The Washington Post is reporting that PWC teachers have threatened to Work to the Rule to protest the district’s proposed budget. Under Work to the Rule, teachers will only work the hours that they are obligated to work, according to their contract. At the elementary level, that means teachers will arrive 15 minutes before the school day begins and depart 15 minutes after the school day ends. Teachers will participate in extra-curricular activities they are paid to participate in or coach, like baseball or textbook adoption, but will not participate in clubs or activities for which they are not paid, like field trips that begin before the work day is scheduled to start.
This protest is over the Superintendent’s proposed budget which does not allow for increases in teacher pay for the next 3 school years. Teachers have stated that this is unacceptable and will undermine student learning as teachers leave the profession to find higher paying jobs in other sectors.
Why won’t our teachers be getting raises?
PWCS starts the budget process from last year’s budget expenditures and increases or decreases that amount depending on needs. When you look at the budget for the 2012 – 2013 school year you see two major increases – $24 million due to increased enrollment and $31.3 million due to the increased cost of providing teacher retirement and group term life insurance.
The $24 million is based on providing books, desks, teachers, transportation, and facilities for the projected 2,767 more students who will be enrolling in school in Prince William County next year.
The $31.3 million increase is based on the 50% increase in cost of providing teacher retirement and group term life insurance benefits. Prince William County provides 100% of teacher retirement and group term life insurance benefits. Currently PWCS, and every other school division, allocates 11.93% of teacher salaries to VRS for retirement. In the 2012 – 2013 school year that rate will increase to 17.77%, which will result in $31.3 million increase in the cost of providing retirement and group term life insurance benefits to our teachers.
Those two items – increased enrollment and increased retirement benefits costs – are the two largest increases in the 2012 – 2013 budget. Combined they cost over $50 million and are the reason the division has projected that teachers will not receive raises for the next 3 years. Things may change, and the Superintendent has promised that if they change for the better then teachers will be first in line for a salary increase.
Can’t we get more money for our schools so that our teachers can get a raise?
Funds are allocated to the school division from state, federal, and county revenues. Federal taxpayers provide about 3.5% of the funds PWCS receives, state taxpayers provide about 50.8%, and county taxpayers provide about 45.4%.
The federal allocation is based on specific programs, grants, and targeted aide and is projected to decrease $3.5 million in the 2012 – 2013 school year because an ARRA grant will be expiring.
The state allocation is based several factors, but the division expects to receive about $34.1 million more in state aide in the 2012 – 2013 school year.
The county allocation is based on a percentage of county tax receipts and is set at 56.75% of county receipts – not a fixed dollar amount. That percentage, and how much money the county receives in taxes, is controlled by the Board of County Supervisors.
We don’t have much control over federal or state allocations, but we can control what’s allocated at the county level and that’s where increased money for the schools will have to originate.
Where does the money Prince William County allocates to schools come from?
PWCS is allocated funds for schools by the Board of County Supervisors; 56.75% of tax receipts are allocated to the schools by the BOCS. The rest of the money goes to other county operations like police, fire & rescue, and parks. County tax receipts include property taxes and local sales taxes. The property tax amount is based on the value of the property held in the county times the property tax assessment rate, which is set by the BOCS and reflects the projected funding needs of all of the programs the county operates.
There are 2 ways the county can allocate more funds to the schools (1) increase the percentage of taxes allocated to the schools, or (2) increase the property tax assessment rate.
Increasing the percentage of property taxes allocated to the schools means decreasing the percentage allocated to the police, fire and rescue, and parks. So, while the schools may have more money, the police, fire & rescue, and parks will have less money and we may have to lay off police officers or fire fighters. Does anyone want to argue that we should fire a bunch of police officers or fire fighters so our teachers can get a raise? I sure don’t.
Increasing the property tax assessment rate means people who own property in the county will pay more in taxes. So, while the schools may have more money, county residents will have less because their taxes will have gone up. Does anyone want to argue that we should raise taxes so that our teachers can get a raise? I might, but only if raises are necessary to bring our teachers salary and benefits up to area norms.
One other, very important point. PWCS is prohibited from running a deficit. We have to present a balanced budget for the coming year and the next 5 years, even though the economic situation for the next 5 years is unknown. So, while the 2012 – 2013 SY budget may project that teachers will not be receiving salary increases for the next 3 school years, that does not mean they will not receive raises if the economic situation in the county improves.
