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Teachers: Don't Shortchange Entry-Level Hires

Because of school board action on VRS shift, new teachers will earn less than those hired in 2009; administrators say lower scale is necessary to prevent inequity across the system

Leaders of Fairfax County teachers unions say new teachers hired at the lowest pay step this school year will be earning $1,129 less than their counterparts in 2009 as part of pay scale adjustments expected to take effect next month.

The adjustments were a response to requiring public school employees who participate in the Virginia Retirement System , which school systems currently pay.

To offset the increased contribution, the legislation requires school systems to in turn pay a 5 percent salary increase to employees. School systems have the choice of implementing the change all at once or over the course of five years, but all new employees must pay in the 5 percent starting this month.

For returning employees, board members voted to implement only a 2 percent VRS shift this year. The change, along with a 1 percent reduction in employee contributions to the Educational Employees' Supplementary Retirement System of Fairfax County (ERFC) — a local retirement fund to which members currently pay 4 percent shift — a 1.25 percent market-scale adjustment, and a $0.5 million deposit into the VRS reserve, amounted to $47.1 million.

The decision and honor a request by the unions not to lower the salary scale by $400 as it did in both fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

But in what union leaders have classified as a miscommunication between the board and Superintendent Jack Dale, the new pay scale raises the base salary for entry-level teachers by only 1.625 percent, about $721, while still requiring them to pay $2,222 — the full 5 percent — into VRS. That means they will get $1,501 less in take home pay than those hired last year, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Steve Greenburg said to the board at their meeting Thursday night.

In comparison, teachers returning to the system will receive a net 3.25 percent increase, which covers the entirety of their contributions as well as their market-rate adjustment, he said.

"That isn't progress; we are not going to be able to maintain the quality of our workforce if we do not compensate them appropriately," Greenburg wrote in a letter to the board with Fairfax Education Association President Michael Hairston. "Do you really think that is going to help you to attract and retain the best teachers?"

FCPS Spokesman John Torre said raising the lowest step by the same amount as other levels would give new entry-level teachers the same salary as teachers who already have one year in the system, creating inequity in the salary scale.

Even if the full 5 percent VRS change was implemented for returning teachers, the increase in the new step one would have been about 2.5 percent above the fiscal year 2012 beginning teacher salary and 2.5 percent below the next step, Torre said — still short of a 3.25 percent increase.

Though thousands of teachers are hired each year, they fall in a variety of places across the salary scale — not just at the bottom, the system said. As of Oct. 31, the system had 877 teachers on step one, Torre said.

But lowering the salary scale could put this year's entry-level hires perpetually behind all others in the system, Greenburg said in a plea to school board members Thursday night, as the board began to discuss budget adjustments for this and the last fiscal year.

"Several of us misunderstood maybe during the budget process that some of the new hires were held behind," school board member Paty Reed (Providence) said Thursday. "[We have to make sure] with the changes in VRS they aren't always behind."

The discussion comes as the school board prepares to vote on its final fiscal year 2012 budget review later this month, which shows the system coming in  $44.4 million under what it expected to spend that year, according to school board documents.

Greenburg asked the board Thursday to use some of the extra funding to remedy the salary disparity.

But Dale told board members the system will also face a $64 million funding gap in fiscal year 2014 after it completes the remaining 3 percent VRS shift required by state law, among other requirements and federal funding loses.

"We're in dire straits here," Reed said. "... We are going to have a lot of work ahead of us and think creatively about what to do."

"You want advice? Stop spending," Dale said.

The school board will discuss the budget review further at a 3:30 p.m. work session Monday.

