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Teachers need fair wage increase & government needs lesson in math

Today Vincent Ready announced that he had too many commitments to take on the position as mediator in the labour dispute involving teachers and the government via their negotiating arm BCPSEA. This comes on the heels of a full page ad being taken out by the BC Government in 24 Hours Vancouver on Friday, June 20.


In an amazing twist of irony, the ad is also found on the “Province of British Columbia’s official Education and Literacy page” on Facebook. 

While the ad is certainly compelling visually, there’s a rather fundamental mathematical problem with the government’s calculations.  I think most British Columbians would agree that “Teachers deserve a fair wage increase. But it needs to be affordable”.  But when the government makes such an elementary mistake in their calculation, it makes one rather suspicious of other claims that they might be making.

Let’s do a little mathematics.

Suppose that the total amount of money spent on teacher salaries in the province of British Columbia is: S

Suppose that the total amount of money spent on teacher benefits (pension, health, dental, disability etc)  is:  B

Benefits are almost always assigned as a percentage p of total salary so that:

(1)                    B = p × S

Then the present total compensation T0 to teachers including benefits is:

(2)                   T0 = S + B = S + p × S = (1 + p) × S

In the advertisement, the government says the teachers are asking for an 8% salary increase (over 5 years) and a 6.5% improvement in their benefits.

So by the end of the 5 year agreement the total compensation T5 to teachers would be:

(3)                    T5 = T0 + 0.08 × S + 0.065 × p × S = (1 + p) × S + 0.08 × S + 0.065 ×× S = (1.08 + 1.065 × p) × S

We can get a pretty good idea of the ttotal amount of money spent on teacher salaries and benefits in the Province of British Columbia from the Ministry of Education websiteTable 6 of the BC School District Expenditure and Revenue Tables notes that in 2013/14, a total of $3,125,629,458 was spent on all teacher salaries combined and a total of $792,384,192 was spent on total benefits. Benefits therefore represent 25% of the salary costs so:

(4)                    p = 0.25

Now when we plug p from Equation 4 into Equations 2  and 3 we get:

(5)                  T0 = 1.25  × S                           


(6)                  T5 = 1.35  × S

The ratio of T5 to T0 gives us the overall compensation increased proposed by the BCTF.

(7)                    T5 / T0 = 1.08

The proposed teacher wage increase is 8.0% increase over 5 years when the overall package is considered (including benefits).  How could this number be so different from the government’s number in the above advertisement? Well the answer is simple, the BC Government added the 8% salary increase to the 6.5% benefit increase to get their 14.5% overall increase. Their math is just plain wrong and frankly I think they owe the general public, let alone the teachers, an apology for misleading them particularly in light of the fact that funds for the advertisement probably arose from public money. In addition, it is embarrassing, to say the least, to see this advertisement proudly displayed on the official BC Education and Literacy Facebook page.

Now, more than ever, it is important for the Liberal government to find a mediator to bring rationality back into the negotiations.  I think we can all agree that teacher’s need a fair wage increase but at the same time, it’s pretty clear to me that government could use a lesson or two in math. Our children, their parents and the teachers in the classroom deserve better.




  1. Mia-
    June 30, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    As there appears to be so much diversionary tactics from the real issues at stake by manipulating the public into thinking this fight is about teacher’s wages; perhaps a little real Math would help there.
    For those whom the lesson is still a tad complex, here’s an even simpler explanation:

    As any grade six student knows, you do not calculate percentage totals of two different variables by adding them.
    An 8% raise on salary, and a 6.5% raise on benefits DOES NOT EQUAL a 14.5% raise.
    A % is out of 100. Two variables ( salary plus benefits) cannot be added to get a % total.

    Similar to two items of $100 each, for sale at 8% for one, and 6.5% for the other; you don’t TOTAL them to get 14.5% off at the cashier.
    You would get $14.50 of $200. That means you have an average between the 2 variables of 7.25% in total. ( So spread over 5 years, that wouldn’t even be a cost of living increase).

  2. Craven-
    June 26, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Rick, please read Roy Wheeldon’s post above. As well I hope you follow the YouTube link for the simpler version or Les has a nice one to better understand. You will see that teachers are not asking for more than other unions, its less if you include 3 years of 0% behind them. If the bottom was reached years ago, why have MLA’s granted themselves raises and their aides more recently?

    Don’t doubt what teachers do above and beyond what is required, learn for yourself and go ask them. I mean literally go to a school tomorrow and ask a few teachers. Take a poll… Ask them how many more personal contributions for classroom they have at home. While you are at it, ask them how the PAC contributes. Please come back and tell us how many are much like Kathy.

  3. W Dyck-
    June 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    This government. lead by Christy Clark is the most dishonest government I have seen in my 65 years. Disgusting. The Government must “man up”

  4. Les-
    June 25, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Hi Rick, I’m not a teacher or a math specialist, but I think the point of the mathematical equation was to show that you can’t add 2 different percentages together to create one. If you received 60% on your English 12 Exam & 66% on your Social studies exam…does that mean you then really received 126%?