Could we find money in the PWCS budget to pay for teacher raises?
A 1% raise for our teachers will run about $5 million. To get that $5 million for a 1% raise we could: end student extra-curricular activities, increase the “walker” distance from 1 mile to 1.5 miles, require parents to transport their kids to specialty programs they participate in that aren’t at their base school, or lay off 100 or more central office staff. These, or some combinations of these, could free up enough funds to give our teachers a raise.
Or, we could ask teachers to contribute some percentage of their salaries for their retirement benefits. Remember, the reason we can’t give our teacher’s a raise is because the cost of providing their retirement benefit has increased $31 million, and we currently pay for 100% of their retirement benefits. Teachers could be asked to pay 5 or 10% of their salary for their retirement benefits, like teachers in Maryland do. So, we’d have money to give teachers raises, but they’d be taking home less as they be paying for their retirement benefits. I don’t think our teachers would consider that a net positive.
It’s easy to say teachers need to be paid more. It’s a lot harder to say where that money should come from. Which bring us to the gorilla in the room.
Do Our Teachers Deserve Raises?
Our teachers are clearly unhappy about not getting raises and are threatening to Work to the Rule if they don’t get them. Teachers frequently complain that they’re underpaid, and that they do lots of work outside the classroom that they aren’t paid for. Are our teachers underpaid and is expecting them to do work outside their contracted hours unreasonable?
Teachers do lots of work outside the classroom that they aren’t paid for. Yep, there are lots of things teachers do after hours that they don’t get paid for from grading papers to preparing lesson plans to sponsoring student clubs and attending meetings. Teacher’s are also salaried professionals, not hourly employees, and every salaried professional I know works overtime without being paid. Think about the hours bookkeepers work at the end of the moth or year, or the hours accountants work during tax and audit season. Those professionals knew they’d work horrible hours before they took the job, but so did teachers. Every teacher knows that 15 minutes before the start of the school day and 15 minutes after the end of the school day isn’t enough time to plan the next day and grade the day’s work. That’s as much a reality of the teaching profession as long hours during tax season is a reality of the accounting profession.
The reality of the “uncompensated” hours you’ll have to work in your chosen profession isn’t justification for giving you a raise.
Teachers are underpaid. According the 2012 WABE report, entry level teachers are paid more in PWCS than in Manassas and Manassas Park, about the same as entry level teachers in Loudoun, and about $800 less per year than in Fairfax, while experienced teachers with a Masters degree are paid more in PWCS than in Loudoun, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park. In PWCS the average entry level teacher with a Bachelor’s degree makes $44,000 a year, the average entry level teacher with a Master’s degree makes $49,000 a year, and the average experienced teacher with a Master’s degree makes $58,000 a year. The maximum a teacher in the county can make is about $99,000.
PWCS does have a greater percentage of less experienced teachers than other districts, which brings our overall average compensation down as teachers are paid based on their years of service and degree.
100% of teacher retirement and group term life insurance benefits in PWCS and other area school districts are paid by the school district. Teacher benefits in PWCS averaged about 40.47% of salary in 2012 (that will increase to 46.31% in the 2012 – 2013 school year because of the increase in retirement and GTL benefit costs). For comparison, benefits cost 41.41% of salary in Loudoun, 40.47% of salary in Fairfax, 39.80% of salary in Manassas Park, and 37.72% of salary in Manassas.
So, teachers in PWCS are paid more or about the same as similarly qualified and experienced teachers in surrounding districts, and the benefits we provide our teachers are greater or about the same as in surrounding districts. When compared with regional norms, it’s difficult to argue that our teachers are underpaid, especially as the reason our teachers won’t be getting raises is because the cost of providing their retirement benefit increased 50%.
Being the bad guy.
I know it’s hard to discuss this in such stark terms. No one wants to be the bad guy and say that teachers don’t deserve raises, but the salary and benefits our teachers receive are better or the same as teachers in the area and increasing the money the county provides to the schools for teacher raises means less money for police, fire & rescue, or higher taxes for every county resident. Sorry, but I can’t justify any of that. If our teachers were really underpaid when compared with regional norms, then I might be able to justify raising taxes, but they aren’t.
If our teachers want to Work to the Rule because they’re not getting raises, they’re certainly welcome to do so, but they shouldn’t expect unanimous support of the community if they make that choice.