2012 School Division Budget Update
Amid all the hyperbole and hysteria, it seem the PWC school board will be voting on a final budget on the 21st of March. The budget has been updated and now includes a 2% across the board salary increase for all employees. That increase comes at the cost of a .5% across the board spending cut, including reduced school budgets, and increased class sizes. Our MS and HS class sizes will now be the state maximum. You can view the details here as well as read a list of questions and answers from the school division about the changes in the budget.
Several things are still in limbo – namely the cost of competing adjustment (COCA) and whether school division employees will be expected to contribute towards their pensions. Our state legislators have told the school division that they expect the COCA to be restored. The General Assembly is still debating mandating that school division employees provide 1% of their pension costs, and requiring that the mandate be offset by an additional pay increase to employees so that the net effect on their paychecks will be zero. There was some talk of the General Assembly mandating that school division employees pay 5% of their pension costs, but that wouldn’t go into effect until 2014 and we’re still searching for details about that proposal.
This budget debate has been particularly vitriolic with harsh statements and frustration from people on all sides of the spectrum. At times it seemed like simply stating your opinion was an invitation for attacks and accusations of disrespect, and the attacks and accusations of disrespect came from both sides. Frankly neither side has exhibited exemplary behavior in this debate.
Having said that, here are a few points I felt needed reiterating or clarifying:
#1 PWCS Teachers Are the Lowest Paid in the Region
The source of this statement is the salary information in the 2012 WABE report, which shows PWCS teachers with the lowest average salary of all of the school divisions listed. This figure has been cited loudly and often, and it is correct It’s also misleading. It’s misleading because teachers are paid for years of service and qualification, so a school division that’s growing and has lots of newer teachers will have lower average salaries than a school division with more experienced teachers.
So, rather than looking at the overall averages, you have to compare the salaries of similarly qualified and experienced teachers. Here are the salary ranges and PWCS salaries for similarly qualified and experienced teachers according to the WABE. Please note that while the WABE report includes data for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, I disregarded them because they’re in Maryland. The WABE also does not include Stafford and Fauquier counties which are our “neighbors”. Since they aren’t part of the WABE, we did not include them.
For teachers at Step 1 with a Bachelors Degree the salary range is from $42,400 to $44,400. PWCS is at $43,612.
For teachers at Step 1 with a Masters Degree the salary range is from $48,000 to $50,047. PWCS is at $48,810.
For teachers at Step 9 with a Masters Degree the salary range is from $53,011 to $66,848. PWCS is at $58,312.
So for each step our salaries are neither to top nor the bottom and are about average. However, both the Fairfax and Loudoun County school divisions allocated funds for salary increases for teachers in 2013, so if PWCS does not allocate funds for salary increases we will fall behind. Assuming the budget gets approved on the 21st of March, PWCS staff will receive a 2% salary increase, which will help keep us in line with Fairfax and Loudoun.
#2 Superintendent Walts Has Gotten Huge Raises While the Teachers Have Gotten Nothing.
Since 2008 PWCS teachers have received 15.95% in steps, salary increases, and bonuses.
- In 2008 teachers received a 2.9% step increase and a 3% salary increase.
- In 2009 teachers received a 3% step increase and a 1.8% salary increase.
- In 2010 teachers received a 2.9% salary increase.
- In 2011 teachers didn’t receive any increase.
- In 2012 teachers received a 1.75% salary increase and a .6% bonus.
The source for this is Milt John’s presentation to the PWC Committee of 100.
In 2008 Superintendent Walts had a salary of $228,115. In 2012 his salary was $260,563. That’s a $32,448 increase from 2008, or 14.24% increase. The source for that data is Inside NOVA’s salary database.
So our teachers have received a combined increase of 15.95% since 2008 and the Superintendent has gotten a combined total of 14.24% increase.
Yes, the Superintendent gets paid a lot and is the 2nd highest paid school division superintendent in the region. But his salary increases have not been greater than the increases the teachers have received. Whether his salary is appropriate…..that’s a whole other conversation.
#3 PWC is the 9th most affluent county is the county and our teachers deserve more
According to Census data, as of 2010, Prince William County had the 9th highest median household income in the nation at $91,098. Ranked above PWC are: Loudoun County at $119,540 of income, Fairfax County at $103,010 of income, Arlington County at $94,986 in income, and Stafford County at $94,317 in income. Not coincidentally, the counties included in the WABE report with whom our teacher salaries have been compared include Loudoun, Fairfax, and Arlington.
