Valuing teachers: Does pay deal stack up?

2019-06-11 09:44:46

A pay deal offered to teachers would put some among the country's top earners.

Teachers are stuck in a stand-off with the Government over its latest pay offer.

What's been offered - and rejected - looks something like this.

Primary teachers with a degree, or advanced diploma, would have their base salaries increase to a range of $52,429 to $82,992, from $47,980 to $71,891 currently. Primary teachers with teaching qualifications and a specialist subject degree would get a bit more — $54,186 to $85,481.

A beginner secondary teacher's base salary would increase from $51,200 to $55,948 if they were to start teaching in 2021.

More than 10,000 primary teachers, or about a third, get more than the top of the base scale (currently $71,891) because they receive extra payments in recognition of management or leadership responsibilities.

The latest rejected offer would put a primary teacher with one unit for extra responsibilities at $89,481 a year by 2021.

Almost 60 per cent, or 12,000 secondary teachers, are paid above the top of their base scale.

A secondary teacher at the top of the scale and receiving two middle management allowances for extra responsibilities is paid $80,000 currently and after the offer, this increases to $83,340 in 2019, $88,233 in 2020 and $90,790 in 2021.

A primary school principal with at least nine years' experience leading a school of 851-1025 students would see their core remuneration increase from $135,517 to $139,216. It would then increase to $143,027 in 2021 and $146,951 the next year.

As of 2018, secondary principals in the country's biggest public schools earnt a base rate of $156,727 a year.

So how does it compare with other industries and salaries?

Stats NZ data shows that in the year to June last year, there were 2.14 million people in New Zealand who had annual income from wages and salaries.

Of them, 50 per cent took home less than $45,673 a year, or below the base rate of a primary teacher without extra responsibility.

Another quarter of people earned between $45,673 and $70,000, and 23 per cent of people had income of more than $70,000.

The average annual personal income (before-tax) for the year ended June 2018 was $51,527, just under the proposed bottom base rate for a teacher.

Data from the States Services Commission (SSC) showed the median salary for a public service employee (that's the mid-point in the range of salaries paid) was $67,000, while the average was $77,900.

Just 2.5 per cent of annual income earners in New Zealand took home more than $150,000 – the level that the pay deal almost takes a primary principal to and which some secondary principals already surpass.

In the year to June 2018, the average salary in the public sector for managers was $136,300, while policy analysts earned $99,400, and information communications and technology professionals and technicians earned $93,400 on average.

More than 2800 public servants were paid more than $150,000 per year, SSC data showed, with more than 280 earning more than $300,000 per year for the 2017/2018 financial year.

By comparison, police officers get about $68,435 after five years on the job.

Nurses, who spend a similar amount of time training as teachers, have a top pay bracket of $77,386 before they need to move into management to be paid more.

In the private sector, Trade Me data shows IT architect jobs being advertised at an average $153,222 a year. It said Auckland had the highest-paying jobs, with an average advertised salary of $72,299.

Stats NZ data shows mining is the highest-paid sector in New Zealand - people in that industry earnt a median $21,510 in the first quarter of this year.

The NZEI said it would not comment while negotiations were continuing.

Not all about pay

But teachers say it's not just about the money. They are worried about being over-worked and under-resourced.

Those weeks of holidays parents think they get each year? Not so, teachers say.

Their employment agreements require primary teachers to be in school for 10 days a year when it is closed, and secondary teachers five.

That means about 39 weeks a year that secondary teachers are required to be at school, and 41 for primary teachers.

Their contracts say that they should not work more than 40 hours a week "where practicable" but note that in order to carry out their duties, they might need to.

A report from the New Zealand Council for Education Research in 2016 found that 18 per cent of teachers sad they worked up to 10 hours outside timetabled classes each week - taking them to a 40-hour working week. Another 52 per cent said they worked between 11 and 20 hours outside class time - taking them up to a 50-hour week.

For comparison, about 33 per cent of all working people say they do 40 hours a week. Another 17.5 per cent say they do 50 hours or more.

A little over half the teachers said their work-related stress was manageable and just over half said their workload was manageable. About a third said they had so much work they could not do  justice to the student they taught.

Government setting pay

Eric Crampton, chief economist at the NZ Initiative, said issues arose because the Government set pay levels for the whole sector. He said teachers were right that they were not being paid enough to attract people of the calibre that students deserved.

But the government was stuck in a situation where a pay rise for some meant a rise for all, and a big bill.

"Increasing pay by enough to keep teaching attractive as profession for new potential workers coming in could easily cost a billion dollars in pay increases to all the other teachers currently employed. The overall teacher salary bill is about $4 billion, so a 25 per cent increase in pay on top of that would be about a billion dollars. That's about the same amount that Pharmac spends in total."

He said there were ways around it but they did not have widespread support.

"In other professions, you can get salary inversions where everyone just accepts that new hires will earn more than longer-standing staff, but it'll there be coupled with performance bonuses for strongly performing staff – otherwise, they'd just get hired away by other employers.

"Every other profession seems to have managed to find ways of evaluating performance and linking it to pay; I doubt that it's impossible in education. Until something like that comes in, though, the government won't be able to push up offers to encourage in the kinds of candidates it needs to attract without incurring substantial expense.

"Through a small change to the way salary schedules are framed – as minimums only - and trusting principals to manage their budgets, schools could better compete with other employers for the brightest and the best. "

Economist Brad Olsen, from Infometrics, said teachers needed to pick their time.

"The government parties made it clear in the lead up to the last election that they would address teacher pay and teacher numbers if they got elected, and teachers are now trying to collect on that promise. As a result, now is the best and possibly only time teachers have, to get a good deal from the government."

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