Octorara continues trend of high average teacher salaries

Octorara teacher salariesPlease Note: While reading this blog, keep in mind that CNN reported last August that American median incomes are 4.8% lower than they were at the start of the Great Recession in December 2007 and 5.9% below January 2000. (link)

Regular readers know, I have been tracking Octorara’s high labor cost for a good number of years. As a line-item, tracked as an Actual Cost, the “total salaries” (which includes everything from administration to janitorial) have been fairly well controlled in recent years.

Unfortunately, this has been accomplished with a combination of eliminating positions, outsourcing, and replacing retirees with less experienced teachers, rather than actually controlling the wages of professional employees.

According to a report published by the National Education Association, the U.S. average Classroom Teacher salary in 2014-15 is estimated to be $57,379 (p. 76).

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 2014-15 Professional Staff Summary Report indicates the average salary in 2014-15 of a Classroom Teacher in Pennsylvania was $64,542.

This same report shows the average Classroom Teacher in Chester County was $64,544, and in Lancaster County was $63,160.

Octorara’s average Classroom Teacher salary is $67,409.

  • $10,030 higher than the national average.
  • $2,876 higher than the Pennsylvania average.
  • $4,249 higher than the Lancaster County average, and
  • $2,865 higher than the Chester County average.

This year, I am comparing school districts in Chester County, plus the two adjacent Lancaster County school districts.

2014-15 Average Teacher Salary – Full Time Only
LEA County Sal-CT
Tredyffrin-Easttown SD Chester 82,917.36
Great Valley SD Chester 81,546.02
Unionville-Chadds Ford SD Chester 77,056.86
Phoenixville Area SD Chester 69,197.16
Downingtown Area SD Chester 67,724.42
Octorara Area SD Chester 67,409.86
Avon Grove SD Chester 66,001.63
West Chester Area SD Chester 65,451.45
Coatesville Area SD Chester 65,191.85
Owen J Roberts SD Chester 64,852.18
Pequea Valley SD Lancaster 64,033.61
Kennett Consolidated SD Chester 63,959.67
Oxford Area SD Chester 56,911.02
Solanco SD Lancaster 56,601.44

Octorara vs West Chester

There are those that point to our Property Tax Mill Value as a big reason why Octorara’s Tax Rate is so high. It is not true, but lets go with it for the sake of argument. (It is tempting to rant about that here, but it will take us off topic.)

West Chester’s Mill Value is around $6 Million, while Octorara’s is roughly $900,000. We generate less revenue, but we also have vastly fewer students, employees, and facilities (schools to stadiums). However, look at the historic salary trend.

When I started following salaries years ago, I pulled numbers going back to the 1999-2000 school year. At that time, West Chester was paying $8,000 more than Octorara per teacher, per year.

By the 2011-2012 school year, the gap closed to just around $600. West Chester was $67,136, and Octrara’s average Classroom Teacher salary was $66,523.

Today, the average Octorara teacher is paid almost $2,000 more than their counterparts in West Chester.

Since 2000, the average teacher in Octorara has seen his/her salary increase from $50,579 to $67,409, an increase of just a hair under $17,000 or 34%. In fact, Octorara’s starting salary is now almost the same as the average salary was just 15 years ago.

The vast majority of Americans, and certainly the majority of taxpayers within the Octorara area, have not seen salary growth like that. In fact, for many Americans, their incomes are gone down from 2000.

Comparing Our Actual Neighbors

The average Classroom Teacher salary of neighboring school districts is $64,743.76, which is $2,666.10 less than Octorara.

Of course, this average includes Unionville-Chadds Ford, arguably one of the wealthiest areas in Pennsylvania, who pay an average salary of $77,056, and has made a jump of almost $2,500 from last year.

If we were to exclude Unionville-Chadds Ford from our calculations, because they are not representative of our area, the average teacher salary would only be $62,691.57.

Our rural neighbors, the ones that look most like us demographically and economically, pay an average of almost $5,000 less per year, per teacher in salaries. Additionally, they also save on average $1,300 per yer, per teacher in retirement costs, which will cost roughly 26% of salaries this year.

