School Employees and Raises

Today’s Albuquerque Journal included a column from Kathy Chavez, President of an organization called Albuquerque the Educational Assistants Association. The organization even has a website here.
Essentially, Chavez argues that while teachers and principals have received salary increases of 20 percent to 40 percent over the last three year, “classified employees,” that is, those who handle non-classroom related functions, have seen stagnant salaries. Chavez wants a raise for those people and takes Sen. John Arthur Smith to task for proposing a 2 percent increase next year.
Who’s right? It is hard to say because there is no such thing as a free market in education. Public education is a government monopoly with almost no competition in the system. Therefore, it is hard to tell what pay structure is “fair” and schools and districts have no need to compete for staff. If Chavez and her ilk are serious about increasing pay, they must seriously consider educational choice as a means of increasing salaries. Given the AFT’s statement on both vouchers and privatization, the AFT seems unlikely to embrace any market-based education reforms in the near future.
Lastly, while I’m not saying Chavez doesn’t have some point, New Mexico spends more on administration and other outside-the-classroom costs than any other state in the nation…that is, less of each education dollar in New Mexico goes to the classroom than any other state. Go here and click on NM on the map of the USA. Clearly, we are spending large sums on administration, where it is going is anyone’s guess.