    The point, I believe, is that either the Government is inept in math calculations, or they are playing us all as fools & can throw out any number they want & we will believe it hook line & sinker.

  5. Ian Nickerson-
    June 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I think it’s high time to RECALL this government!

  6. Rick-
    June 24, 2014 at 10:07 am

    You criticize the government about the amount the teachers want and you come up with drivel like this.?
    T5 = T0 + 0.08 × S + 0.065 × p × S = (1 + p) × S + 0.08 × S + 0.065 × p × S = (1.08 + 1.065 × p) × S
    It would be interesting to know how many teachers actually do spend money on their classes . I don’t doubt that you do but I’m sure you are not an average teacher, I get this from your level of commitment to your cause.
    One thing the teachers union and membership need to realize is that there is a bottom to the public purse and it was passed years ago.
    Another thing, if someone is so displeased with their employer then my suggestion is to move on. In this case there are many people who are qualified to replace anyone who leaves.

  7. June 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you for addressing this issue and for addressing this important issue. As a teacher in the middle of the unpleasant dispute, it’s easy to feel beaten up, and feel like no one is listening or understands what’s going on. You’ve done a wonderful job of presenting a fair and clear analysis of the situation. I just wanted you to know I really appreciate that. Hopefully I can go back to my classroom soon.

  8. Kathy-
    June 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks Andrew for the blog explaining the ridiculous thinking in the Liberal ad. The video that was created by a fellow teacher explaining the faulty thinking of the Minister of Education was illuminating. One thing I would point out is the salary increase (if there is one) is gradual and does not all take place the day the contract is signed. Often there is a percent increase that takes place at midnight of the last day of the contract which would be in five or six years. The other thing I would point out is that teachers do not all access the benefits to the same amount. For instance, we do not all require maternity leave.

    Norm I understand how you feel as a taxpayer. If you don’t have kids in public schools and you don’t value teachers and a quality public education system then it must really make you angry. Teachers also pay taxes ! I realize there are many people who make less than teachers. There are also a lot of people who make a heck of a lot more. A Bachelor of Education Degree takes 5 years of post secondary education. Many of us also have a masters degree which is another two years. Some of us have two under graduate degrees. I have a Masters Degree in Education and a total of 9 years of post secondary education. I love learning and I love helping my little ones learn. I am not sure those you compare teachers to who “make a fraction of what teachers make” have the same amount of education or training. Our professional development costs are not paid by drug companies, other interest groups, or even by the tax payers.They are paid for out of our own pockets.

    One thing you might not be aware of is that teachers of British Columbia have been propping up the public education system for years. This year I spent $2569.00 on supplies and educational materials for my class. I have spent an average of between $1000.00 -$2000.00 every year on my students (somebody else’s kids) for thirty years. Teachers cannot deduct one penny from income tax for the materials and supplies we buy for our students. This is unlike other professional’s expenses. If we did not do this then other people’s kids would often go without a lunch, have no school supplies, have fewer art activities, no class library, no posters on the wall, less Math manipulatives, fewer Science materials, and so much more. This is due to the cutbacks the Liberal government has made year after year to our kids in British Columbia. School districts have been making hard choices and my district is cutting $345,500 in supplies and services in schools next year. In total my district is cutting $3,103,000 from the annual operating budget and theses cuts will be felt by all students, teachers, administrators and parents in the school system. Teachers will have to keep on propping up the system! The general public and parents really have no idea how much teachers really do to keep our schools great places to learn.

  9. Allie-
    June 23, 2014 at 10:07 am

    A friend made this video to break down the misleading “math” of the ad campaign. She’s a teacher, and was incensed to see the bogus numbers presented as fact to mislead.

    • June 23, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Brilliant video. Way clearer explanation than mine. Can you tell who is the teacher in the K-12 system?

      • JC-
        June 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm

        The video creator is the youtube poster, so the name in the account username is accurate for citing.

  10. Norm kaiser-
    June 23, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Taxpayers deserve a fair and honest ansewer as to an actual doller figure a teacher makes,instead of the false figures both sides put out.more money means higher taxes for people that make a fraction of what a teacher makes.and does not have any benefits.

    • June 23, 2014 at 8:11 am

      I agree Norm, there is far too much “negotiating through press release” going on. In terms of salaries, the teacher salary grids for all the district are publicly available

        at this link

    • Roy Wheeldon-
      June 23, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      Since I’ve been teaching (22 years), teachers have fallen approximately 20% behind inflation. I have seen many quality colleagues move to other provinces and/or switch careers because of the demands of the job and because of underfunding. I personally will not even vote to ratify the deal the union is proposing. I can not stomach accepting a deal that will end with me earning another 3% below inflation at its conclusion.

      You probably deserve a larger piece of the pie as well. I think the privileged few at the top are the ones pocketing all the extra money redirected from your pocket and mine. Our government lowered tax rates for the people at the top. End result for families: highest child poverty rate in Canada, second worst per student funding for education in Canada, etc, etc.

      We would probably both be better served if we worked together to fight for workers’ rights to collective bargaining. If these were respected, we might both be finding it easier to make ends meet while the corporations and government share some of the wealth with “the little people”.