Education Funding News in Brief

Tax Break Covers Costco and Cokes

By Andrew Ujifusa — February 13, 2018 2 min read
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In a push to promote the new federal tax code’s benefits, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., highlighted how a public high school secretary in Pennsylvania is now taking home an extra $1.50 per week. That sum will “more than cover” the “pleasantly surprised” secretary’s annual membership fee at Costco, he tweeted out Feb. 3. But Ryan deleted it later after getting a lot of pushback on social media.

The Associated Press story cited by Ryan quoted Julie Ketchum, a secretary at Hempfield High in the Hempfield district. Ketchum said she was amused that Ryan highlighted her as an example of how the tax code would help workers. She isn’t listed on a website listing Hempfield personnel and their salaries.

Nonetheless, we got to thinking: How much do school secretaries typically make, and what would a salary increase of $1.50 a week mean for them?

The average school secretary’s base pay is $34,450, according to Glassdoor, a job and employer-review site.

However, Payscale, an employment research firm, recently reported that the median salary for school secretaries is $28,567, based on a survey of 1,030 secretaries. And SimplyHired, which helps employees and employers calculate compensation, reported an average salary of $31,568.

These sorts of stats should be taken with a grain of salt, in part because they are based on online submissions. For example, Glassdoor separately lists the average base pay of elementary school secretaries at $46,010 a year, based on more than 7,500 salary figures submitted to Glassdoor. The website doesn’t cite a reason for the discrepancy between elementary school secretaries and the more general figure.

It’s worth noting that the mean average wage for secretaries and administrative assistants for various employers in Pennsylvania was $34,930 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ketchum said the extra salary means $78 more a year for her, although that’s based on getting $1.50 more over 52 weeks, and many school employees do not get paid during the summer break. That salary bump does indeed cover an individual’s annual Costco “Gold Star” membership of $60, plus $18, enough for 12 hot dogs and 12 sodas at Costco.

Ultimately, $78 per year extra represents a pay increase of about 0.23 percent for the average school secretary. That’s if we take Glassdoor’s annual average base pay of $34,450 for secretaries, which is close to the mean average wage figures from BLS cited earlier.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2018 edition of Education Week as Tax Break Covers Costco and Cokes

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