Why We Had Salary Increases in 2009

Post date: May 1, 2011 7:19:02 PM

By Granger Meador, BEA Chief Negotiator

Patrons opposed to the closing of Oak Park have raised concerns about the district's budget process, specifically the administrative raises given in 2009. A former board member, who notably voted more than once over the years to NOT award teachers the standard step increase, repeated his past criticisms of the raises, although he voted for them at the time.

I was on the budget committee which recommended the raises and we based our decisions on pay comparisons for our peer group of districts of similar size. We had plenty of hard data which made it clear at the time that increases were needed for all employee categories. We of course did not know that the Great Recession would impact our state a few months later and cause significant shortfalls in state funding. It is precisely because of the unexpected and severe nature of the downturn that federal stimulus money was subsequently awarded by the state to shore up school district budgets.

Here are reasons why each employee group needed raises in 2009:

  • An increase in the minimum wage forced a significant increase in pay for classified personnel to maintain that salary schedule while ensuring all workers were at or above the new minimum wage.
  • Analysis of Bartlesville's certified teacher salary schedule against our peers showed that while we paid slightly above average for less experienced teachers, our pay for the most experienced teachers was considerably below average. [The 2009 raise helped, but we still are far below average for those who are topped out.]
  • It had proved difficult to find qualified applicants for several open administrative positions at the ESC and an inquiry showed candidates could earn more as site-level administrators at some peer districts than as district-level directors in our district.

To help out the experienced teachers, I proposed a scaled pay increase rising steadily from $200 for those on step 21 to $1,000 for those on step 25 while also addressing other teacher compensation issues such as the typical step increase and raising and restoring extra duty increments which had fallen far behind those of our peers over the previous decade. To deal with the crisis in administrative pay, I proposed that we spend $140,000, the same amount we were spending on teacher issues above the cost of the step increase, to boost administrative salaries. This idea was adopted and eventually approved by the Board of Education.

I continue to support and defend that move based on the facts. The latest available statewide data, through the Oklahoma Education Oversight Board Office of Accountability's Profiles Reports, shows why we had to increase administrative pay.

At right is a chart comparing Bartlesville's average administrator pay from 2004-2005 through 2008-2009 with the statewide average, the average among our community group as determined by the Office of Accountability, and the average among the peer group our district recognizes. Over that five year span Bartlesville's average administrator pay fell from $67 below that of the peer group to $6,300 below them. You get what you pay for and that wide a salary gap meant we could not attract qualified applicants for open administrative positions.

The situation for teachers had also decayed over the five year span, but not as much. Average teacher pay fell from $307 below our peer group in 2004-2005 to $646 below our peers by 2008-2009. So we were justified in raising pay for career teachers to help narrow the widening gap.

Another way to view our budgeting is to compare how much of our budget goes to central office administration, to site-level administration, and to instruction. In 2008-2009 we were only spending 1.4% of the budget on central office administration. That was only 73% of the average central office spending by our peer group and, despite the obvious efficiency, was unsustainable. At that time we were spending 5.6% of the budget on site level administration, which was right at our peer average. So it made sense that much, but not all, of the administrative raise went to district level positions.

For comparison, in 2008-2009 we were spending 60% of the budget on instruction, which was 106% of the average level of our peers. So no one can complain that we were not putting money into the classroom. That year our average teaching salary was 98% of the peer average while our average administrator salary was 92% of the peer average. Since our overall central office spending was only 73% of the peer average, we not only were not paying central administrators competitively, but we also had fewer of them carrying the load. So I dismiss those few who complain that our central office has too many administrators - the data shows otherwise. An extensive staffing review of the ESC was conducted a year or so ago and came to the same conclusion.

Adobe versions of the above charts and spreadsheet data are attached to this post. The state's data for 2009-2010 has not yet been posted, so we cannot see how much things shifted because of the 2009 pay increases. But I am confident that we made necessary changes for the betterment of the district.