Q&A of the Day – A Closer Look at Palm Beach County’s Teacher Pay & Proposed Raises
Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.
iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.
Today’s Entry: Good morning, I listened to your broadcast today and I was upset with the manner you spoke about teachers and raises. I do agree with your viewpoint about the 9% raise for the superintendent. However, the lack of background information presented from a teachers viewpoint is off the mark. I am a conservative teacher and I have never been part of the union. I have been in Palm Beach County, as a teacher, for 17 years. Early in my career, I had pay steps taken away from myself because the union convinced teachers to vote against themselves when it came to raises.
I am not making much more than a starting teacher with 17 years of experience... the 7.5% raise will increase my pay to $60,000 a year. I believe I deserve this pay increase for my time served and broken promises by the district and the union. However, across the board raises at 7.5% is something I do not agree with. It should have been based on years of experience. This is how it was in my early years as a teacher.
I know you dive deep into issues and it is my wish you dive deep into the pay situation that has been going on in the district since they got rid of steps, over a decade ago, for teachers and paint a different picture for the public other than what was painted today in your news broadcast. Love your show.
Bottom Line: I received today’s note last Friday following my Top 3 Takeaways and wanted to take the time to adequately address the concerns expressed in this note in addition to providing a greater analysis of the compensation of Palm Beach County’s teachers as has been requested as well. First let’s hit the reset button by discussing what it was that I said that brought the note about...it was this:
On Wednesday, Palm Beach County School Superintendent Mike Burke, who himself just received a 9% raise, said he’s backing a newly union negotiated 7.5% raise that is set to go to the school board for a vote. Now, to date he’s not explained why he deserved a bigger raise than the teachers within his school district. That would no doubt result in an interesting answer if a reporter were to actually ask it. He’s also not explained why public-school teachers deserve much larger raises than the community they serve. The average public-school teacher in Palm Beach County currently earns 13% more than the average full-time salaried employee within the county. The average wage gain by all full-time employed employees in the county over the past year has been 5.8%. So, the teachers already earn a lot more than the people who pay the taxes that pay their salaries in the communities they serve and they’re attempting to fast-track raises that would be a lot more than those of the community they serve. We should demand to know why a superintendent who receives a 9% raise, seeks a 7.5% raise for teachers in a community which has only, on average, experienced a 5.8% raise.
I’ll start by saying that I stand by what I said but also that the teacher’s note and the concerns expressed are merited. Teacher salaries within the Palm Beach County School District are the result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement reached with the Classroom Teachers Association for union and non-union members alike. The current schedule for teacher compensation in the District runs from a minimum of $49,133 annually to a maximum of $97,280 annually. The two variables that dictate a teacher’s compensation are education level and experience.
- A Master's degree adds $3,000 to annual compensation
- A Double Master or Specialist (Psychologists, Therapists, Audiologists, Speech Pathologists, ROTC) adds $4,500 to annual compensation
- A Doctorate adds $6,000 to annual compensation
That accounts for the base salary. There’s also the benefit schedule which includes comprehensive health insurance and separate contributions to the Florida Retirement System totaling a minimum of $4,415 annually. A recent Bureau of Economic Analysis estimate placed the annual value for teacher benefits at approximately $28,000, or 45% of base salary, based on the average compensation levels for teachers. So that’s an overview of teacher compensation in the Palm Beaches which takes us back to where we started about what’s appropriate from a compensation increase perspective.
Florida averages 180 instructional days per year. There are variances based on school district but they’re generally small. Teachers work an extra five days beyond the instructional calendar. The extra days are generally teacher workdays, time for continuing education, etc. So, how does that compare to other professions? The average full-time employed person works 245 days, or 60 additional days more than the average teacher. So, the current teacher compensation is 13% more money than the average salaried non-teacher in the county. The average benefits package is valued at approximately 45% of the base salary compared to 19% for the average non-teacher and teachers work 23% fewer days during the year. None of this is meant as an affront to teachers. They’re just facts that are seldom, and really outside of my occasional coverage, never discussed and it’s important to establish them to have analytical compensation conversations. With that said, I’ll circle back to where we started about what raises should look like from here.
My contention is that teacher compensation/government employer wages should rise at a rate that’s consistent with private sector wages. The contention by the teacher who submitted today’s note is that some are deserving of larger wage increases but that not all teachers should automatically receive the same size raise. I agree. In the non-unionized private sector world compensation is largely tied to performance over time. I believe teachers should be, to a certain extent, as well. While merit-based considerations apply with bonus structure, they don’t with base compensation. So specifically, what I’d propose is a 5.8% total increase in funding for teacher pay raises, as opposed to the currently proposed 7.5%, with half of the money going towards across the board increases and the other half of the funds allocated on merit-based criteria established by the District. This would enable deserving teachers to benefit more than most from annual increases in compensation and to permanently incentivize improved performance overtime.
A McKinsey study found high performers are 400% more productive at work than average employees. The highest performers average being 800% more productive than the average employee. That’s human nature and it’s all part of the human condition. It doesn’t change because someone is working in the private sector, and someone is working in the public sector. I’ve never been of the viewpoint that they all should be compensated equally. That’s one of the many failings of a unionized/socialized pay structure. And I’ve always been of the belief that the changes in compensation of public sector employees should mirror the rate of change over the communities they serve as well. That’s where I’m coming from. I’m grateful for high performing teachers who serve the best interests of our children. I feel they should be compensated accordingly.