janet otersen July 16, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Jack Dale says to "stop spending"! Surely, this is a joke! Dale wanted to buy Gatehouse II in 2008 as the banks were on the verge of collapse. Public opposition to the project, thankfully, stopped that fiasco. Just recently, Dale asked for more money for acquire even more office space at Fairfax Ridge--I thought we were shrinking our non-school based employees? FCPS spends million on new textbooks AND online books----my kid has two copies of her textbook-one at home and one at school--AND access to the online version. That can't be cheap. Salaries at Gatehouse top $100k for hundred of employees--hearing officers make twice what teachers make! We close Clifton Elem to "save money" and then we spend $14 million to renovate neighboring schools who received the Clifton kids. Where's the savings? The list goes on and on. Dale has never once demonstrated fiscal restraint for his pet projects---lecturing the School Board on spending is laughable.
Taxpayer July 16, 2012 at 08:16 PM
It is very sad thing that the Fairfax County School System aimlessly reacts to problems and spends taxpayer's money without a clear mission, vision, strategic goals and objectives that drive budgets. Teacher compensation, academic achievement, safety and health of our students should be priorities - and everything should map back to these goals.
olderbutwiser July 16, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Great news for the taxpayer- the present value of a teacher's pension upon retirement is usually about 500K(the cost of buying an equivalent annuity). This is the same for a phys ed teacher or physics teacher- imagine at you job if you got paid as much as the most highly educated skilled person. NOt bad. How many of these readers have 500K to buy an annuity- if you dont you are not as rich as a teacher. Did I mention that teachers have been off for 3 weeks and have another 5 weeks to go..and cant get fired once they have tenure. Any college grad knows that teaching is the "cake" major at most good colleges..
BurkePatriot July 17, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Entry level pay is a privilege not a right. Those youngsters should be happy to get a job. Concerning oneself with what someone else had as a new employee is jealousy and we shouldn't hire adults who cry. I'm sure new teachers are happy with what they will receive it's the Unions who keep pushing false wants and needs at our expense.
Joe Bagadonuts July 17, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Heeeere boy... Cm'ere boy... That's a good dog... throws: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0712/78553.html Now fetch! Woof woof...
BurkePatriot July 17, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Joe B. Your funny! :-D
Mike July 17, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Oh man, the political stuff is spilling off of the Obama speech threads :D You guys keep it on topic in the garden show story!
Jody July 17, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Their pay should come down because they're overpaid and way overcompensated. Public employees should not be unionized. But then, no employees should be.
Jody July 17, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Amen, if you don't want a job with the pay/benefits that come with it, don't take it. It's still a sweet deal and will get them on the gravy train for life along with the civil service employees.
scott July 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
For all of you dogging teachers.. why do over half quit before making it 5 years if it's such a "cake" job with great benefits? You come try it!
scott July 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Come try to teach.. less than half of you would make it.. and the other half would change your tune!
T-Bird July 17, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Oh boo hoo Scott. You job is "hard". I'm sure it's just as hard as chasing drug dealers or running into burning buildings or fighting the Taliban in some toilet of a country or...oh wait, no, it's not. And you get paid more and recieve many more perks than the people who actually do those jobs. AND THEN you pull out some garbage accounting shenanigans to show some precieved inequity that we as taxpayers and supposed to throw millions at to solve RIGHT AWAY! Or else, those teachers may not be happy. Oh, gee. God forbid. Let's forget to mention that the inequity is only temporary and will be rectified on it's own in less than 3 years, or that your actually not making less, but only contributing more to your retirement. No, let's forget all that and "WAAA, GIVE US A RAISE!!" Right?!? Well, I say suck it.
Isle D Belle July 17, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Thank goodness these commenters aren't teachers. I would not want my child being indoctrinated with their negative attitudes. In addition, at least one doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're." Too bad he didn't pay attention to his teachers in school. It's also pretty clear from their stated dislike of teachers in general and anti-union comments that they all share the same opinions. - "liberals waste our tax dollars on elites who want their kids to have a first class education, teachers are lazy and they don't do anything for our kids, union workers are lazy and make a fortune, people who don't want to buy health care shouldn't have to, it's an infringement of my constitutional rights, it's socialism, it's fascism. Did I leave anything out? It is sad that people don't appreciate education anymore. When my grandparents emigrated, their goal was to ensure that all their children were educated and self-sufficient. When I was growing up, my mother's only demand was that I complete college. She was doubly proud when I graduated from law school. I am proud of her because she raised me and my sister as a single mother and was our most important role model. When I thought about switching careers to teaching I realized that teaching had to be the hardest job on the planet and I wasn't sure that I could do it - I took the easy road and stayed in law. I have tremendous respect for teachers. They have a huge responsibility every day.
