Biased Article in Sacramento News and Review

“Cuts: crowded classrooms & consultants” portrays district administration that – if you buy into the purpose of the article – is inflicting terrible emotional damage on the teachers of the district and thereby, on the children.

Take this statement, “The dance of the pink slip has become something of a cruel ritual in Sac city schools…” Good grief…how melodramatic.

The school district administration is required by law to issue pink slips to teachers who will not be retained the following school year by March 15. This commonly includes all staff employed under “categorical funding” which is subject to changes as a result of the state or federal budget processes. The district never knows whether categorical funding will be increased or decreased each year so it would be irresponsible to keep employees they’re not sure they can pay for.

I would think that even Cosmo Garvin would agree that issuing pink slips (in anticipation of potential budget shortfalls) to a percentage of the teachers is a lot less cruel than issuing pink slips to all staff if the district is forced to cut days off the end of the school year due to overstaffing and inability to make payroll. A little perspective on the reality of being in the position of fiscal responsibility might serve the public better than hyperbole.

Teacher Scott Chase offers this to Cosmo, “There’s a lot they could have done, if they’d come talk to us.” So the teacher’s union has ideas on where to make these deep cuts? The union wants to tell the district where to cut? How quaint. Let’s look at some facts about teacher salaries shall we?

The range* of teacher salaries in the Sacramento City Unified School District is $40,184 ($218/day; $31/hour) for an entry level teacher ($8k more than I made last year with a Master’s Degree in private industry). The work year for a teacher is 184 work days (180 teaching days). The work day for a teacher is a short 7 hours. Please don’t waste my time telling me that teachers work longer hours than their contract requires, blah-blah-blah, they are supposed to be professionals.  We all take work home.

The highest teacher salary possible in the school district $86,673 (Ed-Data). Average salary for a teacher in the district is $63,345. Add to this 8.25% ($5225 for the average teacher) for the district contribution to the State Teacher’s Retirement System and the $9,949 contributions for benefits that the public pays on their behalf.  This would add up to annual compensation of $63,345+$5225+$9449=$78,518 ($426/day; $60.96/hour). A teacher earning the top salary would earn these amounts – $86,673+$7150+$9949=$103,772 in total compensation ($563/day; $80.42/hour).

Eye-opening data from the US Census Bureau show that the average per capita income of the residents in Sacramento is $25,427. That’s right, fact check it on the web site for yourself – http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0664000.html .  While there, you can also see the median income level in the City of Sacramento – that’s all wage earners in a household, is $50,267. So the average teacher in Sacramento is earning $37,918 (>149%) MORE than the average resident who pays their salaries. The average individual teacher is making $13,708 (>26%) MORE than the average City of Sacramento household. And that is just the higher amount on salaries, few private employees have the kind of retirement and fringe contributions that teachers enjoy.

So perhaps Scott Chase would like to cut his salary, maybe he’d like to pay his own retirement, maybe he’d like to give up the four extra days that the public pays for his training when he has no kids to teach. He does say afterall, “Let’s just be honest: 90 percent of it is a complete waste of time.” So why on earth are tax payers paying teachers to work four extra days a year to go to training they think is a complete waste of time? So let’s use Scott’s idea and see how it pencils out. SCUSD has 2392 full time teachers multiply the average salary ($63,345 per year @ $426/day) times the four days that Scott Chase says are a waste of time = $4,075,968 savings. Done! Scott spoke on behalf of the teachers, so just do it, cut every teacher’s work year by 4 days and save over four million dollars.

But I really doubt any of those cuts are what Scott meant when he said that they should have talked to the teachers’ union. Salaries and benefits in Sacramento City Unified School District represent nearly 85% of the total $395,081,555 (Actual expenditures 09-10, Ed-Data).

The article spends a lot of time focusing on consulting contracts and this could be justified in some cases but no facts are given except that 77% of the 39 million is from restricted funds. An example could be money for free lunches that can’t be spend on teacher salaries (thank goodness or it would be I am quite certain).

Garvin reports the wonderful news that Board member Diana Rodriguez managed to win support on the Board for “An ad hoc committee to hold hearings and study consultant contracts.” First of all, the Board approved all of those contracts. Did Rodriquez miss that? She voted on them. Is she unsure of her decision or is she really just looking for a public buffer from the teacher union?

The elephant at the contract negotiation table is lack of the district’s ability to rein in the average teacher salary, not on the 15% of the budget they have some discretion over. Real savings must include cutting salaries, cutting work years, cutting benefits, and reining in the cost of fringe benefits.

Teachers do important work, but so does my bus driver. I see no justifiable reason that an average teacher makes a salary so far above the average citizen who foots the bill. They’re not royalty and they’re not heroes.

(All data on teacher salaries is taken from Ed-Data which gives free information about teacher salaries and benefits for every school district in the state. The most recent data available on the site is from 2009-2010 and interestingly excludes information about administrative salaries).

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