Nearly 40% Of ND Teachers Make More Than Median Household Income

NCLBEL MOONEY  MURRAY

North Dakota’s teacher unions want to raise the minimum salary paid to teachers:

The “Make the Average the Law” campaign might be bringing higher salaries to North Dakota teachers. It’s kicking off today by the North Dakota Education Association. The goal is to raise the minimum starting salary for teachers to $32,000.

Supporters say it’s time for a change. The current minimum teachers salary, $22,500, was set by state legislators ten years ago.

The Make the Average the Law campaign seeks to even out the playing field when it comes to teacher salaries. Brad Srur, Grand Forks Education Association: “It’s getting everyone at least up to the average.”

A recent survey shows the majority of North Dakotans would support raising the minimum to $36,000, but campaign leaders say $32,000 is a reasonable compromise. Brad: “North Dakota I think at this point has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and the association feels it can be done now.”

The measure is mostly aimed at helping rural areas. Brad: “I think it will help our recruitment of teachers because I know there are places in North Dakota where they struggle to get teachers.”

This doesn’t make any sense. We’re not talking about a mandatory salary. We’re talking about a minimum salary. Which means that teachers can be paid more, they just can’t accept less. If a given school district can’t find teachers to work for the minimum, they can pay more. But if they can find qualified teachers willing to work for the minimum, why should the taxpayers have to pay more?

And really, how many teachers make the minimum? According to Sunshine on Schools, in 2009 (the last year for which data is available) just 15 teachers made the minimum or less (part timers) in total salary (not counting pensions and other benefits). That’s just 0.21% of all teachers employed in the state.

graph (1)

Just 808 of 7051 teachers make less than the $32,000/year the unions want the minimum raised to. That’s 11.4% of teachers.

graph (2)

No fewer than 99% of teachers in 2009 made more than North Dakota’s per-capita income of $25,803 from 2010. Almost 40% of teachers made more than the media North Dakota household income of $46,781.

graph (3)

And, again, we’re just talking salary. We’re not talking about other perks like pensions.

Plus, this data is going on four years old. Compensation levels have risen since then. This pay seems adequate.

If certain school districts need to raise salaries to find more teachers, they are and should be free to do that. Pay should be based on the labor markets, calculated to attract a sufficient number of qualified applicants. But an across-the-board hike in minimum salaries? That sounds great for the teachers union in that it means more dues for them. It’s not so great for the taxpayers, and it’s hardly conducive to efficient education policy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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