Home > Uncategorized > Palm Beach Florida Exemplifies Disturbing Result of Flat Funding: Mid-Career Teachers Lose

Palm Beach Florida Exemplifies Disturbing Result of Flat Funding: Mid-Career Teachers Lose

July 28, 2018

An article by Andrew Marra in yesterday’s Pal Beach Post describes the impact of a 2003 decision to withhold “automatic raises” on the mid-career teachers today… and it isn’t a pretty picture.

The article doesn’t offer a detailed description of the “automatic raises”, but it is evident that they are the pay increases that result from the traditional unified pay schedule that provides teachers with both a “step” and a “cost-of-living” (COLA) increase in their pay. The article indicates that in 2003 the Superintendent proposed eliminating these raises should a financial crisis warrant such action and the Board at that time concurred by a 4-3 vote. When the Great Recession took place, the step + COLA increases for mid-career teachers were abandoned entirely and eventually replaced with flat across-the-board pay increases. To make matters worse, the State funding for public education was flattened making any compensation increases a zero-sum game, and in that zero-sum environment mid-career teachers experienced diminished compensation so that new hires could get competitive pay. To make matters worse, the Florida State legislature passed a bill that required districts to give teachers rated “highly effective” larger raises than those rated “effective” based on test scores. Consequently, Marra reports that “highly effective” teachers generally receive an extra $350 to $450 when raises are given out. And as district officials note, this combined with flat funding makes it difficult for districts to address the under-compensation.

Mark Mitchell, the school district’s director of compensation, defended the district’s handling of teacher pay over the years, saying that no individual teacher’s pay was ever cut.

He said that what the district spends on employee salaries is largely constrained by the money the state Legislature provides each year.

State lawmakers’ unusually low boosts to education spending since the recession, he said, has made honoring the teachers’ old salary schedule impossible.

“When we started giving increases again, we couldn’t afford what was on the schedule,” he said. “We tried to do everything we could with what the state gave us.”

Years ago when I was in high school, I recall accompanying my mother to the grocery store and seeing my calculus teacher (and Mathematics Department head) working at the cash register. Even though I felt that it was demeaning to see my favorite teacher working at a menial part-time job, it didn’t prevent me from going into teaching. But the experience did make it clear that I would not be able to be a teacher unless I supplemented by income in some way… and did make the path to becoming an administrator more enticing.

I am not an advocate for the unified pay schedule, though I understand it’s appeal to teachers because it is usually fair and predictable. But I AM an advocate for providing enough compensation to teachers so that they can devote all of their time and energy to educating the children in their classrooms. If our country, our States, and our school districts are serious about providing all children with an opportunity for success, we need to provide the resources needed to ensure that they are taught by individuals whose attention is fully focussed on them… and not on the line of customers awaiting them at a grocery store.

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