Thursday, October 25, 2007

schools schools and more schools

Lots of schools stuff that deserves some comment:

on charter schools: Am not sure if this has had any notice here at all, but the Washington Post is reporting that down in DC former Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl has proposed converting several inner city Catholic schools to charter schools. Just from a purely financial point of view, I can only wonder what would happen if that were to happen here given the sheer number of students in parochial school here... it has to be higher proportion than in DC though I have never looked for that statistic. If I were on the school board here I would be watching pretty closely at what is happening there. If that experiment works out, do you think that in the future some local Catholic school faced with financial problems will choose the charter school route vice closing down entirely? How many schools could that potentially be in the long run?

on salaries: WPXI did a great piece of investigative/analytical journalism collecting teacher salaries from school districts in the region. It was good because they went beyond just the salary numbers by themselves which is typically all that the media and public glom onto. They also collected things like average years of service and educational attainment among teachers. It always gets me when someone throws out a statement about "teachers in school district X are being overpaid" and the only fact at hand is some average salary data with no appreciation for the differences between the workforce in different districts. If you just take that average of one district vs. the average of other districts are you making a useful comparison. I have taken the WPXI data and just made the scatter plot below which correlates median years of service to average salary per school district. That gives you a different perspective than just comparing the salary numbers by themselves. As correlations go that is pretty strong. A lot of the disparity in school teacher salaries here and elsewhere is just reflective of the fact that a lot of school districts have seen so little growth in so long that their average teacher tenure is higher than others, so they are higher on their salary scale... not necessarily because their salary scale compares favorably or worse. Does that type of difference affect other workers, especially other types of public sector workers? There is almost a built in bias against slow growing areas where public sector workers have not seen much hiring of new (and typically younger) workers in recent years/decades. Since you can't go around firing senior workers you will always see this type of pattern. And this is just one variable thrown into the mix, there are others that would go even farther toward deconstructing salary disparities across school districts (or other sets of workers). But here is that graph:

on Duquesne: PG did a nice piece recently on the apparently smooth transition going on down in East Allegheny (When Duquesne met East Allegheny, winners all around ) which absorbed a large number of the former Duquesne High School Students. I actually have an inside source down at the West Mifflin School District that got most of the students... you should take this as completely unofficial, indirect and anecdotal, but I have heard nothing bad from their experiences thus far either. I think everyone would agree that those teachers deserve a whole lot just for being professional enough to keep the kids first given the political turoil that went along with all of this.

and finally... yes I'm not done. A blog you may not have seen but is actually kind of interesting: Confessions of a Community College Dean.


Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

If I'm not mistaken, the Pa. charter school law prohibits private schools from converting to charter schools. Now, the charter school in Manchester is run by people who formerly ran a private elementary school there, but they had to jump through some legal hoops in order to qualify for a charter.

In terms of salaries, without looking at WPXI's data, I'm guessing that the average salary for Pittsburgh teachers is skewed high, because the city schools have fewer "steps" to reach the top salary. The late Al Fondy believed that was the crown in the jewel of the PFT's CBA.

Thursday, October 25, 2007 1:11:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

isnt that what good lawyers get paid to deal with.. I am sure there is some way to get around that... start a 'new' school where the old school was. I'm sure it gets more complicated than that expecially with religious based schools..

Thursday, October 25, 2007 2:56:00 PM  
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