PWCS Teachers Threaten to Work to the Rule

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.

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29 Responses to “PWCS Teachers Threaten to Work to the Rule”

  1. Ed Says:

    My employer pays roughly 50% of retirement as matching funds and that’s high these days. Teachers have to offset the benefits provided plus summer with their kids against relatively stagnent wages – in this economy. Until I changed jobs I received no retirement match and no raise for over 10 years.
    You have to make a choice but I’d start by looking at the admin costs; there must be some fat there to be trimmed. You might even improive education in the process…

  2. Home Education Chap Says:

    Dreadful the way our teachers (and my daughter is one) are constantly pushed more and more and are expected to take less and less remuneration.. It saddens me that we are under skilling the futre generations.

  3. rgb Says:

    If students at Forest Park High School (my children’s high school) came to school en masse wearing buttons that said, “Teach to the Students,” the act would be labeled a school-wide “disruption;” the action would not be permitted, and children who did so would be subject to disciplinary action. Here’s hoping that the FPHS Principal, Mr. Brent, will act accordingly with his staff and not permit teachers to create such a disruption during school hours. Teachers are free to protest, but not using other people’s children as a captive audience for their protest during the school day. To do otherwise would simply be a subtle form of bullying.

    • HAR Says:

      rgb – You mentioned this “disruption” would be during school hours. You are misinformed. Working to the rule is not a disruption at all. It means working contracted hours only. What exactly would you expect the principal to do or say to his staff? I’m disappointed that you’re doing your jobs? Teachers ARE doing their job, just in the amount of time the taxpayers for it. That is not illegal or a crime, but I find it completely ironic that the public demands “free labor” from its teachers. Do you demand free labor from your doctor, lawyer or mechanic? Your comment really points out just how much teachers are undervalued in the United States.

      • rgb Says:

        Working “to the rule” is your choice. Wearing badges in school as a visual form of protest – to my children, during school hours – is a disruption. It’s little different from carrying signs in the hallways. All I’m asking is that if you “work to the rule” you save your protesting for those hours of the day before or after school – not during the period where my children are a captive audience for the protest. Surely your issue isn’t with the students is it?

      • KimS Says:

        I remember attending elementary school during a Work to the Rule period in Fairfax in the 70’s. Yes, I’m THAT old. I don’t recall that our instructional day was disrupted, but do recall that some extra activities, like our field trip to Washington DC, was cancelled. If memory serves, and it’s been a long time since the 70’s, I think the FEA members Worked to the Rule for more than a few days.

        As far as protests go, if Work to the Rule only lasts a few days then it really isn’t detrimental to student learning, but if it stretches out into weeks and months then the students do suffer because there’s a delay in receiving graded assignments back from the teacher and you don’t know what you need to improve on until you get that work back.

        Here’s the thing, though. The union negotiated the contract with PWCS knowing that teachers would have to bring work home with them. Teachers have always had to bring work home with them; it’s as much a given in the profession as working 80 + hour weeks is during tax and audit season is for accountants. The contract hours are the time the teachers have to be physically present in the building. The union negotiated shorter “contract” hours for the teachers so that they wouldn’t have to be physically present in the classroom as long, even if that meant that they’d have even more work to do at home. Given the choice between sitting at my desk in my office doing mindless paperwork and at home doing the same thing, I’d take home any day.

        I’d be willing to pay more in taxes if our teachers were making less in salary and benefits than teachers in neighboring districts. It seems, however, that our teachers’ compensation and benefits are pretty much in line with regional norms, so I’m disinclined to support raising taxes to pay for a salary increase. If we can find the funds in the budget, without laying too many people off, then that “savings” should go to teacher raises. But if we can’t find the funds in the budget and our allocation from Richmond doesn’t increase, then I can’t back a tax increase to pay for teacher raises.

      • KimS Says:

        HAR – point of clarification. One of the articles on the Work to Rule plan stated that teachers at FPHS would be wearing badges that stated “Working to the Rule” or some other such thing. I hadn’t realized that, and have to say that I agree with RGB on that. It’s one thing to Work to the Rule, it’s far another to wear badges, especially for teachers.