T-Bird July 17, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Sorry, but I did pay attention in school. Especially civics and economics. I was also taught a thing or two about critical thinking skills. So instead of focusing in on a typo in an ad homeinum insult, I can actually discuss the issue. I am not a teabagger, nor am I a republican. What I am is a resident of this county, and what I see is a school system that has been raised to the status of the Golden Cow. Untouchable and beyond reproach. Lavished with gifts, and yes even sacrifices, at it's unquestioned alter. It gets hungry, give it more "OR ELSE". Right? It's nonsense. It's utter nonsense that this tax funded entity recieves increases in its budget when other agencies, some critical, take 30% cuts. There is no possible way to justify that. None.
Kim July 17, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Actually, a new teacher with a BA is paid about the same as a new police officer with no college, and his/her pay is the same as mid-range pay for a sanitation worker. (Information is for Vienna - don't know about other jurisdictions.) Hey, if teaching is so easy and pays so well, why aren't you doing it? It's like a day at the beach!
T-Bird July 17, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Kim, I'm talking about FCPS, not Vienna. And I never said teacing was a day at the beach. That's why it's called work. What I am saying is that being a teacher is not harder than many other jobs, nor does it make you special or entitled to lavish raises when no other county employee is getting a raise. Besides, according to your data, how do teacher salaries compare in 3 years? Or 5 years? If being a sanitation worker pays the same and being a teacher is SOO HARD, why don't you go pick up the trash for a few weeks? Hmm?
Jody July 17, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Hmmmm. Because they realize they don't like teaching? Because they don't like the red-tape bureauracy that teaching has become? Because they don't like the focus on multiculturism and the liberal indoctrination that has replaced the teaching of subject matter?
BurkePatriot July 17, 2012 at 04:44 PM
T-Bird, See. We can agree on things. I know you may believe so but please refrain from using the name teabagger or other swear words because it is gross. Other than that I enjoy your comments. Thanks. :-D
Jody July 17, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Yes, let's get back to basics and really provide a no frills, solid education for everyone! No one should graduate from high school without being able to read and write well and have basic knowledge of math, history, literature, & science. Why is this so hard? Get rid of teaching to the test. Stop all the hand holding and trying to make everyone into a good student for the sake of your school's statistics. Stop teaching college courses in high school. Group students by demonstrated ability. Teach them, let them exert effort (or not), graduate them (or not), let them take the SAT one time only! and do well or not. It's each student's responsibility! You can't force students to have motivation or the drive to learn when they aren't mature enough to care or don't have enough skill in English. There's always GED for those kids. Let's concentrate on those who are working hard and achieving & not those who need help just to pass. Other countries are leaving us in the dust. I think the unhappiness with teachers is mainly frustration that there are so many things wrong with our schools and yet teachers' unions focus on increasing wages/benefits and dealing with unions and their rules doesn't improve education it just adds to the cost of education.
T-Bird July 17, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Come try being a cop. Or a fireman. Come try chasing armed crooks, or running into a burning building. See how long you last. If it's soo hard being a teacher, according to Kim, you can make the same picking up the trash. Go do that for a while Scott. Tell me how you do.
Kim July 17, 2012 at 08:42 PM
T-Bird. Calm down, please. In comparing salaries (teacher data was FCPS, other was Vienna), I was merely answering your allegation that police officers make less than teachers do. Thanks for the job offer, but I enjoy what I do. In fact, I do not find teaching hard, although it is not for everybody, any more than any other job is. I work part time, am paid an hourly wage (slightly more than a teenage babysitter, BTW), and receive no benefits, except the joy of working with such great kids. I love what I do, but please don't disparage it.
Amelie Krikorian July 17, 2012 at 09:18 PM
I teach. I don't put down anyone else's career choices because if you don't do it, you don't know what it's like. I know I could never be a fireman, nor could I pass the physical requirements for being a cop. What I can do, and do well, is teach. I see people who have never done it feeling free to put it down or comment on the salaries when they really know nothing about it and I wonder what their point is. I teach special ed and I invite any of the naysayers to look into the requirements to do that and then tell me it's an easy job. It's a thirty or more credit master's degree on top of a bachelors, plus several state exams, plus having to take another 180 hours of training over five years to maintain licensure. It's never having a weekend off during the school year because you are writing lesson plans and grading papers. It's working two or three more hours every night once your own kids are in bed, in order to keep ahead of the wave of papers to grade. We don't teach to the test because we want to; we do it because NCLB says we get a salary cut if all our minorities don't make yearly progress -- even if the kid in question never does his homework. I don't put down your job, don't put down mine. You are looking at it from an uniformed point of view.
