Over the last several months, there has been discussion at the Board level regarding the estimated annual cost for adding teachers to the system. Consistently, the figure of $80 thousand per year has been used – this amount covers salary, employee benefits and other incidental costs to employ the average teacher.
A review of the salaries and employee benefits for the Classroom Instruction Department which is only composed of teachers essentially supports the $80 thousand figure – on average, a current “core” teacher averages $57.6 thousand in salary and $17.9 thousand in employee benefits for a total of $76.6 thousand. Add on additional costs for Professional Development and other incidentals and the $80 thousand number appears reasonable.
However, should the $80 thousand be used to determine how many additional teachers the system can afford?
I do not think so.
The average salary level also tells us something about the average length of service for the teachers in place now. The $57.6 thousand salary equates to a Step Level 13 (which generally represents the years of experience) for a teacher without additional education beyond a Bachelor’s degree. When taking out of the equation incremental salary for advanced degrees or specialization, the average salary for a teacher is lower – I would estimate that the non-advanced degree or specialist teacher is much closer to a $50-52 thousand average – and that is with at least 8+ years of experience.
Why is the average teacher salary and benefits important to the current debate on adding additional teachers?
The Board added an additional $2 million to the budget for 26 additional teachers. However, if the Human Resources department focused on bringing in teachers with an average experience level of three years and no advanced degrees, the incremental cost of a teacher is closer to $61 thousand including salary and employee benefits (see detailed calculations in Chart at end of post).
This matters a lot. The difference between $80 thousand and $61 thousand equates to a significant number of additional teachers for the same amount of money. If $2 million is spent on $80 thousand teachers, then only 25.5 can be hired. However, if the cost of additional teachers with more than adequate experience levels can be hired at $61 thousand, then the same $2 million gets 32.3 teachers or seven more than the current estimate suggests. Seven additional teachers are 27% more – that is significant.
And this analysis has far greater implications. The $80 thousand number was used to estimate the cost of reducing the class size waivers – which ranged up to $24 million to eliminate the class size waiver in its entirety. However, if a lower cost of teachers is used – like $61 thousand – that upper bound cost comes down from $24 million to $19 million. If the class size waiver was limited to a maximum of plus 3, the cost would decrease from $7.4 million to $5.8 million.
Superintendent Davis has said numerous times – “in a $700 million budget, we can always find a couple of million”. Is it so farfetched to ask him to really work hard at it and find an additional $3.8 million and reduce the class waiver to no more than 3? Deputy Superintendent Waldron – doesn’t the reallocation of resources to get more teachers make sense?
It is time to make a strong statement on behalf of the parents who are so passionately vocal on class sizes by “finding” an additional $3.8 million for additional teachers.
This would be a great first step!