8.27.15 Salary Increase – The Superintendent’s spin on almost no increase

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Everyone can look at data and interpret it how they like, and the communication from the superintendent’s office today about Jeffco teacher salary certainly was one way of looking at the data about salary increases.  Here is another.

Italics denote the communication from McMinimee’s office.  Bold words represent one teacher’s perspective on this issue.

Teacher Compensation Increases in Jeffco Public Schools

Jeffco Public Schools values the efforts and dedication of its teachers and wants to attract, retain, and reward those who help students succeed and make classrooms soar. That’s why over the past two years, compensation for effective and highly-effective teachers has increased.

True, it has increased…but read on.

“Research has demonstrated that more effective teachers can produce bigger gains for our students, year over year,” said Amy Weber, Chief Human Resources Officer. “We want to be a district that hires and retains effective teachers and compensation is a part of that.”

This has been stated repeatedly, but with little actual evidence presented. Not to say it isn’t there, because here is a good study.  More evidence exists, however, for tying student performance to socio-economic conditions.

For the 2015-16 school year, the Board approved $15.6 million in compensation increases from $19.5 million in state funds. Compensation increases this year represent 80 percent of new money from the state. Included in this compensation are increased Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) costs, which represent an increase of $3.7 million in 2014 and an expected $3.2 million this year. PERA is a state requirement that provides a retirement plan to Jeffco Schools’ employees. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is mandated and ensures that all eligible Jeffco employees are offered healthcare coverage. Compliance with ACA also uses dollars that would be otherwise available for compensation.

True, but not all of this goes to teachers.  The compensation to just teachers was about $5.3 million directly.  Compliance with ACA means we may pay a penalty because the health care coverage offered by the district exceeds the mandate, so it is the penalty for getting a “Cadillac” plan. This should be negotiated with all the employees in the district.  The main problem with the statement above is that it implies $15.6 million is going to teachers alone, and clearly it is not.

“We made some difficult decisions around budget this year given competing budget priorities,” said Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee. “Jeffco has dedicated the maximum dollar amount to compensation from money from the state without sacrificing resources for students and for building needs for increasing the capacity of the school district.”

Well yes, they decided to fund charter school equalization, which was not requested by many Jeffco residents, while refusing to use Certificates of Participation (COPs), to fund a K-8 school in north Jeffco. It may be all the money they freed up, but that was not their only option.

Due to the level of state funding and budgeting priorities, the performance-based compensation increases for 2015 will be, on average, one percent. Although this is lower than last year’s increase, it is the second year of increases following several years of salary freezes.

Yes, but certainly not in line with promises made when 3A passed (the 2012 mill levy override).  And while the average is 1%, is it worth mentioning that the district staff told the board that the Denver Area CPI was 2.8%?  So this represents falling behind inflation, in just one year, by 64%.

In real dollar terms it is a decrease.  In real emotional terms it is a kick in the teeth.

Implemented in the fall of 2014 by the Board, compensation in Jeffco for teachers is now tied to overall performance in the classroom, as measured by an evaluation rubric developed collaboratively with the District, staff, and Jefferson County Education Association, to ensure that all students have an effective teacher in every classroom. In the fall of 2014, “highly effective” teachers received the highest ongoing increase at 4.25 percent and “effective” teachers received a 2.43 percent on going increase last year.

The evaluation rubric was found to be untested for the basis for compensation increases, was found to have no reliability across schools, or even within schools, and a federal mediator recommended it not be used for evaluation, especially in a “hold harmless” year.  The biggest problem with this paragraph is its misdirection.  This happened last year, still did not catch up teachers from the pay freezes and inflation, and is used to get people to forget the prior paragraph.  Teachers will see on average 1%, but the majority will receive less than 1%.

“Jeffco Schools always wants to be able to reward its employees with greater compensation.  Obviously, a one percent raise is not as much as we would like to give, and we recognize that cost of living in Colorado has increased,” said Weber. “To ensure we keep our most effective employees in our classrooms, we are continuing to find ways to increase pay moving forward.”

Then when you bring a compensation plan forward to the board, put some real money behind it.  Regardless of who the board is, if the staff thinks there should be more money for compensation, then ask for it!

After research showed that Jeffco Schools was not as competitive in compensation with surrounding districts, Jeffco Schools also raised starting teacher salaries to $38,000 per year to attract the best teachers for its classrooms. As a result, and to make compensation more fair, compensation for hard-working, veteran teachers also increased to equal levels of new-hire pay, which was something that was not previously done. This means that many Jeffco Schools employees will see raises above the one-percent performance raises.

True, but the pay equalization only came after a hard fought battle in court, which the district lost, and negotiation with the teachers’ association.  Of course, the current communications contractor (Novitas) is not going to bring this up.  We just wanted to make sure our readers know that this came about after pressure, not as a gesture of good will.

The hard work and dedication of Jeffco Schools’ teachers and staff continue to make a huge impact on the lives Jeffco’s students, and Jeffco Public Schools is doing everything it can to reward those who make a difference in the classroom.

Editorial comment: they are doing everything they can to APPEAR that they are doing what they can to retain teachers.  But they are certainly not backing it up with actions.  The board is not required to submit its final budget to the state until next January.  If they really cared about retention, they would open compensation discussions immediately upon being seated after the election.  That would be a way to make a statement about change.

 Keep fighting, JeffCo!