Friday, April 06, 2007

If something isn't controversial, do you need to say it isn't controversial?

Surfing around to take a break from lesson planning I ended up at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's website, where they've posted their annual list of teacher salaries in Washington State. It lists everybody alphabetically by district; if you were paid by a school, you're in there somewhere.

I get that our salary is a matter of public record; there's a couple of things worth commenting on in their press release, though:

On March 27, 2007, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) updated its complete look at the Washington State Teacher Salaries database. This database allows parents and interested citizens to review the salary and benefits of any teacher or other school employee in Washington State. All information is provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

EFF begin this listing 3 years ago as an effort to allow citizens to know exactly how much these “public employees” were being paid.

“These figures go along to dispelling any myths that are out their regarding teacher’s salaries in Washington State,” said Steven Maggi, director of EFF’s Education Reform Center. “We believe that it is important to use actual data when discussing school funding issues. Using actual salary and benefit figures makes the topic of attracting and retaining excellent teachers easier to understand and is not controversial.”
It's a small thing, but why did they put "public employees" in quotes? Are teachers not public employees? I grant that my own biases may well play a role here, but one could easily read that as the EFF being snarky, and what does that do for them?

Then there's that last quote, and it's where the title of the post came from: why do you have to tell us that this isn't controversial? If it's not controversial, shouldn't that fact stand by itself without needing to be said? Perhaps Mr. Maggi's point was that making the real numbers available makes comparison possible in a non-controversial way, but if that's what he was getting at he buried it under some poor sentence structure.

There's also the very real possibility of math hijinx. If I take the average of all the districts M through O, the average total salary of a teacher is about $39,000. The trick is that includes parapros, bus drivers, administrators, etc, artificially raising some classes and lowering others.

What the EFF has given us here is data, but is it useful data?

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2 Comments:

Blogger SVC Alumnus Blogger said...

a) The data's useful, but I agree the numbers should cite the position of the public employee. I think this data is put out more for local activists who'd know this info though.

b) Part of the reason, if not the reason, why the tone and the public employees in quote marks is in previous years there has been reams of criticism heaped upon EFF for publicizing this vital information. You are though a commendable exception to the rule.

1:54 PM  
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5:29 AM  

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