  4. KM Says:

    One item to insert: PWCS employees are NOT receiving 100% of retirement paid for. As of right now all teachers hired after July 1, 2009 pay for their OWN retirement all 100%.

    • KimS Says:

      PWCS provides two retirement benefits to our teachers. The first is the pension which is provided through VRS. This is the defined benefit pension plan for which all state employees are eligible. The state has approved a 5% employee share, which means employees would have to provide 5% of their pay towards their pension with their employer providing the reaming 95%, but PWCS covers this portion for all employees (hence the 100% provided).

      Employees who joined PWCS after 7/1/2010 are enrolled in VRS plan 2 instead of plan 1. This was a VRS thing and not a PWCS thing. The benefit is still the same – 100% provided by PWCS with NO COST to the employee. Here’s a link to the PWCS page that explains this ===> http://benefits.departments.pwcs.edu/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=137700&sessionid=

      PWCS employees are also eligible for a supplemental retirement plan, which will provide them with additional funds on top of their VRS pension. It’s kind of like the 401(k)’s many private sector employees have. Teachers don’t have to participate in the supplemental, but those who do will pay into the plan and receive a 2% match of the money they contribute after 15 years of service. Here’s a link to the PWCS page that explains this =====> http://benefits.departments.pwcs.edu/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=137701&sessionid=

  5. Steve Says:

    Does anyone know why the increase in retirement cost is so high? I recall seeing some stories out of Wisconsin last year, such as the first link below, in which the unions were pocketing lots of money through the teachers’ health insurance contracts. Hopefully that is not going on here with retirement accounts.

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/07/wisconsin-schools-buck-union-cut-health-costs/115972
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703408604576164290717724956.html

    • KimS Says:

      I contacted VRS to ask this and they said it was several factors, which were compounded by decisions the school division and every other school division made.

      The first is that the actuaries projected that the cost pension benefits have been increasing as our population lives longer. So instead of providing a benefit for 15 – 20 years after retirement, we’re providing it for 30 + years. That means school divisions need to put more away each year to provide for that benefit as the plan is a defined benefit plan (which means the employees get a fixed amount as their benefit each year which is calculated based on their salary). So that meant the percentage the division paid each year to provide that benefit had to go up.

      The second is the market’s erratic performance these past few years which has affected the growth of the funds the retirement benefits are invested in by VRS. The growth of the retirement money that’s been saved hasn’t met expectations, and since the plan is a defined benefit, that means the school divisions need to pay more to make up for that lack of growth.

      The third was a decision made by the school division itself regarding putting away money for the retirement benefit. VRS serves all state employees, not just school division employees, and other government entities have been increasing their VRS percentage allocations over the past several years in anticipation of increasing rates. As a result, some of them don’t have any increase in the amount they had to allocate to the VRS this year. That’s largely because they cut costs, had layoffs, and haven’t increased salaries for the past few years. The schools, however, and I mean just about every school division, not just PWCS, didn’t increase the rate they allocate funds to the VRS because they wanted to avoid layoffs and hoped the economy would turn around. We’ve also given our teachers about 9% in pay increases over the past 5 years but didn’t increase the rate at which we put funds aside for their retirement benefits. The economy hasn’t turned around and now the school division has been hit with a 50% increase in the VRS rate, which is going to cost the division $32 million next school year (the equivalent of a 6% pay increase).

      When you put the two together, our teachers have gotten an increase in salaries and retirement benefits of 15% over the past 5 years. They have had to pay more for their health insurance premiums and deductibles, but I don’t have those percentages.

  6. JS Says:

    Before justifying anything with, “in this economy,” it is useful to point out that PWC has one of the lowest unemployment rates (5.1 percent) in a state with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. There was a news story out within the last week that said that PWC is the ninth-wealthiest county in the country. It is embarrassing that our citizens are looking for any and every reason to underpay our teachers.

    According to most news stories out this week, our teachers are the lowest-paid in the region, aside from (I believe) Manassas Park.

