Teachers rallied at the State Capitol in Albany last night, in a last-ditch effort to get the legislature and governor to restore funds to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's?deficit slashing budget proposal. It doesn't seem to have worked.? The legislature worked into the night and passed ?the $132.5 billion proposal, closing a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes (the much ridiculed Empire State solons held firm on not imposing a ?millionaires tax?) and cutting state aid to education by a whopping $1.2 billion.
These are certainly tough times, but E.J. McMahon at the Empire Center takes off the gloves with a post this morning that offers a different perspective on the ?It's about the kids? argument made by many of the protesters who crowded into the Capitol. ??Not,? says McMahon in his short post. ?And he takes out after one teacher from a nearby school district who was at the rally and was quoted ?quoted in the Albany Times?as?saying "It's about the kids." ?
Actually, it's about teacher pay increases. It seems that nearly half those threatened jobs in Rotterdam-Mohonasen could be saved if the district's unions would accept a wage freeze recently requested by district officials.
McMahon then uses the considerable database his organization (a subsidiary of the Manhattan Institute) has amassed on public service employee salaries and their union contracts to reveal that the teacher was paid $92,522 in 2010, ?a nice increase from her $85,042 salary the previous year.? The raise apparently included a retroactive pay hike under the latest Rotterdam-Mohonasen teachers' contract. The five-year deal reportedly granted teachers a 15 percent salary boost, on the heels of the worst recession in decades.?
These questions -- is $92,000 a lot of money? is a million bucks too much?is a 15% raise unseemly??-- are almost metaphysical in their resistance to easy answers.? They call such epistemological challenges politics,?a contact sport, especially this year. ?
?--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow