Pleasanton Weekly

News - April 22, 2011

Sides still at odds over step and column raises for teachers

Issue may be key in parcel tax vote to raise money for schools

by Glenn Wohltmann

As Pleasanton prepares once again to vote on a parcel tax, no single issue has received more attention than step and column, the salary schedule for teachers and other certificated employees.

Opponents of the tax, Measure E, want to stop step and column increases, saying that the higher pay will cost the district $15 million while the parcel tax will only raise $8 million. School officials point out that step and column is a fact of life, and not only in California.

"It's something that's been a normal part of school salaries and compensation for many years and it is the norm for school districts around the state and the nation," said Bill Faraghan, district assistant superintendent of human resources. "It is intended to provide recognition for the added experience and professional training that teachers acquire."

Faraghan pointed out the raises amount to 2.7% to 3.5% a year, and that not every employee gets a raise every year.

"Teachers come in fairly educated, obviously. They have at least 30 or more credits (beyond a bachelor's degree) that they've already completed before they were hired," he said. "So then, what would happen, if somebody got hired by us they would simply move down the column."

This year, a beginning teacher without a teaching credential would start at $58,739, and go up a dollar for years two through four. In the fifth year, that teacher would go to $59,564, then to $61,367 in year six, and would remain there if the teacher doesn't continue his or her education.

Someone beginning with the 30 credits required for a teaching credential would earn $58,740 and remain there for three years. In the fourth year, it would go to $60,379 and would jump about $2,000 a year until the teacher maxed out at $73,833 in his or her 11th year and stay there unless the teacher got additional college credit.

A teacher starting with 45 credits past a bachelor's degree would start at $58,740 and go to $58,921 the second year. After that, her or his salary would climb about $2,000 a year and max out at $79,322 in the 12th year, where it would remain, again, unless he or she got 60 credits.

A teacher starting with a bachelor's degree and 60 credits would start at $59,721, with the salary jumping about $2,000 a year until it maxed out at $83,796 in year 12. Someone with a bachelor's degree and 75 credits would start at $62,290 and, again, climb $2,000 a year until year 12, where it would remain at $87,360 for four years before going to $90,283 in year 16, topping out at $95,395 for 20 years and beyond.

Faraghan notes teachers pay for their own credits before their salaries go up. He said Cal State East Bay, where many of the teachers get their additional credits, costs about $225 per unit.

"That's $3,400 out of pocket to move across columns, and about $10,000 out of pocket to move to a bachelor's plus 75, the far end of the columns," Faraghan said. "About 130 fulltime teachers earn the full amount. That's out of a total of 715 fulltime positions."

That doesn't include annual stipends: $500 a year for a master's degree and $650 for a doctorate, and as critics are quick to point out, that's for a 180-day work year; Faraghan notes, however, that teachers haven't had a cost of living (COLA) increase in three years.

Doug Miller, an opponent of step and column increases, sees the raises as costs gone out of control.

"Step and column as I understand it has been traditionally how teachers are paid," Miller said. "Do I think it's necessary? No. I'm sure there's other ways to pay teachers. Right now, step and column is inappropriate given the circumstances not only of the state's budget but everyone's budget.

"We're going to basically increase pay for teachers, this next year and the year after that. Yes, it's how teachers have been paid, but we need to freeze step and column because it will increase spending in our school district by $15 million over four years and that money is better spent in the classroom, not on pay increases."

Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, recently confirmed that step and column increases would cost the district $1.5 million a year. That $1.5 million per year must be added to each prior year's increase, Miller said, for a total of $15 million, the same period the parcel tax would bring in just over $8 million.

"It's a lot of money and just to say that this is how we pay teachers is not a reasonable response," Miller said. "Even if the school board can't control everything -- and they can't -- they need to take a position that they're against step and column. They need to take a position that step and column raises should be frozen for the next several years until the economy improves."

Faraghan said any major changes could have consequences for Pleasanton.

"Pretty much every school I'm aware of in the state -- all of our neighboring districts -- have a step and column in place. Were we not to have a step and column in place, we would lose teachers because of that," he said.

Miller, though, said putting a reign on spending should be the district's top priority.

"We still have something like 9% unemployment in the nation and something like 12% unemployment in California. There's a lot of people out there who are hurting," he said.