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      JS – not exactly true.

      As I’m sure you’re aware, teachers are paid based on years of service and qualification level, so comparing a raw average is like comparing apples to oranges as the numbers for a district with relatively stable enrollment and few new hires will be higher on average than a growing district with a large number of new or newer teachers. PWCS happens to be one of the fastest growing school divisions in the state. It has been for several years. As a result we’ve hired a number of new or newer teachers and the average years of experience for PWC teachers is lower than in neighboring school divisions.

      For similarly qualified and experienced teachers, the average teacher’s salary for 2012 is:
      Step 1 Bachelors
      Fairfax – $44,400
      Loudoun – $43,715
      Manassas City – $43,000
      Manassas Park – $42,400
      PWCS – $43,612

      So for a starting teacher with a Bachelors, we’re above Manassas and Manassas Park, about equal to Loudoun, and 1.8% below Fairfax.

      Step 1 Masters
      Fairfax – $49,928
      Loudoun – $49,096
      Manassas City – $48,000
      Manassas Park – $48,400
      PWCS – $48,810

      So for a starting teacher with a Masters, we’re above Manassas and Manassas Park, about .58% below Loudoun, and about 2.3% below Fairfax.

      Step 9 Masters
      Fairfax – $58,099
      Loudoun – $53,693
      Manassas City – $53,011
      Manassas Park – $55,637
      PWCS – $58,315

      For an experience teacher with a Masters, we’re above everyone – even Fairfax. So the line about our experienced teachers leaving to Fairfax our Loudoun where salaries are better is unsubstantiated as PWCS pays the highest salaries in our area for experienced teachers.

      It’s also worth noting that the list of wealthiest counties in the country listed Loudoun, Fairfax, and Stafford as having higher average annual incomes than Prince William. Which is rather interesting in lieu of the fact that teacher salaries in PWCS are in line with teacher salaries in Loudoun and Fairfax, and significantly above Stafford (see here for list – http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2011/09/washington-area-richest-nation-last-year/118564)

      • JS Says:

        You are wrong about the experienced teacher with a Master’s, because you don’t understand how the steps work. What you are forgetting is that our pay has been frozen, meaning we DON’T go up the scale. An experienced teacher with a Master’s in the 9th year of teaching is only on a step 7 this year, and will stay there next year, in the 10th year of teaching. So, when comparing the salary of a 9th year teacher in PWCS, you need to look at the salaries of the 7th year teachers in other counties, and next year compare it to the 6th year teachers in other counties.

        PWCS (9th year, step 7): $54,963

  7. rgb Says:

    So, in the grand scheme of things on one hand we have the emotional appeal of “work to the rule” and on the other…factual data. Am I missing something?

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      Yes and no. This is pure political theater right now. The facts indicate that PWCS teachers receive salary and benefits that are about average for similarly qualified and experienced teachers in nearby school divisions. But, saying “we’re paid about average for the area but deserve more because we work so hard” doesn’t sound as good as ” your hardworking teachers are underpaid”.

      Being told you aren’t likely to get raises for the next 5 years is a huge slap in the face, even if the 5 year budget projection in little more than an educated guess right now. Complaining about no salary increases after the budgets have been approved and the tax assessment rate passed is a waste of time as the tax assessment rate can go down but not up (by law).

      So we’ve got a lot of theater going on right now with teachers trying to convince legislators in Richmond to give us more money for schools and the BOCS to raise taxes so that they can get raises. And if there’s one thing that doesn’t have a spot in political theater, it’s the cold, hard, unemotional facts.

  8. pwceducationreform Says:

    We’ve heard that teachers at SOME area schools are wearing their ‘Work to the Rule” badges in class. This is unacceptable. No matter how virtuous teachers may believe their cause is, our children are not pawns and should not be used as such.

