Equality of Education; Inequality of Teacher Pay


In theory, the quality of teacher impacts the quality of education students receive. In the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954, the USSC rejected the argument that students in unequal schools could receive equal education. However, if teachers are important, then how do we reconcile the Court’s decision with these findings:

  • There’s a huge disparity in teacher pay between school systems. Affluent districts pay much higher salaries than others.
  • Charter schools, which are supposed to be the road to improve education, pay much lower salaries than most public school districts.

New Jersey treats teachers as public employees, and their salaries are public information. Without going into detail on all 650 public school districts and charter schools in the state (available at reference 1 below), here’s the outlines of the situation:

  • The median salary in 2016 for a school teacher in NJ was $66,117 per year.
  • Northern Valley Regional district in affluent Bergen County paid the most, with a median salary of $105,650.
  • Teachers in the Edison Township school district in Middlesex County had a median salary of $95,432.
  • At the other end, Milford Township in Hunterdon County had a median salary of $48,007.

New Jersey just isn’t that large geographically. The cost of living is relatively uniform across the state.

Many/most of the charter schools are worse: for example the Jersey City Global and Red Bank charter schools both have median salaries of $42,000. Of course, the charter schools haven’t been around as long. We could expect salaries to increase with teacher seniority. However, the need to generate profits at many of these schools may restrict what goes into the classroom.

If you were a capable teacher, where would you want to teach? Where would you expect the best teachers to go? How does this reconcile with equality of educational opportunity?

By comparison, NJ is one of the best-paying states for teachers in the US. The only states that pay as much or more are Alaska, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts and New York. Maryland pay is lower than NJ, but close. (2) Conversely, South Dakota and Mississippi are at the low end of teacher pay, paying less than 65% of what New Jersey pays.

Again, where would the best go?


  1. Tom Davis, “NJ Median Teacher Salaries, Highest To Lowest: How Much Does Your District Pay?” NJ Patch, 24 April 2017. https://patch.com/new-jersey/princeton/s/g3o6z/n-j-median-teacher-salaries-highest-to-lowest-how-much-does-your-district-pay?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=weather&utm_campaign=alert
  2. National Center for Education Statistics, 2013. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_211.60.asp

Politicians Take Care of Themselves


This is either sad or funny.

24/7WallStreet ranked counties in the US on a combination of three measures:

  • Education (economic status of residents)
  • Poverty rate (how the local economy is doing)
  • Life expectancy (a measure of health and medical services)

The top 5 counties in the US (and 7 of the top 10) on these measures are suburbs of Washington, DC, where Congress lives.

  1. Falls Church (Independent City), VA ————————————- (DC metro)
  2. Arlington County, VA ———————————————————– (DC metro)
  3. Fairfax County, VA ————————————————————— (DC metro)
  4. Loudoun County, VA ————————————————————- (DC metro)
  5. Howard County, MD ————————————————————- (suburb of both DC and Baltimore; location of Columbia, MD)
  6. Douglas County, CO (part of Denver metro area)
  7. Los Alamos, NM (Federal nuclear research center)
  8. Fairfax (Independent City), VA ———————————————- (DC metro)
  9. Marin County, CA
  10. Alexandria (Independent City), VA —————————————- (DC metro)


Conversely, the worst counties in which to live are

  1. McDowell County, WV
  2. East Carroll Parish, LA
  3. Issaquena County, MS
  4. McCreary County, KY
  5. Clay County, KY
  6. Holmes County, MS
  7. Quitman County, MS
  8. Jefferson County, MS
  9. Calhoun County, GA
  10. Stewart County, GA

Given what I’ve posted recently on education and healthcare in the South, this list shouldn’t come as a surprise either.


  1. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2017/01/13/the-worst-counties-to-live-in/
  2. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2017/01/24/the-best-counties-to-live-in/?utm_source=AOL&utm_medium=CPC&utm_content=the-best-counties-to-live-in&utm_campaign=AOL

Free College Tuition: a new reality in USA


Free college tuition — it’s back!martin-luther-king-anger-quote1

There has been a continuing debate as to whether college education is a privilege or a right of citizenship. In an age in which demand for unskilled labor is fading, will people without college be employable in 10 or 20 years?

The US has taken one position on this; Europe and the Commonwealth countries, the opposite. Today, it’s possible for a US family to put four children through college in Europe at the price of sending one to college in the US. For Europeans in several countries, college is free.

In the “golden age” of the US economy after World War II, college was either free or very inexpensive in the US. When I was in high school, City College of New York and the University of California still were free to residents.  Ronald Reagan eliminated free tuition in California.  New York was earlier.

On February 7th, San Francisco because the first city in the current era to offer free community college education.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced at a press conference yesterday that, starting next fall, community college will be tuition-free for all San Francisco residents through the City College of San Francisco.

