Friday, November 30, 2007

Levy/Teacher Salary Survey

On Nov 11th, I posted an online survey to see what folks on my newsletter mailing list as well as the general public thought about two questions. The first was about operating levies. The School Board has affirmed that this next levy won't be the last, and that they will be asking us to approve another levy in 2-3 years. So the first question was whether you wanted to take a bigger hit now, and a lesser one later, or visa versa.

The first thing to say is that this survey falls well short of the standard of statistical significance. There are over 40,000 registered voters in our school district, and this survey was seen by fewer than 100 and responded to by 46. So don't try to read too much into these results:

The #1 response to the question about levies, with 39% of the votes, was "No new taxes are needed, the School District spends too much already." Next at 30% was "let's do 10 mills now and see where we are in two years." Interestingly, that's about what the Board decided.

The second question was about teacher salary increases. Should they 8% annual increases as provided in their current (expiring) contract, or should their salaries be frozen. How about split it down the middle at 4% per year?

The raw answer is that nearly half (45%) said 4% is the right number. The rest of the votes were an equal split between "give 'em nuthin'" and 8%. Nearly all the "8%" answers came in via a burst over a day or so, which makes me think that some HEA members made a push to get their responses recorded.

Some of the comments were pretty interesting, even though the service I use allows for only 150 characters:

To the question about levies:
  • 90% of the school's costs SHOULD be on teachers. Isn't that what schools do? TEACH? - I agree
  • This spending cannot ALL be attributed to teacher salaries. We need to be taking cost OUT of the business too to minimize expenses! - Only 56% of the total employee population are teachers. The next largest group is the support staff (secretaries, aides, custodians, bus drivers, etc) at 28%. Can anyone tell me what the "Other Professional" and "Planning/Curriculum" positions are?
  • I would like to see a more detailed breakdown on expenses and funding. Part of the shortfall is due to state cuts in funding. - Indeed

And on teacher raises:

  • Never in the past 30 years has a contract included an 8% salary increase!The pension from STRS is paid by teacher and board contributions.It's notfree - Actually, HEA members got 7.95% salary increases each of the last three years. As for the pensions, I did not claim the teachers got it for free. The fact that they get one at all is unusual. Note that teachers do not pay into or receive Social Security, but does anyone seriously think Social Security is better than the STRS package?
  • The idea of teachers being uderpaid was true in the past but I do not believe it is true today. At least not in Hilliard. - It's hard to figure out what teacher pay should be. Should it be based on scarcity of qualified applicants, or on length of service, or some kind of pay-for-performance?
  • I have never been garanteed increase in salary of 7.95%. These increases should be tied to performance and average increases in the private sector. - A number of comments mentioned pay-for-performance notions.

I expect that the levy campaign team will run their own survey, and we'll get more meaningful answers to questions like these.

Thanks to the folks who responded.


  1. In private industry it seems like the budget for raises is generally set at the cost of living.

    For this year that would be about 3.5%. Most teachers would thus get about 3.5%. A few 4-5%. Underperformers 1-2%.

    I'm not sure how private industry manages, year-after-year, simultaneously satisfy young people with 5-6% raises in order to get them away from their (lower) starting salaries while not breaking the budget.

    I'm assuming the teacher's union is causing this to be more complicated than it needs to be.

  2. Perhaps it's because I vividly remember the high levels of inflation during the late 1970s that I am generally opposed to calling anything a Cost of Living increase.

    I don't think anyone should get an automatic increase just for showing up, regardless of what kind of job they have.

    I did business with a Wall St firm in the 1980s who had a very stern approach to compensation. Every manager had to rank the performance of his team from best to worst. The top 20% got about half the budget for increases. The next 60% got the rest. The bottom 20% were to be managed out of the company in the next year and replaced by folks who had potential to be next top 20%.

    Sounds like a horrible way to motivate a team. But the interesting thing was that folks fought for jobs there. Top performers wanted to work with other top performers. Those who couldn't cut it didn't even apply. Think of it as the business version of the Marine Corps.

    I don't even know if these guys paid extraordinarily well. Top performers often don't do it for the pay - it's the chance to be part of something extraordinary.

    What is the leadership of our district (which includes the Board, the Administration and the union leadership) doing to make the experience of being a teacher in Hilliard extraordinary? And what are they doing to ensure that we have only extraordinary teachers?