    This practice also violates policy 273.01 on political activities. Policy 273.01 states the following (bolding mine):

    Political interests of any individual or group may not be promoted during the school day or at school-sponsored activities, including athletic events; however, school facilities may be used as polling places for elections. Prince William County Public School students shall not be required to convey or deliver any materials that (i) advocate the election or defeat of any candidate for elective office, (ii) advocate the passage or defeat of any referendum question, or (iii) advocate the passage or defeat of any matter pending before a local school board, local governing body, the General Assembly of Virginia or the Congress of the United States.

    The Associate Superintendent for Communications and Technology Services (or designee) is responsible for implementing and monitoring this policy.
    The Associate Superintendent for Communications and Technology Services (or designee) is responsible for reviewing this policy in 2011.

  9. pwceducationreform Says:

    JS – Per the WABE, a teacher at Step 9 with a Masters in PWC will make $58,315 on average. You can’t compare a step 7 in PWCS with a Step 9 in Fairfax because that’s comparing apples and oranges. Because school divisions and teachers unions only make certain information public, and step numbers are public, you have to compare the numbers by step. If you can find a reliable source that lists numbers by years of service and qualification with the same measures used in different school divisions in the area, then feel free to present it. Keep in mind that salaries and step increases have been frozen in Fairfax and Loudoun as well.

    I also debate the use of the word “frozen”, because frozen implies that our teachers didn’t get any increase in pay, when that’s simply not true. The steps may have been frozen, but salaries have not been. Each step increase costs the division about 3% of salaries, or $15 million, and the division hasn’t had $15 million to afford a step increase but has been able to afford increasing salaries by less than a full step. This year PWCS employees got a 1.75% salary increase plus a .6% bonus – at an increased cost of $12.2 million. The cost of teacher benefits also increased $4.9 million this year for a net increase in salaries and benefits of $17.1 million.

    The cost of the teacher retirement benefit will go up $32 million next school year, which is the equivalent of about a 6% increase in pay – certainly enough for a step increase. Everyone seems to be rather conveniently forgetting that.

    We’ve also got an additional $10 million that we may not be getting from Richmond, which the division’s proposed budget assumes we will be getting. If we don’t get that $10 million we’ll have to find it in the budget. Add in the cost of a step increase and you’re looking at $25 million that would need to be found in the budget.

  10. JS Says:

    You don’t need to search for the source you are talking about. If you look at the Fairfax County and the Loudoun County salary scales, they list the years of experience for each step, which is pretty transparent. If you look at the PWCS scale, it just lists steps. It actually used to list years of experience until they froze us. The steps are probably gone so that potential job seekers don’t realize that we haven’t moved up the scale while the surrounding counties have. If I look at the number of years I have taught, then at my salary, I see it matches the step two years behind my experience. Next year, it will match the step three years behind my experience.

    I don’t know where you are getting the idea that our pay went up last year. We did NOT get a 1.75% salary increase. My paycheck this month is exactly the same as my paycheck this month last year. That’s frozen. The 0.6% bonus ended up being about $300, that’s much less than the pace of inflation, and it was a one-time occurrence.

    Fairfax is getting a COLA and a step because the county and the taxpayers value education. You are correct that the county needs to find the money in its budget.

    • JS Says:

      Also, Virginia is a right-to-work state, so there is actually no teacher’s union that has the power to obfuscate the numbers. We have an educational association that can give us advice and protect us if we are sued, but it’s not a union.

      • pwceducationreform Says:

        Virginia is a right to work state, which means that membership in the union is not a condition of employment and only union members have to pay dues. In a compulsory dues state, you must be a members of the teachers’ union to be hired as a teacher and your dues will be automatically taken from your paycheck, whether you wanted to join or not.

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      I can’t address your paycheck because I haven’t seen it. If you look on page 12 of the 2011-2012 approved budget you’ll see salary increase spelled out. Here the paragraph from the Superintendent’s letter to the community about the raises (which you can find on page 12 of the Executive Summary for the 2011-2012 SY budget):

      “I am pleased that there are no reductions-in-force resulting in the loss of any jobs for FY 2012. While our financial outlook is not what it was prior to the national recession, our School Division’s projected revenue is better than it has been over the last several years when revenues were reduced from the years before. PWCS continues to grow – 2,762 additional students more than last year’s budget, a $25 million cost, bringing our total projected enrollment to 81,070 students and maintaining our status as Virginia’s second largest school division. Employees will receive a total compensation increase of 2.35 percent: a 1.75 percent raise and a 0.6 percent bonus that will be paid in October and January. This approved budget does support all current programs and services.”