The same Census report showed that the median per capita income for Prince William County was $35,737. Entry level teachers with a Bachelors degree are paid $43,612 by PWCS.
Just for kicks I compared the median household income, the $91,098 figure, to the salaries for teachers at step 1 with a Bachelors and step 9 with a Masters.
At Step 1 with a Bachelors, teachers are paid the following percentage of median household income :
- Loudoun – 37%
- Fairfax – 43%
- Arlingtion – 46%
- Prince William – 48%
At Step 9 with a Masters, teachers are paid the following percentage of median household income:
- Loudoun – 44%
- Fairfax – 56%
- Arlington – 70%
- Prince William – 64%
That’s a rather interesting measure as it appears that as a percentage of median household income, PWCS pays our teachers among the highest rates in the region and teachers in Loudoun are among the lowest paid in the region.
#4 PWCS Test Scores are great so our teachers deserve more
I guess that would depend on your definition of great. I give our school division a “C” based on our SOL scores and a “C- / D+” based on our SAT scores.
Our SOL scores are about average for the state and region. We outperform state averages and regional norms on some tests and under perform on others. Overall, we’re about average for the state and region, and average is a “C”.
Our SAT scores are a different matter. PWCS is below US and state averages and scores lower on the SAT than every other school division in the region except Manassas and Manassas Park (and Manassas beat us by 1 point last year). We’re more than 150 points below Fairfax and 100 points below Loudoun.
Sorry, but that’s not average. For the state and US, which we’re below but close to, we get a “C-“. For the region, where we’re one of the lowest performers, we get a “D+”, and that’s being generous.
PWCS is an average school system. Not bad, but not great.
#5 PWCS teachers work long hours grading papers and putting up with garbage and deserve more
Every school division listed on the WABE has a 7.5 hour contracted “in school” day, except for Alexandria and PWCS. Alexandria has a contracted “in school” day of 7.25 hours while PWCS has a contracted “in school” day of 7 hours. “In school” means physically present in the building, not just doing work, and every teacher I know does tons of work after his / her “in school” hours.
Teachers have to do a lot of work at home to perform their jobs adequately. Much more than the 7 hours per day they’re contracted to be “in school”. The only benefit the lower “in school” hours provide them is the flexibility to work from home if they want instead of being stuck in the school building.
While that’s a nice benefit to have, it doesn’t mean our teachers get to slack off – I don’t know a single teacher that doesn’t bring stuff home to grade or prepare. But I also don’t know a single salaried professional who doesn’t also do that. While I respect the work teachers do, just like working 80 hour weeks is expected of accountants during tax season, working outside your contracted “in school” hours is part of being a teacher.
#6 Teachers are being disrespected
I saved the best for last. I don’t know what it is about the internet, but people who are really nice in person become total jerks when they’re on the internet. I say that first because I’ve read comments and heard statements that make my hair curl – from both sides of the debate and even people who said they didn’t care which was really shocking!
Here’s the thing, though. Posting accurate information and questioning the decisions the school division has made is not disrespect. Flipping middle fingers, name calling, yea, that’s disrespectful. But asking questions and clarifying information isn’t disrespectful. Presenting misleading or cherry-picked information and then getting angry when someone attempts to clarify that misleading or cherry-picked information is disrespectful.
A PWEA representative was passing out buttons at a grade-in a few weeks ago that read “I Support Public Education”. I don’t know many people who don’t support public education. I do know many people who don’t think taxes should be raised to pay for salary increases for teachers when the economy is so bad and people are suffering. I do know many people who question the decisions the school division is making, especially regarding the instructional programs and approaches we’re using. That doesn’t mean they don’t respect or support public schools or teachers, just that they have a different opinion. I’m appalled that to some people in the public sphere, stating that you don’t believe taxes should be raised to give teachers salary increases has been characterized as “disrespectful” to teachers or bullying.
As adults we should be able to express our different opinions without being accused of disrespecting schools or teachers or bullying. Education professionals have no right to demand or expect blind acquiescence from the public over everything they do. Nor do political figures.
Disagreeing is not disrespecting.
It pains me to have to say that, but the vitriol has just gotten out of hand and it needs to be said. We complain constantly about the state of affairs in our country where our political leaders appear utterly incapable of ordering lunch without casting aspersions at one another. Yet when tough times hit and difficult decisions needed to be made here in our little county, we emulated our national leaders and acted like children. Honest discourse based on facts were cast aside in favor of specious rumor mongering and hysterical hyperbole.
It’s been disgusting and pathetic. We, and our children, deserve better.