Friday, October 06, 2006

MATC salaries high? Compared to what?

Everything in life, someone I know likes to say, is "compared to what?"

So, when Bruce Murphy of Milwaukee Magazine asks the question, "Is Darnell Cole Overpaid?", the "compared to what" rule should apply.

Murphy writes:
Over the last four years, the Journal Sentinel has done three articles on Milwaukee Area Technical College President Darnell Cole's salary. In the tradition of the old Milwaukee Sentinel, the paper likes going after government spending. Still, it's hard to think of any other government executive who's received as much scrutiny as Cole.

There's been little JS scrutiny of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee President Carlos Santiago, for instance, who made $270,000, including $20,000 paid by the UWM Foundation, as of 2004, according to a Business Journal story. Cole's salary was just raised to $209,815. Why is that so much more newsworthy?
OK, compared to Carlos Santiago, maybe Cole is underpaid. Who knows? College and university presidents and chancellors make a lot of money. Who's more valuable, or who does a better job? I wouldn't claim to know.

But Murphy isn't content to stop there. Just as the JS has taken on Cole's salary, Murphy has beaten up on MATC faculty salaries in the past, and he does it again:
Meanwhile, [JS reporter Tom] Held has been very reluctant to report the salaries of MATC teachers. The average salary for a full-time MATC teacher, according to public records, is a remarkable $91,000. Helping to push the salary higher is that staff get paid more if they teach an "overload" of courses and summer school classes. The end result is that MATC's teachers, who typically have master's degrees, earn about $23,000 more than the average UWM professor and about $13,000 more than the average UW-Madison professor, who are typically PhDs.

The head of the MATC teachers' union, Mike Rosen, earned $118,425 last year. That's remarkable pay for an economics instructor at a two-year college. MATC's pay scale seems almost topsy-turvy: In 2005, MATC had 18 administrators earning more than $100,000. Meanwhile, there were 153 teachers and eight counselors at the school earning more than $100,000.

Needless to say, the salaries of teachers, who are so numerous, have a tremendous impact on the budget and our taxes, much more so than one president's salary. So why has Held never reported Rosen's pay and why did he disclose the average salary of MATC teachers only after it was reported in this column? He seems awfully cozy with the teachers' union.

This is definitely not a bias coming from the editors, who are unlikely to worry about the sensitivities of a teachers' union. But when only one reporter covers a particular beat, he or she can have a significant influence on how stories are shaped.
Is Murphy's issue with the newspaper or the teacher's union? Hard to tell, but whatever the target he's off base this time.

Let's return to "compared to what." And let's admit up front that when it comes to labor vs. management, I'm on labor's side of the table.

When a college president like Cole negotiates large salary increases and lifetime perks for himself, while demanding huge concessions from his employees, you'd think that might be the comparison.

Cole's salary and bonus package just went from $216,000 to $225,000.

Murphy does not mention that in addition to Cole's salary and additional $5000 annual bonus increase, he negotiated lifetime health benefits after just six years of service -- while proposing that unionized employees give up their retiree benefits, for which they must work a minimum of 15 years.

Murphy's criticism of Held, who exposed Cole's sweet deal, is that Held is apparently cozy with the teachers union, although he doesn't offer any evidence. Murphy seems to be awfully cozy with the MATC administration. I don't have any evidence either, so we're even. Three stories about Cole's salary in a four-year span doesn't seem excessive to me, however.

I am cozy with the teachers union, which tells me that Murphy has never evaluated the current administration's performance, its efforts to change MATC from a technical college to a junior college or its attempts to eliminate the award-winning child care program or adult high school.

This is not new information, but apparently bears repeating: No MATC faculty member earns more than $85,000 unless he/she teaches additional classes or is paid for administrative work. And that $85,000 figure is the top of the scale.

What about compared to UWM faculty? MATC salaries are higher, Murphy says. MATC faculty also teach more, about 40% more in terms of the number of courses and classroom time.

The real story of Darnell Cole's new contract is the double standard. The college has opened its wallet for the president, while demanding give backs from the very faculty and staff who train Milwaukee's skilled labor force.

A real leader who claims that his college is in financial straits would lead by example. If Cole wants his employees to make concessions, he should do the same.

Bruce Murphy and I agree on things much of the time. But on this one I think he's been sold a bill of goods.

4 Comments:

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Russ said...

The problem with MATC is their yearly demands for budget increases without concern for those paying the bills. Per US Census data for the last six years household income in Milwaukee County has been flat and in some cases declined. During that same six year period MATC has incresed their spending substantially. MATC employees total compensation should remain unchanged for the last six years. Anything less is unfair to the property taxpayers.

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Mari said...

I am also a taxpayer. The instructors who teach at MATC, should get the same benefits as those of the administration. The people who are in instruction are the reason that there is an MATC. This school is one of the best technical colleges in the nation, and that is because of the efforts of those in instruction. Certainly if the president is worth what he gets, those who are actually doing the job should be compensated and not destroyed.

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger Mari said...

I am also a taxpayer. The instructors who teach at MATC, should get the same benefits as those of the administration. The people who are in instruction are the reason that there is an MATC. This school is one of the best technical colleges in the nation, and that is because of the efforts of those in instruction. Certainly if the president is worth what he gets, those who are actually doing the job should be compensated and not destroyed.

 
At 3:33 PM, Blogger Mari said...

I am also a taxpayer. The instructors who teach at MATC, should get the same benefits as those of the administration. The people who are in instruction are the reason that there is an MATC. This school is one of the best technical colleges in the nation, and that is because of the efforts of those in instruction. Certainly if the president is worth what he gets, those who are actually doing the job should be compensated and not destroyed.

 

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