Rep. Paul Stam’s recent op-ed in EdNC.org entitled “Teacher Pay: Rhetoric vs. Reality” is yet another example of the strong confirmation bias that the senior Wake County representative suffers from in his explanation of teacher pay.
And there are many different aspects of his meandering argument that could be rebutted with ease.
Such as the claim that there was a “cumulative average pay raise of about 13.8 percent” for teachers in the last three years that is wildly misleading. Any person following the teacher pay debate can see that most every teacher did not see a 13.8 percent raise in salary, but a fraction of that, especially veteran teachers. Those raises were reserved mainly for beginning teachers at the lower rungs of the pay scale.
Or that he used selective figures for rise in cost of living to substantiate arguing that “from 2013 to 2016, the cumulative increase in cost of living was about 3.02 percent.” Most people would just look at the consumer price index conversion calculator to see what the effect of inflation has been.
Or that he used a Koch Brothers funded think tank like the 1889 Institute to argue that teacher pay really ranks at 29th in the nation. So many other trusted outlets show North Carolina still lags behind most all states like the NEA report that focuses solely only education and teacher pay.
Or that he ignores that North Carolina’s state constitution stipulates that the state has the responsibility for the financing of basic functions for public education like salaries for personnel, services for special-needs students, technology, professional development, and even textbooks. Rep. Stam simply says it is the biggest expense and does not explain that in the past we have even spent a bigger percentage of the budget on public education.
Or that he relies on older U.S. Census numbers to substantiate his argument. Most people in education look at more recent information like the National Education Association to get a more current view.
Or that he says all teachers get $16,000 in benefits when most of the teachers are now paying more to have the “benefits” they receive. Many teachers do not even get their health insurance from the state as it is not very competitive with spousal plans. Also with salaries topping out at $51K for new teachers, the state’s commitment to retirement funds is now lowered.
However, it is Stam’s raging addiction to the word “average” which he uses throughout his unfocused and meagerly developed op-ed that really needs rebutting.
Rep. Stam states,
“Now WRAL, the News & Observer, and others are trying to deny the obvious – that there was a significant pay raise this year for teachers. They apparently don’t know what the word “average” means. They find someone who received less money than the “average” and claim that the “average” pay raise is irrelevant. Someone at these media giants should read the dictionary and learn what the term “average” means.
The 2014-15 pay raise was oriented towards beginning teachers, some of whom received pay raises as high as 18 percent. This year’s raise targeted middle and more experienced teachers, some of whom received raises as high as 13 percent. It would not be proper to use these high outliers in ads. Neither is it proper to use outliers on the other side of “average.”
That’s a whopping five times that the word “average” was used in those two paragraphs. That is an average of 2.5 times per paragraph just quoted above. In fact, Stam uses the word “average” a dozen times in his entire op-ed for an average of 1.3 times per paragraph.
He used the word “average” so many times that he made “average” just an average word.
But it is his insistence that media giants should read the dictionary to learn what the word “average” means that was so out of place, because the Average Jane or Average Joe knows that “average” does not necessarily mean “actual” and while dictionaries offer denotations, there are many connotations associated to words like “average.”
Teachers know a little bit more about the spun rhetoric surrounding teacher pay than the average bear would. Teachers know that while Stam claims that teacher salaries are above average, the really are below average.
On the average, a GOP politician like Stam would tout “average” teacher raises in an election year to hopefully persuade voters to still vote republican in November in order to average out negative publicity surrounding HB2 and Voter ID laws.
However, while Stam may believe that his op-ed is a cut above the average in terms of hailing his party’s accomplishments, it cannot defy the law of averages because his argument does not hold even an average amount of water.
In this case, Stam’s rhetoric and the reality of the situation do not average out.
And in a complex issue like teach compensation it is very hard to try and average something up and expect the average teacher to just accept it as gospel.