People are right to want to increase the pay of our teachers. Fair pay is essential in keeping our wonderful staff. There’s nothing wrong with trying to help our kids get a great education. The question is: How much yearly percentage of wage increase do you feel is fair? We can only make good decisions when we have ALL the facts. I’m trying to provide them to you.
Isn’t that what our elected School Board members are supposed to be doing?
It’s a verifiable fact that the proposed teachers’ 2020 contract provides over 8.5% wage increase for next year and over 5% wage increase the year after. So why is the Union and certain members of the school board telling us that it is a 2% increase even though it is much more than that?
Answer: They’re not playing a fair game. They are trying to keep you focused on one small part of a 19 page document where a lot more additional compensation is added to the teachers’ bottom line. I expect the Union to do that but I expect much more from those we have elected to represent us. Some of our School Board members are acting more like like Union reps than elected officials. I would be happy to support a sustainable, affordable 3-4% total wage increase per year. How much do you expect to get at your place of employment?
What happens if the proposed funding for the contract is voted down in March 2020? On the negative side, the teachers will continue to receive the same wages as the past 2 years. On the plus side, all benefits listed below will continue including the zero deductible health insurance plan.
Another year has passed and it will soon be time to go vote for all the things that can increase your property tax bill. It’s a fact that just a few months ago, the approved school budget and warrants that we voted for in 2019 added over $1.25 to our tax rate. That was nearly a 10% jump. We can’t continue on this course. We all know that costs go up every year. I’m advocating for an affordable, sustainable compromise from both the School and the Town.
I’m searching for and sharing the WHOLE TRUTH so folks can actually know what they are voting for. In an effort to play fair, I check with the SAU about my calculations. We have a right to know the full truth. I make sure that folks can watch these budget meetings and be informed. I go to the meetings, state my position, and back it up with facts. Someone called that "embarrassing"? What??? I recently made a video with Town Moderator Dino Scala explaining the Deliberative Session process and what you can do there.
Due to my outspoken efforts to enact change, my opponents (I do not consider them enemies) are calling me “hateful” , “insane” and accusing me of “holding a grudge.” I find it amusing that I have been accused of spreading misinformation when the Union and three school board members are the ones showing you only what they want you to see! There's an old saying: It's always the thief who accuses others of stealing. It’s a shame that they are not willing to accept all the facts, share them with us, and work together so we can all win.
One of the items on the 2020 ballot will be funding for the teachers contract. This comes up every 2 to three years when the teachers Union negotiates a contract with the administration that spells out the terms of compensation. It's true that the State of New Hampshire has a poor method of providing money for education. The majority of funding the cost increase is covered by the property tax payer. I wrote about this on another blog post.
Last year the Budget Committee and ultimately the voters decided that the amount of increase demanded by the Union and agreed to by School Board members was just too much to bear. It was voted down. The result was teachers pay stayed the same as the previous year. Benefits continued but the wage schedule remained stagnant. If it had passed, it would have cost an additional $137,000 for the year.
The proposed wage increase cost for 2020-21 is actually $147,484 . On the warrant they have applied the proposed insurance cost savings of $67,518 to the wage increase to make it appear that it is only a $79,966 increase. It looks to me like they have plowed all the insurance savings into higher wage increases. One of the major stumbling blocks in negotiations has been the cost of health insurance. It has been skyrocketing for all of us and the ZERO deductible, high cost plan that the teachers have been enjoying for years, 82.5 percent paid by taxpayers is considered no longer affordable by many who were forced to accept much less coverage a long time ago.
So it was back to the drawing board in the fall of 2019 as the negotiating teams squared off to craft a new contract. Some relief to the taxpayer was created when a lower cost health insurance plan was insisted upon by the administration. A lot of towns have already gone this route. The new plan has a $1250 single/$2500 family deductible instead of the former zero deductible plan. (Note: The Town of Wakefield employees currently have a $1000 single/$3000 family deductible plan.)
Formerly, the teachers enjoyed the “Green” ZERO deductible plan. If passed, they will use the “Yellow Choice” plan. Note: Only 34 out of 58 employees will be using the lesser plan. The rest will be allowed to keep the “Green” plan due to existing contracts.
This chart gives a quick comparison of the changes in plan coverage.
Here are some savings comparisons. I am using the “effective” rates from the chart below. The SAU has calculated that the total yearly savings should be $67,518.
There is no doubt that the Union considers a higher deductible insurance plan a step backwards in the amount of compensation and they are right. Under this new insurance plan employees will be reaching into their own pockets to cover the new deductibles. However, some of the new expenses will be offset by the employee premium savings listed in the above chart.
It appears that the Union has negotiated enough pay increases to cover any losses and much more. Before I get into that, let’s review some of the other ways that the contract provides additional money to the package. These items are already being enjoyed in the existing contract from prior contract negotiations.
