Yesterday’s column by the Davis Teachers Association Executive Board raised some interesting issues. A few people expressed concerns that the piece was overly negative. The district finally has a little breathing room and the board took a balanced approach to using the new funding, including a small but notable 2% pay hike plus a one-time 2% increase.
While the DTA board probably should have made the point more clearly that this was a good start, the core issue is something that the community needs to grapple with.
As we learned in February, the health premium for the district costs about $1600 per month with the district covering $951 of that and the rest is covered by employees, about $650 a month or $7800 per year.
The DTA argues that the 2% increase is not “truly” a pay raise, but “a partial cost of living adjustment.”
As they argue, “What this increase does is cause our teachers and other members to fall behind the cost of living a little more slowly.”
They continued, “For the better part of a decade we have seen our salaries stagnate, with no increase to the salary scale at all, and in that time a one year cut of 2.7%, during which year the District actually increased its reserves. In reality, each year our salaries have declined in real dollars as the cost of living has increased.”
They add, “This does not even take into account the increased out-of-pocket costs of health care premiums, with some of our members paying more than $1,000 a month out of pocket for their benefits. It also does not include increased class sizes, responsibilities, caseloads, expectations, and many more concerns piled upon us as we were told to do more with less.”
One poster argued, “I think you should be a little more honest. You somehow have forgotten to mention that your salary schedule has automatic step increases. So unless you have been teaching for 20+ years you have been getting annual increases in your pay over the past decade.”
Another poster countered, “The salary scale has not changed in all this time. People do move up the scale each year for ten years, then every other year for ten years, then never again. A very high percentage DJUSD teachers are at the top of the scale and will never receive another increase. The out of pocket benefit costs have increased so much that some young teachers have gone up a step in salary but taken home less money per month.”
Both sides of this issue make some good points.
First, teachers have been hit largely by stagnant wages over the last decade. While that means their salaries have not kept up with inflation, they have not taken huge pay cuts that we have seen in other areas of our community.
Second, the pay issue is difficult to assess because of the state of the economy and that the fact that taxpayers have been asked in Davis to pick up an increasing tab to avoid more layoffs. As we once stated, there are appropriate and inappropriate times for pay increases. The board here deserves some credit in giving teachers some relief while balancing the overall needs of the district.
On the other hand, it is my view at least that teachers do not get compensated nearly enough, and while it is true that people can argue that teachers only work for nine months, it is also true that other vocations are dispersed in unique ways. Firefighters, for example, only work a couple of days a week and yet make far more than their teaching counterparts.
For me, however, the biggest issue that the district needs to figure out a way to tackle is health care.
The district believes that they provide better coverage than most districts our size. And the district believes they cannot ever cover full health.
A $200 per month increase in costs for teachers, on top of having to pay $100 to $150, is putting a huge strain on the teacher’s ability to live on their current income. Many teachers will receive a net decrease in pay this year.
A full time city employee receives $1657.86 for medical, $220.64 for Dental, $5.90 for life and $35 for LTD (Long Term Disability), for a total of $1920.40.
The stunning thing is a half-time, 50% employee receives $956.75 from the city, slightly more than what the school district contributes to medical coverage for teachers.
The inequities in pay and benefits for teachers versus city employees is very striking.
The district may be correct that it can never offer full health coverage, but what should that tell us about our priorities?
The DTA board concluded their piece arguing that the district “is now financially better off than it was when it showed that $2,000,000 favorability. While we hear the District’s affirmations that the new state funding formulas still do not make the District whole, neither does the 2% increase make our members whole—far from it.”
This is clearly something that we have to figure out before we lose good young teachers that otherwise figure to be the backbone of another generation of education for Davis.
—David M. Greenwald reporting