Myth Buster: Chester vs Lancaster County Wages

wagesIn discussing the cost of labor, within the Octorara Area School District, I often refer to a news report from lancasteronline.com. This news article compares Octorara’s per-student cost to the per-student costs paid by Lancaster County school districts, and identifies labor as Octorara’s #1 issue for having the highest per-student cost. At the last meeting, the board requested Dr. Newcome create a report comparing Lancaster and Chester County wages. I couldn’t wait.

I was initially surprised by what I found. Perceptually, many of us kinda think that Chester County would pay the highest wages. It turns out, this is not correct. However, the data still leads us to the idea Octorara is paying a premium for wages.

The information is not a general K-12 teacher salary. The data is different for different subsets, with Kindergarten Teachers paid the least and Secondary School Career/Technology Teachers paid the most. I chose to focus of Middle School Teachers to keep this report short.

Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education

2011 Mean Annual Wage*

Estimated 2011 mean annual labor market wage rates for individuals employed as Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education in Pennsylvania by county.

Lancaster County $55,500
Chester County $54,260

Highest: Montgomery County $71,250
Lowest: Cumberland County $49,300

2011 Entry Level Annual Wage

Estimated 2011 entry level annual labor market wage rates for individuals employed as Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education in Pennsylvania by county.

Chester County $39,820
Lancaster County $39,800

Highest: Pike County $49,780
Lowest: Beaver County $34,860

2011 Experienced Annual Wage

Estimated 2011 experienced annual labor market wage rates for individuals employed as Middle School Teachers, Except Special in Pennsylvania by county.

Lancaster County $66,350
Chester County $65,850

Highest: Montgomery County $82,350
Lowest: Cumberland County $55,640

Analysis: Myth Busted

While individual school districts will vary, Lancaster County teachers get paid slightly better than their Chester County counterparts, and we are paying a hefty premium for our teachers. Our teachers will be starting at $49,191, but the majority of teachers in both Chester and Lancaster Counties are starting significantly less… $10,000/year less. When we compare Octorara’s average salary of $66,523 (2011-12), the information would suggest that kind of pay should be reserved for teachers at the top end of the pay scale, not average.

** Addendum **

Additional Information from PSBA

I had previously reported that Lisa Bowman was quoting the Department of Labor when she stated the average teacher salary in Pennsylvania is $60,674. Jack Mariano reported on ParkesburgToday that Mrs. Bowman was citing Department Of Education statistics. We both must have misheard Mrs. Bowman.

I wrote most of this article yesterday before meeting with Dr. Newcome, who corrected me. The source is a brochure entitled “Pennsylvania School Facts & Figures 2012” from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. The brochure mentions that The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Digest of Education Statistics – U.S. Department of Education, and the Pennsylvania School Board Association as sources for the information provided.

Pennsylvania Department of Education

Thanks to Dr. Newcome providing me the brochure used as Mrs. Bowman’s source, I was to find newer 2011-12 numbers, and was also able to get the information breakdown based on individual school district. This data is publicly available within the Professional and Support Personnel Data and Statistics section of the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.

Averages

Pennsylvania $62,019
Chester County $64,344
Lancaster County $60,124

By School District

Chester County

Avon Grove SD $66,085
Center for Arts & Technology $69,371
Chester County IU 24 $69,944
Coatesville Area SD $59,662
Downingtown Area SD $65,321
Great Valley SD $78,826
Kennett Consolidated SD $65,545
Octorara Area SD $66,523
Owen J Roberts SD $60,462
Oxford Area SD $54,843
Phoenixville Area SD $70,211
Tredyffrin-Easttown SD $80,068
Unionville-Chadds Ford SD $74,942
West Chester Area SD $67,136

Lancaster County

Cocalico SD $60,622
Columbia Borough SD $54,243
Conestoga Valley SD $59,018
Donegal SD $57,779
Eastern Lancaster County SD $57,830
Elizabethtown Area SD $59,129
Ephrata Area SD $59,090
Hempfield  SD $65,805
Lampeter-Strasburg SD $65,528
Lancaster SD  $57,524
Lancaster-Lebanon IU $57,281
Manheim Central SD  $57,703
Manheim Township SD $62,440
Penn Manor SD $61,603
Pequea Valley SD $58,610
Solanco SD $58,940
Warwick SD $62,572

Octorara, even with this additional data, can be argued to have an excessively high average wage. Octorara pays teachers higher than the Pennsylvania average, higher than the both the Chester and Lancaster County averages, and higher wages compared to our closest neighbors. Moreover, every Lancaster County school district has a lower average salary, including the charter schools that I did not list.  Only five schools in Chester County, excluding the Intermediate Unit and the Center for Arts & Technology, have higher salaries and all are much more affluent than Octorara.

So, there it is, even using the Octorara School Board’s own source material, we find we are paying premium salaries. Keep in mind, this is still after having put a pay freeze in place last year. Are they going to dispute the numbers from their own sources this time?

I will be discussing my meeting with Dr. Newcome within my next blog.

*The mean is the arithmetic average of a set of values, or distribution; however, for skewed distributions, the mean is not necessarily the same as the middle value (median), or the most likely (mode). For example, mean income is skewed upwards by a small number of people with very large incomes, so that the majority have an income lower than the mean. Entry level and Experienced wage rates represent the means of the lower 1/3 and upper 2/3 of the wage distribution, respectively. Source: PA Dept of Labor and Industry https://paworkstats.geosolinc.com/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s