      This year’s budget (teh 2011 – 2012 SY Budget) increased $51 million over the 2010-2011 SY budget, which included funds for a salary increase, though about half of that increase was due to increased enrollment. Next year’s budget has an increase of roughly $50 million due in large part to two items – the $32 million increase in the cost of pensions and $24 million increase due to increased enrollment. Just about everything else will remain at prior year levels.

      If money can be found in the budget or the state increases the money it allocates to the division (and remember, the budget assumes we’ll be getting $10 million from the state that we may not get), then our first priorities are hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes and a salary increase. But I won’t support a tax increase or change in the percent of funds allocated to the schools solely to provide a salary increase for our teachers. Not when the salaries and benefits we provide our teachers are on par with area norms and the reason we can’t give a step or salary increase this year is because the cost of providing our teachers a pension increased $32 million this year.

      Oh – FCPS has requested a COLA and step increase for their teachers. They may not get it. Like PWCS, their budget has not been approved by their BOCS. Their proposed budget calls for an 8.9% increase from last year, about $200.6 million.

  11. Agdlia Says:

    A large part of the problem is that citizens in the county don’t understand why teachers are angry about the proposed budget. I knew that I would be working more hours than the time I was present at school. That’s not a problem, for me or any other teacher I know. Nobody goes into teaching for the money. But, I do expect to be paid a competitive, adequate wage for the expertise and skill I bring to my job. This is evidenced by my SOL pass rate of 97% in reading and 96% in writing for the 11th grade over the last 10 years. There is no merit pay at my school, because we are considered too rich, so obviously, I do it because it’s my job. That’s never been a problem for me or any other teacher I know. We have put in countless hours of our own time because that’s what we do. But, there comes a point when enough is enough. By working to the rule, what I will not do anymore is offer free and time consumming study sessions, make-up and catch-up sessions and extra-curricular guidance to my students. I will continue to offer help, but only from 7-2. I’m not getting paid for it, and the school system and the BOCS has made it clear that they don’t respect what I do, so why should I? I don’t see my doctor or lawyer being expected to offer free services.

    The expectation that teachers are somehow different and don’t need money is ludicrious. That perception that teachers are “whining” and should be grateful to have a job is also ludicrious. The teachers in our county are professionals, most with masters degrees and certification in numerous areas. Personally, I have a masters, AP and Gifted certifications and over 10 years of experience, and I will have no problem getting a job anywhere, so please, don’t tell me that I should be grateful to have a job. I don’t see anyone on these boards volunteering to take my place. The majority of people could not and would not want to do my job. Anyone who thinks my job is easy, come do it for a week. I have no problem stepping aside and letting you deal with about 100 high school students a day along with the grading, meetings, behavior interventions, continous parent contact, lesson planning, counseling and being motivational every minute of the day. Teaching and helping kids is not our problem.

    What is a problem is that Prince William county has a 30% lower tax rate than Fairfax and Loudon. That’s fantastic for the county in trying to lure people and corporations to resettle here because of the lower tax rate. What is a problem is not increasing funding for the school system to compensate for the influx of new students. The reason people move to Fairfax County is because of the school system, plain and simple. That county has made a commitment to the school system. Prince William county has not. My salary has not increased in 3 years. The increase that we supposedly got last year never materialized. It was deferred in order to save money. My 0.6% bonus, spread over 3 paychecks amounted to $45 a check. The extra money was nice, but didn’t help to offset my bills. Being told that I will not receive a raise until MAYBE 2015 or 2016 is an insult. What do you think your reaction would be if your boss told you no raises until 2015?