Comments

Posted by sky, a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I think the heart of this dispute is that many feel that PUSD should not grant any raises that it can't fully fund, now or in the future. The argument is made that the raises are needed to attract and retain qualified teachers and that everyone uses the step & column system. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the news I read daily indicates that most school districts - in CA and nationally - are financially strapped so the premise that the teachers will flee for better paying jobs doesn't hold water. Unemployment is still at levels where highly educated workers and recent college grads are unable to find jobs commensurate with their skills and education, providing an excellent pool of candidates should current teachers feel they're underpaid and leave for greener pastures.
The bigger picture is that gone are the freespending days where money was spent based on faulty assumptions of future revenues with no provision for recessions.
Thanks to the real estate crash, everyone understands the importance of buying a house with a mortgage payment you can actually afford today, not a bigger house with a bigger payment based on what you might earn in a few years.
No one is disputing that education is important but giving raises that aren't funded, robbing Peter to pay Paul isn't sustainable no matter how noble the cause.


Posted by Phillip, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

sky,

You forgot to add: Yes on Measure E.

Voting no on Measure E will not have any effect on scheduled raises.

"recent college grads are unable to find jobs commensurate with their skills and education"

Not lately. If your degree is computer anything or engineering or anything related to medical care, and a whole lot of others, you'll have your pick of jobs. Things are much better in general this year for new graduates. If PUSD froze salaries for teachers, it would be the only top district in the Bay Area to do it. It would make a difference.

I voted yes on Measure E.


Posted by Out of the Box, a resident of Castlewood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 10:10 am

There is a teacher shortage in this country and in this state, despite the unemployment rate. Why? Low pay, and a strenuous, difficult credentialing process.

Why not allow individuals with 4 year college degrees to begin teaching in the classroom, without the need of specializing. This will increase the supply of teachers, and lower the needed compensation rate.


Posted by jill, a resident of Birdland
on Apr 23, 2011 at 11:14 am

There is a shortage of new teachers because new teachers know they cannot get a job since district give out raises they cannot afford and have to fire the new teachers to pay for the more senior teachers. Look at the Scatter Gram from our District and look at how many new teachers we have. Almost none.

The new teachers are sacrificed to pay for raises of tenure.

Vote No on Measure E


Posted by Shortage is not real, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 11:24 am

I know people with masters and phDs in math and science who teach at prestigious private schools because they were told they were not qualified to teach in the public schools due to the lack of a teaching credential! And yet many public schools have teachers with degrees in the liberal arts (and with teaching credentials) trying to teach subjects they do not fully understand, like math and science. Something is wrong with this, it does not make sense.

The "shortage" of teachers is due to the nonsense requirements of public schools. Rather than wanting the most qualified teachers in specific subject areas, they want the ones with teaching credentials regardless of their abilities in areas like math, science, language.

It seems liks an artificially created shortage of teachers.

If you read the CDE notes, you will see that the shortage is of QUALIFIED teachers in MATH and SCIENCE. Yet qualified individuals with post-graduate education in these fields have been rejected by public schools because of the teaching credential silly stuff. Is it the union or the state? Not sure but if the silly "must have a credential" rule were to be lifted, the shortage of QUALIFIED teachers would end.

Private schools hire excellent teachers, and there is no requirement for a credential. Preference is given to those with post-graduate degrees in specific areas like Math, Science and Language


Posted by No on E Spin, a resident of Canyon Creek
on Apr 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm

No shortage in teachers???

If teachers were paid so well as you claim, why isn't there a mad rush to the employement line???

If teachers are paid so well, why do you become a teacher???


Posted by Jack, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm

"Private schools hire excellent teachers,"

That's a laugh. Have you ever had your children attend Quarry Lane or Carden West. We've had kids in both. I would hardly say "excellent". We had better luck with PMS and Vintage Hills. Where do your kids go to school?


Posted by nighthawk, a resident of Birdland
on Apr 24, 2011 at 2:19 am

I support S and C and the union that helps to maintain it. Without it, chaos would reign with teachers pitted against other teachers, and students would feel the negative effects. Yes, the union and S and C produces something of a leveling effect (though still preserving some hierarchy based on added education and seniority). But that is the 'price' one pays for having union representation. Inasmuch as it ensures a relatively conflict free work environment for our teachers, the kids receive a higher level of instruction. (See, for example, the Michelle Rhee fiasco where teachers and administrators, in order to feather their own nests, cheated to bring test scores up, and by so doing lied about their students' actual needs.) I do not find teachers salaries in PUSD to be excessive, at all. In fact, given the very strong performance of PUSD schools on a comparative state-wide basis, I'm surprised teachers are not making higher salaries.

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why posters spend what appears to be the majority of their lives on these topic threads trying to undermine all that is good with PUSD schools. They seem to come in three varieties: (1) there's the obsessive internet addict with a numbers fetish, albeit with a severe difficulty in making themselves understood by readers; (2) there's the huge (but also sadly weak) ego which incessantly demands attention and affirmation; (3) and there's the ignorant and poorly educated old goat who shows a deep-seated loathing for teachers and all other manner of education-related things that have passed him by.


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