By the Numbers: How Scranton Teacher Salaries Stack Up

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SCRANTON -- They're walking the picket line for the second week in a row in downtown Scranton. Teachers from the city school district have been working without a contract for more than a month and they say they deserve a raise.

"The last few weeks have been a little trying," says Rosemary Boland, who is the president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers.

But are her members paid fairly?

Newswatch 16 Investigates looked at the median salaries of the Scranton School District, and compared it to other city school districts across the state and region, and Scranton is dead last.

Bethlehem $68,645
Williamsport $68,600
Wilkes-Barre $63,109
Harrisburg $59,081
Erie $55,173
Reading $53,275
Scranton $52,500

 

Newswatch 16 Investigates also looked at these communities' per capita income gathered from the U.S. Census and found Scranton's incomes higher than all other cities except Bethlehem.

Bethlehem $23,827
Scranton $20,244
Erie $18,907
Harrisburg $18,686
Williamsport $17,571
Wilkes-Barre $17,151
Reading $13,306

 

We showed the numbers to Rosemary Boland.

"We try not to dwell on it because it doesn't build up morale too much," said the union president. "What it tells me that what we're asking for in this collective bargaining session is a fair offer for our district to give to us."

"We're trying to work with the numbers," countered Scranton School Board vice president Bob Sheridan.

Whether it comes to teachers, police, or firefighters, officials say the city's declining population and relatively low income makes it hard to even give raises. And Sheridan says the state budget impasse makes it even harder.

"We're waiting for the budget to pass from the state," Sheridan said. "And without knowing what's coming from Harrisburg, we don't know."

Scranton teachers and the school board are also at odds over benefits and class size rules. Our investigation found there is little difference in benefits packages compared to other districts. And Scranton is the only school district we looked at that currently limits class size as part of the collective bargaining agreement.

12 comments

  • Jennifer Everett

    I do not pretend to know all the issues involved. I do remember when Honesdale went on strike when I was a child and the days added on the end of the school year. I have been a teacher, and after 3 school districts, 3 budget cuts, equals no job. I understand WHY the teachers are striking. BUT I can not agree with it. There are other ways to handle no contract. Refuse to participate in extracurriculars. Refuse all those other things that are not outlined in a contract, but is done because they care. PS…test scores, rankings, etc does not mean a child is not learning. Numbers can not measure the true measure of a teacher.

  • scoot372

    Everyone wants to bash the teachers for making a competitive wage and actually lower pay then the average for their profession. A lot of this is jealousy because maybe they only make half or less of what a teacher makes, maybe they should address the wage gap among CEO’s and executives in this nation. Also, if they’re not happy about their job or wages then they need to change their situation, get another job, training, schooling, etc. By the way, I’m not a teacher.

  • notacitydweller

    I am surprised that WNEP quoted statistics in such an irresponsible manner.

    First: “Because per-capita income is the overall income of a population divided by the number of people included in the population, it does not always give an accurate representation of the quality of life due to the function’s inability to account for skewed data. For instance, if there is an area where 50 people are making $1 million per year and 1,000 people making $100 per year the per capita income is $47,714, but that does not give a true picture of the living conditions of the entire population.”

    Why was per capita income quoted? Who pays school taxes? Only property owners, I believe. So, what is the salary of property owners in the city? How many raises in salary have those property owners received year after year versus increases in cost of living expenses? How many property owners are on fixed incomes? Only a fraction of the residents are property owners so the school taxes are paid only by that subset of the population.

    Second: Median is defined as: “the middle number in a given sequence of numbers, taken as the average of the two middle numbers when the sequence has an even number of numbers.”

    Not knowing the number of salaries considered in determining the median and all of the salaries, makes the number meaningless. For example, if the median salary is $52,500 and if there are twenty five salaries being considered the first thirteen salaries could be $52,500. The remaining salaries could be greater than $52, 500 and we do not know by how much.

    Does the salary figure in either the per capita income or the median salary reflect benefit packages?

    And last, but by certainly not least, how many of the salaries in the median calculation are teachers who are tenured as opposed to the residents in the per capita income pool who are not in union positions and who are not tenured?

    • Nick Munyat

      Actually, quoting per capita income relative to other cities’ per capita income is a relevant statistic… for comparison. The article doesn’t attempt to make a claim about the quality of life in Scranton based on per capita income, only to demonstrate that the per capita income compared to the same statistic for comparable cities is higher than all but one. If the article were to state that “everyone in Scranton has $20,244,” that would be a misuse of this statistic. That is not what the article does.

