New Jersey teachers have a pretty cushy gig, to hear Gov. Chris Christie tell it.
They only work about six months a year and are paid north of $50,000 annually, according to a speech about education that Christie gave Nov. 18 at Notre Dame’s law school in South Bend, Ind.
"They say teachers only make on an average in New Jersey 60,000 dollars a year. They only work 180 days," the governor said between comments about the number of hours teachers work daily and how he supports higher pay for "excellent teachers."
But Christie should have checked his work before making this claim. His numbers are a bit off from the true numbers, PolitiFact New Jersey found.
Let’s first discuss teacher schedules.
A minimum 180-day school year is required by state statute, but a majority of school districts in New Jersey exceed that minimum, according to the New Jersey Education Association.
The NJEA provided us with documents showing the average number of school days for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years: 185, among school districts with settled contracts. That amounts to 257 districts for the current school year, 423 for last year and 511 for the 2005-06 year.
New Jersey’s number of instruction days is the same as at least 30 other states, according to the Denver, Colo.-based Education Commission of the States.
NJEA spokesman Steve Baker took exception to Christie’s statement that teachers "only" work 180 days a year.
"The really misleading part of the statement is that it assumes teachers don’t work any additional days beyond those stipulated in their contracts, which is wrong," Baker said in an email. "Most – indeed, nearly all -- teachers spend many additional days setting up their classrooms, preparing lesson plans, attending professional development events, taking classes and otherwise engaged in additional work outside the contracted school day and school year. You can imagine the amount of work that goes into preparing to teach 180 days of student classes.
"This is a common tactic that critics of public education use to denigrate the work of teachers, to make it sound as if they really don’t work that hard," Baker continued. "It’s a bit like saying that the Governor is only working on days when he signs bills. In other words, wrong, and intentionally misleading."
The governor’s office did not return a request for comment.
Michael W. Smith, a professor and chair of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology in Education at Temple University in Philadelphia, said the work of a teacher neither begins nor ends in the classroom.
In addition to instructing classes, teachers often work at home or outside the classroom preparing lessons, reviewing students’ work and providing feedback, meeting with students outside class, staying abreast of educational technology, meeting continuing education requirements and much more, said Smith, who chaired the Department of Learning and Teaching at Rutgers University New Brunswick from 1992-2005.
William Gaudelli, an associate professor of Social Studies and Education, and the Social Studies program coordinator at Teachers College, Columbia University, agreed that the work teachers do goes well beyond 180 work days.
"It’s really a misrepresentation of the vast majority of teachers who are dedicated to their work," Gaudelli, a member of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education, said about Christie’s statement.
As for teacher salaries, Christie underestimated those numbers.
The average teacher salary in New Jersey for 2009-10 was $65,130 – the fourth highest in the country behind New York, Massachusetts and California, according to a 2011 report from the National Education Association.
In a speech last month to students at Notre Dame, the governor said New Jersey teachers on average only work 180 days a year and get $60,000 salaries. New Jersey’s school year averages 185 days and the average teacher salary in the state is $65,130. Christie was a bit off on both of his numbers, but not by much. Based strictly on numbers, we rate his statement Mostly True.
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