Massachusetts teachers join national demand for better resources – news – wicked local – boston, ma e gaskell north and south


Massachusetts teachers throughout the state are wearing the color in solidarity, as fellow educators go on strike across the country, demanding higher wages and better funding for classrooms. On May 15, tens of thousands of North Carolina teachers called out of work, forcing school districts to close class for more than 1 million students.

“They are (using) their collective power to fight for their students, and they are confident that they will win because they know that they are on the correct side of the issue,” said Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, based in Quincy.

But where many other states have suffered year-over-year declines in state funding, per-pupil expenditures and lower pay for teachers, Massachusetts — on balance — doesn’t share such afflictions, according to data compiled by Wicked Local, the National Education Association and the Massachusetts Department of Education.

Indeed, the average Massachusetts teacher salary for fiscal 2016 totaled $76,442, which was 31 percent more than the $58,353 average salary for teachers across the country. Massachusetts taxpayers spent $5.3 billion on teachers’ pay in 2016, representing a $1 billion increase compared to the previous decade.

And where the national movement calls for greater per-pupil expenditures, meaning the amount of money spent on each student, Massachusetts has seen that number grow each year since at least 2008, totaling $15,544 in fiscal 2016 compared to an estimated $11,943 nationwide.

Nonetheless, not all school budgets are created equal, and measuring by averages doesn’t tell the full story of individual districts. By example, on the issue of pay, there’s a wide gap between the 54 Carlisle educators, who earned on average $100,803 in fiscal 2016, and the 85 teachers at Somerset Berkley Regional School District, who earned on average $58,972.

Top earners that year also included teachers at Sherborn ($95,159), Concord ($95,732), Dover ($96,429) and Concord-Carlisle ($97,978). The lowest earners taught at Leverett ($55,613), Savoy ($48,790), Gosnold ($45,659), Grafton ($44,257), Florida ($44,257) and Worthington ($43,853).

And while the average salary of Massachusetts teachers grew 31.2 percent in the decade ending in 2016, about 10 school districts during that time failed to exceed a cumulative pay increase of 10 percent and about 45 districts failed to break 20 percent.

The MTA argues overall state funding is falling short, and students are paying the price. The association, representing about 110,000 educators, is advocating for legislation that would increase state funding for public schools by more than $1 billion a year, if appropriated.

“There’s always room depending on your priorities. Is there a billion dollars lying around that’s not been appropriated? No,” said Andrew C. Bagley, vice president for policy and research at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonprofit policy analysis group based in Boston.

Although there are no imminent plans for statewide action, Madeloni isn’t ruling anything out, saying local teachers and unions have already organized to try and push the discussion of teachers and school funding to the forefront of public debate.