Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Teachers, By the Numbers

Most likely, all of you have heard about the union debate in Wisconsin, or should I say; The debate that was. It's currently headed to an assembly, where it is basically certain to pass. The bill removes most collective bargaining rights for all public employees. It's justified by Governor Walker under the idea that it will help eliminate Wisconsin's budget shortfalls. Those against it make allegations of Koch Brothers involvement, and give statements such as:

In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten. -Mark Miller (D)

So, lets look at one group of those public workers; The Teachers. Here's some numbers:

Average Wisconsin Teacher Salary: $52,644 (source)
Average Benefits: $20-40,000 (Various sources, take with grain of salt)
Vacation Time: 13-14 weeks (source)
Average Per Capita Income: $25,993(source)
High School Graduation Rate: 85% (40% for blacks, the worst in the nation)(source)

So what are we seeing here? Undoubtedly, you can form your own conclusions. My thoughts are that Wisconsin teachers are doing pretty well. Nothing amazing, but they seem to be making a solid middle class income. Unions are almost certainly responsible for that. These unions are not exactly out of control when compared to the likes of the UAW (~double the average salary for manufacturing sector jobs, $69 an hour including benefits by GM's estimates in 06) Yet, the unions have pushed themselves to a level that is, in my opinion, slightly excessive.

The quality of their work is difficult to ascertain, so it's hard to say whether they deserve the money they make, as it's largely dependent on the individual. This is a major reason why I advocate merit based pay, which unfortunately is hated by many/most unions. (surprise, surprise) One figure really jumps out at me though; That being the vacation time. 13-14 weeks?! Keep in mind, these teachers are making a full time income, for about 25% less time worked. That's where these numbers make you realize that these teachers are not hurting as much as they'd like you to believe.

So, is this "anti-union" bill justified? That's the question I intend to delve into in a series of posts regarding both this specific situation, and unions in general. As always, I'd love to see any comments you guys may have, and may well incorporate them into blog posts if you have a specific figure or interesting opinion that's worth sharing.


  1. I will have a post soon about this very subject. I can see both sides of the coin on this debate. Unions for private companies are very different than public sector unions (ie teachers, cops, firemen, government workers) and should be treated separately which the media is not on this issue. FDR had some good words about public sector unions. You should look them up on the internet. He was against them, but very very pro private sector unions.

  2. Thanks for this. It was interesting.

    But remember, teachers don't have a 9-5 work day. They have to do some work stuff out of work. grading papers, taking care of children maybe...

  3. @Oilfield Trash
    I emailed you a (rather lengthy) response.

    This is true, but that time spent is hard to quantify, as it varies so much between individuals.

    On a more personal experience:

    Here in Michigan, at the High School I attended, teachers worked from 8:00-3:20, with a 1 hour recess with no classes during which they were able to do as they pleased. (most graded/prepared lessons at that time) They also had a 1/2 hour lunch break. (which is expected)

    So, their actual "in school" work time was roughly 6 hours. Some worked quite a bit outside of school, some not at all. Like I said, hard to quantify. This is why merit based pay is drastically needed. It adds incentive and rewards those teachers who put in the extra effort; Something sorely lacking from the current unionized model being used.

  4. Hey, thanks for the follow, I'm in for more on yours.

    I was thinking about this last night; we don't really need Unions IF and only IF the companies play nice. If they keep the union regulations, if they continue to treat their employees well, etc. This is just a guy who's never been in a Union, but that's what it looks like for those of us outside and looking in.

    To answer your question, I'm a Clinical Administration major in college with a Clinical Sciences undergrad. Not really the most interesting, but I like it.

    Also Battlestar Galactica is awesome, just started watching it.

  5. @Sloki

    Unfortunately, companies don't really play nice. Sure, some might, but as a whole...people look out for their own interests. Without some bargaining ability, employees stand to lose. They don't necessarily, but they can. There are plenty of companies not dealing with unions, and those employees aren't mistreated. Hell, if I personally ran a business, I'd fight unions like crazy. But I'd also treat my employees well enough they wouldn't feel they needed them.

    In a sense, unions are like insurance.

  6. Obviously there are no Union member here.

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  8. Following and Supporting $
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  9. whether it's teachers or other union workers, what's happening in Wisconsin is plain undemocratic.


  10. great blog. i like it. i follow.

    so long

  11. I think it would have been better if the governor had just asked to put their collective bargaining rights on the table, and have that conversation with the public. It's a message war the Republicans could have won i think.

  12. Man oh Man, Wisconsin where are things heading to.