What the Average San Diego Teacher Makes: Fact Check

 

Image: FALSEStatement: “That’s the average teacher! Ninety-two thousand a year. Plus almost about a $20,000-a-year compensation package, that you don’t pay anything for! That’s $112,000 a year in compensation, that ain’t good enough?” Stanley Dobbs, chief financial officer for the San Diego Unified School District, said in a Jan. 31 interview.

Determination: False

Analysis: It was the number that unleashed an outcry.

The new chief financial officer at the San Diego Unified School District sat down recently for what turned out to be an extraordinary Q-and-A. In it, Stan Dobbs offered up some numbers to illustrate what he perceives as a culture of fiscal waste at the district.

Chief among them: Dobbs’ claim that district teachers are paid an average of $92,000 a year, plus a $20,000 benefits package, for a total of $112,000 annually.

Those numbers are wrong.

Monday, district Superintendent Bill Kowba refuted those numbers in a written statement pointing out several factual errors he said Dobbs made in the interview. Along with the statement, Kowba included an explanation of how Dobbs’ screwed his numbers up.

The $92,000 figure Dobbs cited includes benefits, Kowba said.

The district calculated the average teacher salary for the 2013-14 school year at $68,013. Added to that figure is a total benefits package that averages $24,017. That makes for a total of $92,030. Note: That’s the current level. Salaries will likely go up slightly when the district receives extra revenue as a result of Proposition 30.

We wanted to go a step further, however. The issue of teacher compensation is a touchy one, and we wanted to dive into the data to calculate the average ourselves.

The district provided us with a spreadsheet showing the “scattergram” of teachers employed by San Diego Unified, and their salary info, as of Jan. 31. This is basically an accounting of how many teachers are currently employed under all the various positions on several different pay schedules maintained by the district. (For various reasons, teachers at San Diego Unified are employed under a variety of pay schedules; there’s no one schedule for all teachers).

We crunched that data and determined the average teacher salary as of Jan. 31 is $66,983.02, or about $1,000 less than Kowba’s figure.

District Chief of Staff Bernie Rhinerson explained that the small discrepancy between Kowba’s figure and ours is due to the exact date on which the figure is calculated. The number of employees at the district changes every day, he said, and employees move up the pay scale on a daily basis, meaning the average salary fluctuates daily.

Regardless of which figure one uses, Dobbs was well off the mark.

Here’s our definition for statements that warrant a false rating:

The statement is not accurate. This could be an error or misstatement but it’s simply not true and there is no element of truth to it.

We believe that Dobbs made the statement about $92,000 based on his inaccurate recollection of the data. He mistakenly included the cost of benefits in the average salary.

It was a big mistake.

This is the definition we use for labeling a statement Huckster Propaganda:

The statement is not only inaccurate but it’s reasonable to expect the person or organization making it knew that and made the claim anyway to gain an advantage.

Is it reasonable to expect that the CFO of the district should know these figures off by heart? Yes — in most cases. But Dobbs has only been with the district for a few weeks. And it’s clear that Dobbs used the wrong figure (the total average teacher compensation of $92,000) in place of the average total salary.

We also don’t think Dobbs’ statement meets the high bar for our worst rating since it’s unclear how Dobbs would gain an advantage by misstating the numbers.

When we label statements “Huckster Propaganda,” it is almost always in cases where the person making the statement knew it was false, but kept repeating it anyway to make him or herself look better or to excuse his or her actions.

In Dobbs’ case, his statement has brought him intense scrutiny, a public dressing-down from his boss and, in some cases, ridicule. We have no evidence that he made the statement in order to gain some advantage, and we have plenty of evidence (including a written apology from the district superintendent) to show that he ultimately lost credibility in the eyes of many San Diegans by getting his data wrong.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless

Will Carless is the former head of investigations at Voice of San Diego. He currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he is a freelance foreign correspondent and occasional contributor to VOSD. You can reach him at will.carless.work@gmail.com.

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22 comments
Michael Russell
Michael Russell subscriber

$92,000/year is still 1.5 times the average HOUSEHOLD Income for San Diego. 
(and I'm sure that there are some senior teachers who make the reported $112,000 in pay and benefits) Also, remember they retire after 30 years with 90% pensions. So, at early retirement age 55 they would get paid for another 30 years, at $82,000/yr.

marcus113
marcus113

This article is 100% huckster as well and even more ridiculous. Sorry I am liberal and I generally vote democrat, and I find these compensation packages for k-12 faculty unacceptable. They are much too high for skill set, education requirement, and difficulty. There are engineers working on critical projects that make half that compensation and are scared to death of losing their job. Eliminate most of those benefits to bring them in line with the real world and reduce the salary to reflect only 9 months of work. 10 hour shift excuse is BS as well since teacher get 10-15 minutes between classes and a full lunch. That means at least 2 hours of no work. I am not saying teachers are not important, but lets fact it k-12 is not critical to anyone and they are more baby sitters than educators. They are a supplement at best because real education does not start until a student is finally ready to learn something productive. Most college professors are equally worthless depending on subject. Also, get a reality check on jobs in the real world. They all require all sorts of overtime, some over 60 hours a week and many times at no extra pay if you are salaried (good luck complaining and keeping your job). Benefits are much lower, in fact, I was working at $95k and my benefits were barely $10k a year if I maxed the 401k and actually used the medical expense plan and all my pto. On top of that, my medical insurance was still about $120/mo and I was only 31 at the time. the guy might have had the vocabulary wrong, but his number is accurate. Who do you think pays for those benefits? Its not the easter bunny.

