Tuesday, April 20, 2004


A couple of years ago, a debate raged in the Unicameral and at coffee breaks across Nebraska. In a hubbub fomented by teachers’ union palookas and their paid-for pets in political positions, the public was told that Nebraska teachers were drastically underpaid . . . among the lowest salaries in the nation . . . forced to eat beans out of a can and ride used bikes to school . . . yadda yadda yadda.

Well. Gee. Now the facts are out.

Nebraska teachers actually averaged $45,662 this school year. That’s according to data submitted to the State Department of Education from districts statewide, and contained in a report prepared by the office of State Auditor Kate Witek.

The average includes extra-duty pay for services such as coaching teams, but does not include the additional costs of fringe benefits.

Not exactly the doomsday scenario the teachers’ union was promulgating, back when they wanted more dough from us poor unsuspecting taxpayers.

They weren’t lying to us back then. Well, not entirely. Starting teaching pay in Nebraska is lower than in more urban states, since so many teaching jobs in Nebraska are in small towns where the economy isn’t as hoity-toity. When you use national rankings of starting pay and compare us to more urban states, of course our first-job pay scale looks worse.

More importantly, when the teacher pay hubbub was going on, Nebraska had just put in the most expensive early retirement package for teachers in the nation. The ‘’Rule of 85’’ allows teachers who reach age 55 and have taught for 30 years to retire with full pension benefits. Therefore, a whole slug of them did so . . . and THEN, with all those veterans sidelined and replaced by new teachers, the salary average plunged in Nebraska for a while.

It was artificially deflated, a statistical anomaly . . . but the union jumped on that as an opportunity to cry, wail, beat its breast and try to get more dough.

We’ve got to WATCH those guys.

The stats on teacher pay are beginning to equalize again for Nebraska. According to the 2004 ‘’Quality Counts’’ report of Education Week with figures from 2002, starting teachers in Nebraska ranked 21st in the nation with an average salary of $28,812; two years ago, all teachers in the state averaged $40,140, or 37th in the country.

It’s important to note that average Nebraska teacher pay was only a few thousand dollars out of the top 10, not some horribly out-of-sync proportion lower. Again, the beanies-and-weenies poverty portrayal the teachers’ union tries to use in this state is . . . full of beans.

It’s the old story in public education politics: bait and switch.

We were baited with emotional appeals to give more money to K-12 education, focusing on that adorable Miss Bates who does such a great job with Junior’s class . . . c’mon, doesn’t Miss Bates deserve BETTER? . . . when it isn’t the TAXPAYER who’s actually shortchanging Miss Bates.

It’s the education system itself . . . including those same union lobbyists and everybody else who cajoles us into parting with more and more of our dough ‘’for the kids’’ and finds more and more uses for that dough BESIDES teacher pay.

Now, picture this: according to the auditor’s report, Nebraska school districts adopted budgets this school year totaling $3.9 billion, an incredible amount.

Imagine that as a great, big, gigantic pie.

OK. Now, how much of that pie do you suppose goes for teachers’ salaries? How big of a piece?

If you’re like me, you guess something like 60, 70, 80 percent. Right? That’s how it USED to be.

Well, guess what?

Out of all the budgets of all the school districts in Nebraska, the percentage that goes for teacher pay is . . . drum roll, please . . . 24.6 percent.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how that could be . . . and who’s responsible for this hill o’ beans.


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on a March 4, 2004, report from the office of State Auditor Kate Witek prepared for State Sen. Ronald Raikes. Data sources included the September 2003 Fall Personnel Report from the Nebraska Department of Education, and other 2003-04 statistical information reported by districts to the state.

For Nebraska public education spending reports, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


Comments: Post a Comment