1: On the ninth year of continued employment, teachers get “longevity pay”. It starts at $1200 and increases every year by $150.
2: Teachers get monetary help for “Professional improvement”. Tuition costs and fees for teachers to take classes, (up to 8 credits a year) are funded by the district upon request. The district budget caps a total $45,000 per year total for this purpose.
3: The sum of $450 is available for each faculty member to participate in workshops, conferences or other professional development activities.
4: Once a faculty member has acquired enough credits, they can move to a higher pay column in the salary schedule. This is called a “track change”.
5: In addition to being placed in a higher pay column, teachers who earn a track change shall receive a one-time lump sum payment of $1000.
6: The district pays 100% for long-term disability insurance, up to an amount equal to 66.7% of a teacher’s salary, for each staff member.
7: Teachers who retire after 15 years of service and have reached age 55 receive a one-time payment of $9000 upon completion of his/her final year of service. No more than three retirees per school year may receive this benefit.
8: Paid sick days are provided at 13 days per year cumulative to 90 days. Professional leave is 3 days with prior approval and Personal leave is 3 days for legal, business, household, and family. Under the proposed contract, any bargaining unit member with perfect attendance will receive either a $200 incentive bonus for perfect attendance during one semester or a $500 bonus for perfect attendance for the year.
NOTE: The $500 bonus for a full year’s perfect attendance was in the previous contract.
The $200 bonus for perfect attendance during ONE semester appears to be a NEW BENEFIT.
The above listed benefits complement the teachers’ wages by adding to a total compensation package. The Union and administration don’t talk about these add-ons when they discuss the CBA agreement. Now that we have a good idea of all the additional compensation benefits, let’s examine the proposed wage increases.
Teacher’s wages are paid according to a chart that is clearly spelled out in the CBA. There are 13 steps and 6 columns.
A NEW chart which contains higher numbers is used each year. (see charts below)
Normally, each additional year of employment allows a staff member to go up one step. When they get additional education by taking courses, they can move to a different column.
First, each step increase, which occurs in an approved contract, provides over 3 percent wage increase. When a teacher increases their education by taking approved courses, they get to move to a higher wage column.
Then we have the “salary schedules”. According to a recent flyer called “The WEA’s guide to the new 2020-2022 Teachers Contract” states: “Since 2010, the majority of the salary schedule has increased an average of only 0.06% per year” Question: if that is the case, why are they asking for a 2% increase for 2020-21 and 1.5% increase for 2021-22?
Here is a chart that tells all. The first thing to note is that every yearly step provides over 3% wage increase, even if the chart doesn't change from year to year.
Regarding the increases in the charts themselves, on the far left in purple is the former 2016-2017 wage schedule. To the right of that is the current wage (color black) schedule. When you compare the same spots from the 2016-2017 chart with those in the current chart, you will find that the increase is 0.7%.
Now compare the same spots on the current 2018-2019(black) chart with the proposed 2020-2021(pink) chart and you will see that the chart has increase 2%. That's almost a 3X percentage (2.85X) increase in the chart!
The 2021-2022 chart increase shows a 1.5% increase.
OPINION: I want the teachers to get a raise. I can’t support wage increases over 8.5% in 2020-21 and over 5% for 2021-22. I believe that 3-4% a year is a fair, sustainable increase and I would support that with my vote. It’s true that going to an insurance plan with a deductible is taking a monetary hit. My answer to that is: “Welcome to the real world. The rest of us are already there."
If you still are concerned that our teachers are “way below average”, below is a summary of actual wage and benefit total for existing staff at Paul School. This data was taken from pages 47 and 48 of the “Wakefield School District Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Proposed School Budget” dated December 18,2019.
43 Teachers Salary AND benefits totals proposed for Fiscal year 2021
(taken from page 47 & 48 of the SAU proposed budget document dated 12-18-19)
6 teachers making over $100,000 ( 1 is grant funded)
2 teachers making over $90,000
11 teachers making over $80,000
8 teachers making over $70,000
8 teachers making over $60,000
7 teachers making over $50,000
2 teachers making over $40,000 (1 is grant funded)
13 teachers are receiving longevity pay
Average longevity pay: $2284
Last two year’s hires:
1 teacher at $36,736 wages + $18,510 benefits total compensation= $55,246
1 teacher at $54,305 wages + $31,608 benefits total compensation = $85,913
1 teacher at $33,468 wages + $32,304 benefits total compensation = $65,772
1 teacher at $51,553 wages + $36,907 benefits total compensation = $88,460
1 teacher at $44,898 wages + $35,213 benefits total compensation = $80,111
1 teacher at $42,904 wages + $34,705 benefits total compensation = $77,609
Average new hires wages: $43,977
Average new hires benefits: $31,541
Last two years Average new hires salary and benefits: $75,518
I hope this information will help residents make informed decisions when they vote. As always, please check my figures and let me know if I you feel I have made mistakes so I can research them and make any needed corrections.