According to the National Education Association (NEA) web site, the New York average for a newly certified teacher salary begins around $41,079 (without a Masters Degree), one of the highest in the country. The national average is $35,139. Onteora outranks these averages offering certified teachers $56,050 for a certified teacher, and $59,093 with a Masters Degree. However, it is similar to most area schools throughout Ulster County and the Hudson Valley.
The average New York State teacher’s salary is $69,118, according the NEA, and that ranks toward the bottom of the top ten state averages.
Teacher unions often regard a teacher’s salary as the lowest among the work force compared to equally educated people in the private workplace. In New York, teachers must have a Bachelors degree, certification and 175 hours of professional development to begin.
Most specialty teachers such as special educators must have a Masters degree in addition to certification in their field. And, the unions point out, that often teachers come out of college heavily in debt. Union representatives say the pay off is in health benefits and job security.
According to Onteora Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Victoria McLaren, contributions toward benefits are often a moving target based on economics and job seniority. A majority of teachers obtain health coverage through Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield through the Duchess Educational Health Insurance Consortium (DEHIC). The cost of a yearly family health insurance plan is $18,441 per teacher, per year. Of that taxpayers pick up $16,781 and the teacher contributes $1,659.69 or nine percent. If a teacher opts for individual coverage instead, the total is $8,269.44 per year. Taxpayers pick up $7,525.19 of that cost and the teacher contributes $744.25. If a teacher opts out of insurance coverage completely, the district provides a bonus of $2,000. The district pays 100 percent of individual health coverage for retirees or 40-50 percent for family coverage. A portion of a teacher’s gross income, around 3-4 percent is collected for retirement through the New York State Teacher Retirement System. District contribution for 2010/2011 was 8.62 percent and is projected to increase for next year to 11.11 percent.
Onteora teachers work seven hours a day (excluding additional time grading papers and other prep work) for 185 days out of the year. This is higher than other area school districts except for BOCES that works 186 days. Onteora is also above the State mandated maximum school days of 176-177 days.
Onteora graduation rates
The value of a teacher and how much society is willing to pay to educate its children has been the subject of much debate both on a national and local level. There has been much criticism directed toward America’s education system. Blame has been leveled at unions, claims are made that teachers are overpaid, benefits are cited, as is modern parenting (or lack of it), poverty, too much TV, too much violence, not enough religion, depending on who is doing the talking.
Since the turn of the 21st century America’s children have statistically appeared to have fallen behind in academics, especially in science and math, beaten out by countries such as China and Finland.
Onteora posts higher than the American average graduation numbers, posts better than average test scores and a majority of its students go on to two or four year colleges.
Increased student dropout numbers throughout the State appear to point more toward inner city schools with consolidated high poverty rates. Educational experts note that schools with isolated pockets of high poverty fare much worse than their counter suburban and rural schools, multiplying other problems such as the difficulty of attracting well-qualified teachers to poor areas that generally offer lower salary and larger classroom sizes.
Onteora lists 31 percent of students in need of free or reduced lunch program compared to some New York City public schools where the rate is as high as 60 percent. The graduation rate in New York City public schools stand at 59 percent and the State average is 72 percent. Onteora’s graduation rate (including economically disadvantaged and special education) comes in at 80 percent. Among only the economically disadvantaged students, Onteora has a graduation rate of 76 percent. Although the numbers are higher compared to the State averages, Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill says she would like to see the district improve its graduation numbers.
A little bit of history…
Historically, public schools, once called common schools, were created to be inclusive institutions and were almost solely taught by women. These schools were not however supervised by women. In the mid 1800s women were recruited into the teaching profession for a number of reasons, most notable because they were cheaper than their male counterparts and women of that time apparently valued a high literacy rate. “God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems…very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price.” This was written by the Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts dated 1849. These women teachers were required to dress modestly, look virtuous, covered from neck to toe, and exhibit female behavior with proper stature. There was no job security or benefits. Marriage meant immediate termination, as was socializing with the wrong sort of people.
By the late 1800s, union struggles eventually yielded job security, benefits, retirement, equal pay and tenure including due process as protection against unfair termination. Critics today argue that part of the demise of American education has to do with job tenure. However, some form of tenure is prevalent in other developed countries and in most universities. According to the NEA, currently 75 percent of the public school workforce is made up of women. Of that number, the 25 percent of male teachers appear to work more in secondary schools than elementary. ++