As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco would become the first city in the nation to make community college free to all city residents. Any student who has lived in San Francisco for at least one year – regardless of income – is eligible.

“To California residents who are living in San Francisco, your community college is now free,” Lee said at the press conference. (1)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan in January to make all state, city and community colleges free to residents. There is now a bi-partisan budget deal to make that a reality.

Budget negotiators struck a deal late Friday that could make New York the largest state to offer tuition-free public higher education.

The $163 billion state budget agreement includes the Excelsior Scholarship, which covers tuition for any New Yorker accepted to one of the state’s community colleges or four-year universities, provided their family earns less than $125,000 a year. (2)

Interesting question: Why would you want to live in an expensive state like New Jersey when your kids can attend college for free next door? Or leave San Francisco for anywhere?



  1. Zack Friedman, “Free College: San Francisco Joins New York With Tuition-Free Plan,” Forbes, 7 Feb. 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2017/02/07/free-college-san-francisco/#590c8b482bb6
  2. Danielle Douglas-Gabrielle, “New York set to become first state to offer free tuition at public four-year colleges,” The Washington Post, 8 April 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-york-to-become-the-largest-state-to-offer-tuition-free-public-higher-education/2017/04/08/3fe0563a-1c8b-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.e16eea88beb6


Pavement versus Healthcare?


Featured Image -- 6277Is this just a statistical oddity, or an example of how politicians use spending to deceive the voters?  The states that offer the best quality of life have poor roads.  The states with the best roads are the worst in which to live.

24/7WallStreet is a blog that publishes rankings of cities and states on various topics.  I’ve used them in several of my posts.  Today they had a new one ranking states son quality of road infrastructure. I’ve mentioned their rankings of states on healthcare  and as “best places to live” previously.

The seeming paradox is that the states ranked highest for roads are ranked lowest for healthcare, and vice versa.  For example,

  • Tennessee ranks #3 for best roads and #43 on best places to live.
  • Kentucky ranks #4 on roads and #46 on best places to live.
  • Idaho ranks #1 on roads and #29 on best places to live.
  • New Jersey ranks #5 on best places to live and #49 on roads.
  • Connecticut ranks #2 on best places to live and #48 on roads.
  • Massachusetts in #1 on best places to live and #41 on roads.

The ranking for best places to live considers poverty, educational attainment and life expectancy.  The ranking on roads is based on data from the Federal Highway Administration.

So, do people in places like Kentucky actually prefer pavement to healthcare and education?  Or do politicians use roads to distract people from the areas they are neglecting?

What do you think?


  1. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/10/21/states-with-the-worst-roads/10/
    In my post, I talk about ranking on having the best roads, which simply means reversing the ranking used in this article.  Being ranked 47th on worst roads is the same as being 3rd on best roads.
  2. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/11/29/americas-best-states-to-live-in/

Parental Involvement in Student Achievement


17456_1269532813224_1076952025_30803996_7657050_nWe’ve all heard of “helicopter parents” — the ones who try to micromanage their child’s life.  The theory is that involvement of that type hurts the child in a number of ways.

It turns out that how teachers perceive parental involvement in the child’s education actually is a predictor of academic success.  Further, there is training that could enable teachers to improve their interactions with parents. That’s  a summary of the findings of a new research study from the University of Missouri — Columbia.

If there is a causal relationship between positive parental involvement and student performance, then anything that enhances the quality of that involvement should enhance academic outcomes.

“If” is important.  The study establishes an apparent association between positive involvement and performance.  It doesn’t document a mechanism by which positive parental involvement affects performance.  Is there an actual change in student behavior or in the teacher’s perception of that behavior?  We don’t know.  It makes logical sense that students should do better when parents provide positive support.  However, until we understand how the mechanism works, this could be a spurious finding.  So, should schools invest in training to improve interactions with parents?  There may be a number of other reasons to do that, but we don’t know for sure if that investment would improve achievement.  The Scottish verdict, “Not Proven,” applies.

One of the most common errors in statistical analysis by non-statisticians is the assumption that an association (correlation) proves a causal relationship.  Simply, if X is associated with Y, then X causes Y.  That’s just not true.  There needs to be a logical explanation of how X affects Y before we can make the case for causality. 

To illustrate this by example, males who grow old tend to get prostate cancer.  Statistically, age is correlated with likelihood of getting prostate cancer.  However, age doesn’t cause prostate cancer.  Other things happening in the body make older males more susceptible to this cancer.  We need to know what these other things are before we can talk about causality.


  1. University of Missouri-Columbia. “Students more likely to succeed if teachers have positive perceptions of parents: Teacher training program can help promote parent involvement in education.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170221101032.htm>.