Michael Thomason
Michael Thomason subscriber

Wrong! Again! Salaries are paid annually! That means when school is out for the summer, the teacher still gets paid. The $68K has to last for 12 months NOT 8 or 9!

aussiemike
aussiemike

Wrong! Again! Salaries are paid annually! That means when school is out for the summer, the teacher still gets paid. The $68K has to last for 12 months NOT 8 or 9!

Craig Nelson
Craig Nelson subscribermember

Funny, it doesn't work like that in the real world. Why do you think it would in the school system?

Craig Nelson
Craig Nelson

Funny, it doesn't work like that in the real world. Why do you think it would in the school system?

John Middleton
John Middleton subscriber

Keeping in mind that the district has a high number of older teachers who will likely be retiring in the next five years, even VOSD's number is misleading. The median salary is far less than the number quoted. I'm two steps away from the top of the scale and I make $74k.

John Middleton
John Middleton

Keeping in mind that the district has a high number of older teachers who will likely be retiring in the next five years, even VOSD's number is misleading. The median salary is far less than the number quoted. I'm two steps away from the top of the scale and I make $74k.

Bob Sanche
Bob Sanche subscriber

I guess people forget the 10 hours of work done daily along with weekend hours of work, holiday hours of work, and believe it or not, free summer hours of work.

Jewel
Jewel

I guess people forget the 10 hours of work done daily along with weekend hours of work, holiday hours of work, and believe it or not, free summer hours of work.

Allen Hemphill
Allen Hemphill subscribermember

Teaching will change, and yes, there will be fewer. Many fewer. ahhhh....locomotives don't have coal shovelers any longer. Pity. I know that teachers believe their work is indispensable, but alas...automation can only be delayed, not stopped.

Akamai
Akamai

Teaching will change, and yes, there will be fewer. Many fewer. ahhhh....locomotives don't have coal shovelers any longer. Pity. I know that teachers believe their work is indispensable, but alas...automation can only be delayed, not stopped.

Sara Finegan
Sara Finegan subscriber

We don't have Saturday school. We don't have anything called "resource periods" or anything remotely resembling that. Our prep is after school. Those half days you are talking about? Those are spent WORKING. That's when we have IEP meetings, do our planning, copying, grading, report cards, etc. Free lunch? Who has free lunch? I don't even have time for lunch. I eat a protein bar at my desk while I'm writing reports.

Special Ed Teacher
Special Ed Teacher

We don't have Saturday school. We don't have anything called "resource periods" or anything remotely resembling that. Our prep is after school. Those half days you are talking about? Those are spent WORKING. That's when we have IEP meetings, do our planning, copying, grading, report cards, etc. Free lunch? Who has free lunch? I don't even have time for lunch. I eat a protein bar at my desk while I'm writing reports.

Louis Cornelio
Louis Cornelio subscriber

Ever try to discuss reasonable gun control with a gun zealot? Pointless. Same thing is true trying to get some folks to acknowledge teacher's work or their value. Not gonna happen. Oh well...

schoolboy
schoolboy

Ever try to discuss reasonable gun control with a gun zealot? Pointless. Same thing is true trying to get some folks to acknowledge teacher's work or their value. Not gonna happen. Oh well...

Sara Finegan
Sara Finegan subscriber

As for our benefits, I agree that we have good health insurance. As for pension, you know we won't collect social security, so people like me who had a previous career and paid into the system won't get that income. And our pensions are taxed, quite a bit. I don't think I'll be able to afford to retire until I'm at least 70, and from what I can tell, when I do, I will be getting monthly pension that is less than $2k. It's a good thing I love what I do. Teaching is a calling, not a career.

Special Ed Teacher
Special Ed Teacher

As for our benefits, I agree that we have good health insurance. As for pension, you know we won't collect social security, so people like me who had a previous career and paid into the system won't get that income. And our pensions are taxed, quite a bit. I don't think I'll be able to afford to retire until I'm at least 70, and from what I can tell, when I do, I will be getting monthly pension that is less than $2k. It's a good thing I love what I do. Teaching is a calling, not a career.

Lou Dodge
Lou Dodge subscriber

Why not check your own school's SSC for new hires? I heard a new Title 1 Math teacher was hired right under your nose without any discussion or vote...not even in the school's SPSA

4theprofession
4theprofession

Why not check your own school's SSC for new hires? I heard a new Title 1 Math teacher was hired right under your nose without any discussion or vote...not even in the school's SPSA

Galo Teran
Galo Teran subscriber

You are missing the smell of varitas baby; teachers are decent hard working individuals most people admire -if not all. The argument goes back to them only because they are funding the unions that are breaking ours and their backs. Along with their unions demands are rules and regulations that only makes the teaching profession harder to accomplish and hard to teach. Details? Talk to your wife but I'm sure you already know that. Is not going to change is just going to get expensier until something drastic happens to the black hole that the pensions are.

galomarine
galomarine

You are missing the smell of varitas baby; teachers are decent hard working individuals most people admire -if not all. The argument goes back to them only because they are funding the unions that are breaking ours and their backs. Along with their unions demands are rules and regulations that only makes the teaching profession harder to accomplish and hard to teach. Details? Talk to your wife but I'm sure you already know that. Is not going to change is just going to get expensier until something drastic happens to the black hole that the pensions are.