Monday, December 14, 2009

Freezing the Teacher Salary Schedule Could Save $25,000,000 a Year


Towards the end of last session I heard a rumour coming out of Don Cox's office that the state was considering "freezing" the state salary schedule, meaning that the step increases teachers receive in their first 15 years of teaching would be suspended and your salary for this year would be the same as your salary for last year (less the LID days, which is another topic). It was a proposal that didn't get anywhere, but there is a savings there, and I was a little surprised not to see it percolate back up given where we're at in the state budget.

So over the weekend I played with a couple of documents from the Superintendent of Public Instruction. First is the Personnel Report that details how many teachers there are in the state; the second, the salary schedule that shows what we teachers were paid last year and this year. I plugged it all into this spreadsheet:

  • The first line is the salary from the 2008-2009 school year.
  • Next, the salary that a person in the same column would have received the very next year, 2009-2010, assuming they stayed in the same "lane".
  • The next line is the difference between the two numbers; this is the raise that a hypothetical person would have received from year-to-year.
  • The fourth line is taken from the personnel summary, and shows how many people in 2008-2009 were at that place on the salary schedule. For example, in 2008-2009 there were 774 teachers who had a Bachelor's Degree only (no additional credits) and were in their first year of teaching.
  • The final line is that number of teachers multiplied by the additional salary they would have received, creating a total for every teacher in that cell.
Put it all together for all the teachers in their first 15 years of teaching, and the spreadsheet says that we spent an additional $28,982,381 by not freezing the schedule last year.

There's a lot of assumptions that go into this: that all those teachers came back, that they were all charged to the state, and that they are reported correctly to OSPI. On the other hand, I'm also not figuring in any increases for moving over "lanes" (e.g., moving from the BA+45 column to the MA+0 column), or mid-year hires, etc. Plus, I'm an amateur--there could potentially be a lot more to be found there, because I"m not looking at the right chart or reading the right numbers in the right way.

But let's say that I'm full of crap and off by even 20%. That's still almost $25 million dollars in potential savings, which is something that we can't ignore. Do I like the idea of taking money from teachers? Absolutely not, but this isn't a "go backwards" deal--it's working to maintain what we already have.

My bottom line is levy equalization. If we can make enough sacrifices in other places to keep LEA, then we've accomplished something meaningful. Offering step increases to those employees in the first 15 years, those who are the most likely to be impacted by district cuts if levy equalization goes away, makes about as much sense as putting on your makeup before a trip to the guillotine.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Dr Pezz said...

Sorry, but I can't walk with you on this one. I get 16 years of step increases, and then they're over--before I'm 40 I essentially max out. Cutting out one step would affect me the rest of my career.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Sue Lani said...

Dr. Pezz, you're expressing the kind of entitlement position that gives teachers and unions a bad name among employees in private industry where step increases don't exist, where COLA has been frozen for two years, and where layoffs have been frequent. Gotta side with Ryan on this one. LEA is more important for the greater good.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Sue Lani said...

Dr. Pezz, you're expressing the kind of entitlement position that gives teachers and unions a bad name among employees in private industry where step increases don't exist, where COLA has been frozen for two years, and where layoffs have been frequent. Gotta side with Ryan on this one. LEA is more important for the greater good.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Dr Pezz said...

It's easy to use the private sector versus public sector argument when many of us in the public sector chose security over more lucrative pay. Then the private sector wants the public sector to be hit hard by the failings of the private sector's control over the market.

I didn't cut and run for a better paying job when I could, and now I'm a bad guy for wanting the only 16 steps I get in a 35-40 year career? I don't think so.

Teachers had frozen salaries throughout most of the 90s when the economy was booming (meaning my piece of the pie was denied), and now more freezes and cuts are expected of teachers. My work days have decreased (cutting my pay) and my benefit costs are rising quickly. What else do people want?

8:16 PM  
Blogger Sue Lani said...

As I always told my daughter as she was growing up, life is not fair.

While the economy was expanding, public sector jobs could afford to be secure and untouchable. As many private sector unions have found, job security is a mirage. As for pay - average public sector salaries are higher than private sector in every county except King.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Dr Pezz said...

I don't think we will agree, but I have to admit that I'm starting to feel preyed upon by the public.

Very little is credited to my efforts--whether that be prestige or pay--and much is asked of me with less and less with which to do it. My salary will max out when I'm 38 and I will lose buying power (essentially losing money) every year after that if the current trends continue.

The cynic in me says that's the time to become an administrator (or go back to a tech company). Seldom does anyone ask them to cut their salaries, and they never seem to leave the profession even when times are tight.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Scooter said...

The idea of freezing someone on his/her grid is awful. That grid is a contract that is agreed on by both parties when the contract is signed. It is usually updated every 3 years or so. A teacher (in this case) accepts that rate of pay knowing (and planning with relative certainty) on their next few years. Changing the contract terms after the fact is not good policy. If you'd like a reduction in public servants, that should be negotiated in good faith when this contract comes up for renewal. That is a far better solution than sticking it to some teacher who is in the first few years of their career.

2:01 PM  

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