Her report contains the society's analysis of the number of the number of $100K+ salary earners in publicly funded school boards against each board's average daily enrolment as reported to the Ministry of Education. In an era of declining enrolment where public sector salaries have not been frozen or cut back, it's no surprise the ratio of $100K+ earners to students is increasing. That in and of itself is not shocking news, it's simple cut-and-paste math-- hardly worth the bevvy of exclamation marks that punctuate Dare's report.
Reporting on the so-called Sunshine List is a god-send to the very people who created the legislation mandating it, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and those supporters who lie even further to the right on the political spectrum. Despite the Tories being out of power in Ontario since 2003, every March/April their spindoctoring gets a big boost from the Sunshine List legislation. On the day the disclosures are released, the media is full of stories of who the highest-paid civil servants are and commentary from those who are simply galled by the increases -- both to individual salaries and to the number of people on the list.
Yet the list itself is fraught with problems, the biggest and best being the very limit itself. $100K has always been a lot of money, but in the grand spectre of things, it doesn't buy what it did when the legislation was first passed. If we wanted to remain shocked about overpaid civil servants, the act should have indexed the $100K to inflation from the day it came into effect in 1996. The Bank of Canada's inflation calculator tells us that number in 2009 dollars would be $128,410.37. Or, vice-versa, if someone earned $77,875.33 in 1996 and increases had exactly matched inflation, s/he would be earning $100K in 2009.
So, the bulk of those who get "added" to the list every year arrive there through no specific action on their part. They simply benefited from a cost-of-living increase.
To flush out this point a little bit, I did my own analysis of the past three years' release (2007-09, covering salaries paid in 2006-08) of school boards' sunshine lists. Find the spreadsheet over on GoogleDocs if you want to take a look for yourself.
Some observations -- as seen in the data:
- There were 1,630 educators who appeared on the lists published in 2009, 2008 and 2007
- None of the educators who earned $100K+ in 2007-9 were on the 2006 published list.
- The average increase from 2006 to 2007 was 3.64 per cent, the median was 2.8 per cent. Remember the 2007 list published salaries earned in 2006, and so on.
- From 2007 to 2008, average 3.96 per cent, median 3.25.
- From 2007-09 (three years), the average increase was 7.75 per cent and the median was 6.32.
Given the year-to-year average and median increases, the salaries of the bulk of those on the lists rose each year by a number close to the inflation for that year-- or as further investigation would no doubt reveal, by the percentage increase granted in their duly negotiated and ratified collective agreements with school boards.
Looking at the individuals whose percentage increase year over year exceeded the median shows either other counterparts in the same board receiving the same percentage increase (another sign of a collective agreement in place), or that the individual received a promotion. My analysis did not track whether the individual's position changed from year-to-year, but this information is stated in the Ministry of Finance reports.
I don't know about you, but if I receive a promotion, I would expect the increased responsibility to come with a related improvement to my compensation package.
Also, if I was a member of an employee group, I would not tolerate being held back from earning my mutually agreed-upon increase just because that puts me in the $100K+ club and the optics allow for statements like the SQE's.
Here's the really fun part, and I've done this math on here before. Given the four-year deals now in effect for all school board employees, with most getting three per cent per year (except those elementary teachers...), the list is just going to keep on growing. Anyone making $88K in those employee groups on Aug. 31, 2008, just signed a deal in the last nine months that will see them reach $100K by 2012. Meaning in either 2013 or 2014, they'll be on the Sunshine List too.
There are too many things built into the system(s) to keep the number of people on the Sunshine List who work in school boards from getting any smaller. Being outraged about it won't do any good unless you're prepared to wage war on the unions and get them to accept wage rollbacks -- and that simply isn't going to happen without every child in the province getting some long strike-related vacations.
What we can do is make sure that boards tie their staffing to their enrolment. If a board's population decline equals fewer superintendents, trustees should be making the cut. If the board's decline means an even greater cut to administration than what the ministry is already asking for in 2010-11, do it. Even that won't solve the growing list, since in union environments you chop from the bottom up, meaning you'll be axing the $35K teachers, not the $92K ones.
We can also ask for the best bang for our dollar-- which I think is what SQE is trying to point out, except the message gets clouded by its advocacy for school choice (aka charter schools and/or voucher schools).