BurkePatriot July 17, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Amelie, I do respect a teachers job. It can be tiresome and frustrating. Many jobs as well are difficult. What is causing this discussion is the terrible management of our tax money being distributed to non essentials. Our county government has failed. Mrs. Bulova has wasted millions of our dollars in "feel good" programs that the county has no business spending money on. The money could have gone to investing into the school system instead.
David Salzberg July 18, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Burke, Amelie can defend herself. But the issue is what we value as a society. Do we want to live in a third world country with no infrastructure because we have starved the government for revenue. The infrastructure include a very good educational system which is supposed to ensure opportunity for all Americans. Such opportunities are investments which allows the economy to prosper in future generations.
BurkePatriot July 18, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I wasn't defending her but agreeing with her. The government needs money to function. It needs to do basic functions only. School, police, firemen and hire the private sector to maintain our roads. The problem is that our county government spends millions beyond basic functions. If it didn't we would have all the basic needs covered and a surplus. The liberal Supervisors we have wouldn't use the excuses to raise or taxes as it did this year.
David Salzberg July 18, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Some of us like these extra programs, and are willing to pay for the services. Of course, I choose to live in the Town of Vienna, where I spend extra $$$ for better services.
BurkePatriot July 18, 2012 at 01:11 AM
The greatest growth of this nation came when the federal government spending was only 3% to GDP. The private sector was free from restraint. Millions of legal immigrants flocked to this nation to be part of freedom that the world hadn't experienced. Many new inventions and medicines came from this era of freedom from government that made our way of life second to no nation in the world. Private sector creates. The government consumes. Government has a roll to protect our rights of life, liberty and property. That is why and proven why it must be limited. We need more money in the schools.
Amelie Krikorian July 18, 2012 at 01:12 AM
If only people who actually do the jobs were included in the discussions about where the money goes, the money would be better spent and the laws would be a lot more sensible. The No Child Left Behind act has no teacher input. The discussions on where the money goes for welfare, local services, and social services includes bureaucrats but not policemen, social workers, and firemen. Even if you show up at a town meeting and try to give your input, you are so limited by the amount of time you get to say your piece you really can't argue your case. There needs to be a major change -- the people we elect get into office and then only care what we have to say when it's time to vote again. Why is the school board an elected body instead of representation by the principals of each school as a governing body? I have never seen a school board member come into my school and actually spend time in the classrooms, or talk to the teachers or parents or students -- except at the one PTA meeting right before the elections. This needs to change if the money is to be allocated fairly and peoples' needs are to be heard.
BurkePatriot July 18, 2012 at 01:22 AM
David, I agree. People should be able to vote there programs in or out within states. People can live in the town or move to an other if they don't like what they are doing. But if the federal government is unrestrained there is nowhere to escape. Thank you for the conversation. :-D
science teacher July 24, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Olderbutwiser, I REALLY hope that you are just trying to "stir the pot a bit" because if you truly believe what you wrote then you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I welcome you to spend a day in my 7th grade classroom and then tell me if you think my job is "cake." And to assume that a physics teacher is more highly skilled than a phys ed teacher, even further demonstrates a lack of knowledge. Again, I invite you to spend a day with a phys ed teacher and tell me how "unskilled" they are. And did you know that teachers only get paid for 10.5 months out of the year, so having "off" in the summer means not getting paid. Many of us use this time for professional development (which is required), attend conferences, work on curriculum, and spend time with our children. By the way did you know that most teachers work an average of 3.5 hours after contract hours per day? That's 17.5 extra hours that were unpaid. Some of these extra hours include mandatory after school meetings and academic help for students (oh yeah, did I mention we are REQUIRED to do these, without pay). In my 10 years in the county, I have seen at least 5 teachers not have their contract renewed (referred to as "fired" in business world), so your comments about tenure is absolutely erroneous. Please get your facts straight before you go on lambasting teachers.

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