    Yes, in this sucky economy, everyone needs to sacrifice and tighten their belt. That’s why paying 1/2 million dollars a year for a company to grade 11th grade research papers is ridiculous. So is the 1 million dollars a year spent on paying for AP and IB tests, so that we can keep our ranking on the Jay Matthews Washington Post Challenge Index. God forbid, we drop a few notches on that list. The money is there to fund teacher raises. But, apparently it’s more important to provide free robotics programs at our schools than retain our teachers. Our county administrators, at all levels, have received raises every year, including a 9% raise in 2010. It’s comforting to know that the need to sacrifice doesn’t apply to them. There is plenty that can be cut in the budget, but it’s easier to tell teachers that they need to sacrifice instead of telling parents that there’s no funding for the robotics club this year. Because we all know, that your child won’t get into college unless they are in the robotics club.

    The bottom line here is that I have a family to support, just like everyone else. I have to look out for them. I can’t continue to sacrifice for other people’s children and deny my own. When it comes down to it, my child is more important to me than yours. If I need to transfer to another county in order to make more money, so be it. Luckily, I can afford to do that. Many of the teachers in the county cannot.

    • Jane Doe Says:

      The only problem with your argument is that teachers in Prince William County are paid about the same as teachers in Fairfax and Loudoun. More in some steps and grades and less in others, but never more than 2% more or 2% less, and the benefits offered in each of those counties are about the same. If our teachers were paid less than everyone else then raising taxes to pay for a raise would be acceptable, but it looks like our teachers are paid about the same as other teachers.

      From what I’ve seen in the division’s budgets for the past several years, school division employees have only received salary increases when teachers have received salary increases, and their increases have been the same. No one got a raise in the 2010 – 2011 school year. Honestly, we were lucky not to lose our jobs.

      You are right about people choosing a county to live in based on the schools. There is no better way to increase your home’s value than to have it be in a community with good schools. And pay for performance isn’t available to our teachers because merit pay is too controversial.

      I keep hearing that our teachers deserve a raise because they’re hard working and deal with lots of junk, but every person who cares about their jobs works hard and puts up with lots of junk. That’s reality. What’s also reality, as much as it pains me to say it, is that our test scores don’t come close to Loudoun and Fairfax, and in many places lag behind VA averages. And the demographics defense doesn’t hold weight as our scores are behind Loudoun and Fairfax in virtually every demographic group – especially where it really matters, on the SAT.

      On the SAT we’re 150 points below Fairfax and 100 points below Loudoun. We’re behind them in every demographic. We’re below VA and US averages overall, and slightly below Stafford and Manassas. It’s been that way for some time and doesn’t show any signs of improving. On the freaking SAT – the test that really matters for our kids’ futures.

      We’re only marginally better on the SOLs, which is rather frightening considering the low bar set by the SOL. In Reading we’re behind Fairfax and Loudoun. Worse, we’ve been declining steadily for several years now – especially the in elementary grades. In Science we’re slightly behind Fairfax and Loudoun in the elementary grades and well behind in Biology, Earth Science, and Chemistry. History and Math blew up last year in Prince William County, but even before that we were behind Fairfax and Loudoun, especially at the High School level.

      It’s difficult to argue that our teachers deserve a raise because of their superior performance, as our test scores don’t indicate superior performance.

      • Jane Doe Says:

        As far as pay for performance goes, you don’t typically give people a raise on the hope that they’ll do better. You give performance increases based on good performance. And just putting up with all the stuff that is part of your job isn’t superior performance.

  12. OPINION – Join the debate – education reform in Prince William County, Virginia | Bill Golden's PrinceWilliamLife.com Says:

    […] current news and includes a wide assortment of views and thought. For example, one recent posting PWCS Teachers Threaten to Work to the Rule was full of comparative information that helped you put things into perspective as to how our […]

  13. Dems Address “The Future of Education” in Panel Discussion with County Educators : BristowBeat Says:

    […] from a comment thread Milt Johns had made in an online PWC Education Reform Web Page, article, “PWCS Teachers Threaten to Work to the Rule,” which […]

  14. Noemi Says:

    I love perusing your internet site. Many thanks!


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