      Second, median is not dependent at all on the number of salaries being considered. It is simply the middle-most actual number represented in the series (or the mean of the two middle-most values, if there are an even number of values represented). (The other primary measures of central tendency: mean – the “average,” which would still have relevance, as it is the weighted amount represented by the entire series of data though does not adjust for outliers, and the mode – which is what you describe, is the most frequently present value in a set of values… the mode is seldom a useful statistic, especially in cases like this, and I suspect that this is why it wasn’t chosen as the measure of central tendency represented in this article.) Example: Five salaries: $20,000; $20,000; $27,000; $30,000; $150,000; Mean: $49,400; Mode: $20,000; Median: $27,000. Which is most representative of the data set?

      Your point about benefits is a relevant one. Do Scranton teachers earn enough in benefits to make up for the difference in monetary salary?

      I’m not sure of the relevance of your last point. There is really very little “calculating” to do for the median, as previously demonstrated, though if there were a substantially larger number of highly paid, tenured teachers in the comparison districts and Scranton were primarily new, not-yet-tenured teachers, the entire data set would be skewed, which would move both the Mean and Median lower for Scranton. This could be useful data, but comparing the teacher salaries to the per capita income is not useful as they are not measures of the same type. The correct comparison would weight teacher salaries in City A by per capita income in City A, and compare it to City B teacher salaries weighted by per capita income for City B, and so on.

  • Dick Morrissett

    I thought it was against the law for any public employee to strike? At any rate, they only work 9 months a year and all the holidays off – plus, and most of us wish we only had to work 7 hours a day – try 12-16 per day.. Furthermore, if they don’t like the pay, they always have the right to quit.

    • Nicole Barrasse (@MaryBraveBird)

      At what point do comments like these stop being hilarious and stop demonstrating what’s wrong with our societies. It’s alarming that you think teachers only work 7 hours a day and that perhaps they have a whole boatload of free time off in the summer. When do you think teachers prepare the lessons they are teaching? While they are teaching them? Teachers have homework too and in the summer they are taking continuing education classes, prepping for the school year, or on required trainings. Get your facts straight about the days and hours teachers put in before you start criticizing something you know nothing about.

    • Nick Munyat

      I used to think like that, and then I married a teacher. Now, I’ll grant that she is one of the more dedicated teachers I’ve ever come across in my life (and I’m not only saying that because I have to :-P), but I also meet many of her colleagues and I can tell you that the “they only work 9 months and get all the holidays off and only 7 hours per day” thing is not accurate… at all.

      They are only IN THE CLASSROOM, TEACHING for 9 months (unless they do Summer School, camps, or other variations), 7 hours a day (unless they provide tutoring before or after school, or during their lunch periods, which many do), and have holidays off. They are also required (as they should be) to continue their own education, which adds to that time. They are also required to plan their lessons and grade assignments, which adds to that time. Many sponsor sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities, which adds to that time. Many are involved in parent and community groups as a function of their job, which adds to that time. They are also required to attend a number of meetings, professional development sessions, in-service days… all of which add to that time (and in some cases, take away from those “holidays” that they get off).

  • butterfly11104

    52,000.00 are you kidding me. My husband and I both work and are lucky to pull in 20,000.00 total. And we work year round. no summer breaks. sometimes 12-14 hours a day. This is greed if there was any… Fire them all and bring in people who want to teach the children and don’t care about $$. And our pssa scores are below average. I think we need new teachers. This is getting petty and ridiculous . Kids should be in school!!!

    • scoot372

      You must be either living on The North Pole or in Fantasy Land because if you think someone is going to come and teach for peanuts your out of your mind.

  • rnasca

    The real story here is that while the median salary of the Scranton school district is $52,500 the median salaries in the city of Scranton overall are only $38,810 (2013 figures). Factor in benefits and the disparity is even greater.

    • Nick Munyat

      Factor in educational backgrounds, the professional nature of the occupation, and what the median (and mean) salaries of those with similar educational attainment might be, and then we can talk. You can’t compare data that includes the salaries of unskilled labor working low paying jobs with no educational barriers to entry in a statistics that you are going to compare to the salaries of people who are required to possess Bachelor’s degrees (at minimum) to even have their resume accepted for a second look.

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