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To Lay Off Teachers or Cut Pay? Report Outlines the Tradeoffs for Districts

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Looking for a way to cut school-district costs without laying off teachers or reducing class sizes? The University of Washington's Marguerite Roza has an idea for you: roll back teacher salaries.

In a policy brief published last week, Roza notes that 93 percent of school districts across the country use a fixed salary schedule, plus a step increase, to calculate teachers' wages. When you put the two increases together, Roza calculates, the total will bump up average teacher salaries in those districts by an average of 6.03 percent this year. That's a good chunk of money at a time when many employees in the public and private sector are losing their jobs or swallowing pay cuts and benefit reductions.

Suppose, for instance, that a district had to make a 5 percent reduction in teacher expenditures. One way it could achieve that kind of reduction might be through laying off an average of 143 of every 1,000 teachers, which would lead to an average 17-percent increase in class sizes. But, if school officials let the annual step increase go forward and then rolled back the entire salary schedule for teachers by 8.16 percent, Roza calculates, they might be able to meet the 5 percent target without laying off teachers or boosting class sizes.

Roza's strategy won't work everywhere, but it's worth a look. Her brief, "The Tradeoff Between Teachers Wages and Layoffs to Meet Budget Cuts," was posted online last week by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University's Bothell campus.

1 Comment

If I had a chance to vote on a negotiated agreement cutting wages to save jobs, I'd vote to take the wage cut. Isn't that what happened in Montgomery County?

That being said, I question your wording in calling Roza's opinion piece a "report." A report should give us some tools for addressing this issue. Otherwise its just "a shot across the bow." (Gates sure didn't get much for their money in funding such a skimpy piece)

Roza writes "Addressing budget gaps responsibly may require reopening contracts so that all options are on the table.18"

Footnote #18 was a Spokane newspaper article on a law in Idaho.

Again, if you want good faith negoitiations or renegotiations, I agree. But I'm not comfortable putting "all options" on the table.

If Roza's organization wants to be a constructive force, start by doing the legal homework. (Explicitly repudiating Comparability tactics that allow forced transfers would be a great start.) Give us a good faith proposal for the use of student performance in evalautions that is not bogus, that uses test scores and statistical models in ways that meet social scientific standards, and approach us in a fair-minded way.

Honestly, we don't bite. Unions are in the deal-making business. Deal with us sometime, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

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