Teachers’ pay, benefits take hit.”

I’ll take a hit like that any time.

Too many folks that I know personally have taken one hell of a hit in their pay in the past couple years, a few of them taking a 100% hit and being shown the door in this crappy economy. I don’t begrudge the teachers’ pay and benefits increase at all. Some of my pals are teachers, I have been a faculty adjunct at 3 Universities, and my “baby” sister is a teacher in the Oshkosh school district. The work is hard and not everyone has a talent for it.

Years ago, when I wrote and delivered daily editorials for a local radio company, I would rail against the way the Madison school superintendent (back then, it was Art Rainwater) would position an actual increase in the school budget as a “cut”. Art was always talking about all the cuts he’d have to make if the voters didn’t approve whatever spending referendum was up for a vote, when the fact is that what was being “cut” was the RATE of INCREASE.

If in a “normal” year you were used to increasing operating budgets by, say, 10%, and you were forced to lower the next year’s increase to 8%, I suppose you could call that a “20% cut”. (No, it’s not a “TWO percent cut” – two percent of 10 is 0.2, which is a two-tenths of a percent cut. It’s a two percentage-point cut, to be technical.) But in the crazy world of school (and, often, government) finance, an increase is often referred to as a cut.

No matter how you choose to phrase it, nor how poorly and misleading the story’s headline is written, our state’s teachers are going to do all right. Maybe not as good as they’d like (don’t get me going about Viagra for the Milwaukee teacher’s union), but they’ll be OK.

But the way we finance public education in this state is appallingly and disgustingly wrong and broken. That’s what really needs to get fixed, not just the way the headline portrays the story.


  1. Even more damning was the rate-of-increase number over the last 10 (or so) years--

    Far more than private sector rate-of-increase in that timeframe.

  2. Colonel,

    >> (No, it’s not a “TWO percent cut” – two percent of 10 is 0.2, which is a two-tenths of a percent cut. It’s a two percentage-point cut, to be technical.) <<

    I'm proud of you for examining the numbers like that! It can be dicier to do that than to examine somebody's limping grammar. If you get into formulae and unit conversions and powers of ten, boy, howdy! Watch out!

    But you are, of course, correct.

    The Town Crank
    Neenah, WI

  3. Yes, those exorbitant 3.5 percent teachers' raises are appalling, unless, of course, your private sector rate of increase is as an executive or management for an insurance company, or oil company, or health services/financial services company. Perhaps Dad could suggest AIG and Goldman Sachs and Aetna, along with war-profiteers, bite the bullet, too? Damning indeed.

  4. Umnnnhh....AIG is history, George.

    You missed something in your analysis: there's a HELLUVA big difference between private industry and public entities.

    Public entities steal money at the point of a gun. Private industry has to survive in other ways.

    We are NOT comparing Teacher Sally with the Chairman of Goldie. We're comparing their methods of getting the income.

    And, yes, whether they are actually worth it; but that's secondary.