2014-15 Average Teacher Salary – Full Time Only – Neighbors
LEA County Sal-CT
Unionville-Chadds Ford SD Chester 77,056.86
Octorara Area SD Chester 67,409.86
Avon Grove SD Chester 66,001.63
Coatesville Area SD Chester 65,191.85
Pequea Valley SD Lancaster 64,033.61
Oxford Area SD Chester 56,911.02
Solanco SD Lancaster 56,601.44

A truly shocking difference is areas like Oxford and Solanco paying more than $10,000 less on average, and actually less than national numbers. However, the savings doesn’t stop there. They also save an additional $2,600 per teacher, per year in reduced retirement payments.

In Chester County, Octorara is the poorest school district based on the value of our Property Tax Mill Rate and Earned Income. Yet, we continue to pay drastically higher salaries. Is this what government means when they speak of “redistribution of wealth” and “shared sacrifice?”

8 thoughts on “Octorara continues trend of high average teacher salaries

  1. Interesting. It still amazes me that when comparing Octorara to a neighboring school district, Oxford, the salaries are vastly different, though the school districts are not all that different. Yet, the average salary in Octorara is about ten thousand more. However, teachers are not the complete reason for the higher mileage. Take a look at administrators’ salaries, operational expenses, salaries of additional staff, supplies. There is much more to a school district budget than teachers’ salaries. Please do not give teachers a black eye for the increased mileage.

    • I agree, and if you read thru this blog, I don’t just focus on teachers. However, the change in labor costs over the last 15 is one of the major factors causing our financial situation.

      Octorara’s average Administrator pay is $108,170.78, while Oxford’s is $107,560.21. So, those are pretty close. Solanaco is $87,794.42, and significantly lower.

      However, Dr Newcome’s salary is $135,400. Oxford’s Superintendent is $159,495, and Solanco’s is $139,000. We are doing good there.

      Also, I have talked about there being District employees that I think need a raise. We have hourly employees that have worked for years, yet are not making a living wage. But there is no money left for them.

    • Overbuilding, starting a football program, buying more land than necessary, ipad program and other educational schemes that don’t pan out, add all that up one day and don’t forget the servicing of the debt. It’s not a salary thing it’s one poor decision after another. Board members will stay in place because of their locally recognized names and because it works for them, especially the ones that own farm land

  2. When are seniors going to get a raise so we can pay these ridiculous taxes and still have somewhere to live the rest of our lives? I think if seniors and home owners have to pay then everyone should according to your wage .

  3. Thank you as always for your hard work in trying to bring focus, clarity, and perspective to all the many issues confronting the Octorara Area School District. Your conscientiousness really is unique among the board members, and deserves commendation.

    That said, what are we to say about the majority of board members? How about that they are liberal-minded twits living in la-la land, divorced from reality, not really considering or caring whether taxpayers can pay the freight for their pie-in-the-sky illusions of grandeur, or their delusions about how it will all somehow work out in time.

    The above average, if not profligate spending by the OASD should be a mark of shame for board members and administrators alike, especially considering the under-achievement of OASD students. And the lack of response to your two most recent posts should be a mark of shame to all locals who gripe and bitch about high taxes, and yet who don’t lift a finger to do anything about it.

    There is plenty of shame to go around. To an entrenched, self-serving, bureaucratic education establishment, and most especially to national and local teachers’ unions for whom the best interests of students are always on the back burner. And to local school boards like ours who always seem to put aspirations ahead of cold, hard practicalities.

    But the largest share of guilt, blame, and shame lies squarely with an apathetic citizenry, all those folks who just sit back and assume that government will work.

    Hah!!

    C. Vail

  4. The only question I am left with is how do Octorara teachers measure up with the other districts in the number of years they have been teaching. I think that number has a huge effect on average salary since teacher contracts are on a scale that increases with each year they teach.

    Do you have any idea what the average years teaching is for each of these districts?

    • It would take some time to break all that out of the state report, but if I am reading it correctly, the average Classroom Teacher at Octorara has 13.8 years and a Master’s Degree. That compares to Oxford’s Classroom Teachers with an average of 10.2 years and a Master’s.

      I picked Oxford for a fast comparison because it is one the biggest differences in average pay, and they are a neighboring district that is more similar than others.

      So, the question becomes “Is an average of 3.5 years in experience worth $10,000, especially when overall performance is similar?”

      We could really dig into this data comparing each of the neighboring districts’ average salary, experience and education, and average district performance scores. I’ve don’t similar comparisons in the past, and there is no correlation between salaries and outcomes, and that will probably be the way things will be until merit pay is somehow figured into the mix.

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