Nancy's Columns

Equity in Salaries

Under topic: administrators

School Boards often inform teachers that they cannot give them competitive salaries because there is not enough money in the budget.

The teachers who go out on strike do not believe this. The basic conflict is over priorities. Some School Boards are not convinced that teachers' salaries need to be competitive in order to maintain quality education.

They assign equal or higher priorities to building and grounds, new curriculum materials, administrative salaries and, in recent times, computers for most of the students.

School Board members face a dilemma.

They feel a strong obligation to get the most they can for every tax dollar. At the same time, they are under a mandate to provide quality education, usually with limited resources.

They also feel the necessity to be innovative.

They feel pulled in many conflicting directions. They must make decisions, in many cases, based only on what the superintendent tells them. Since most Board members also have to make a living, the amount of time available for these decisions is limited.

Teachers should not have to strike for competitive salaries when it is within the power of the School Boards to provide such salaries.

Nine well-meaning members of the community who became Board Members as a service to the community often find themselves being attacked and unappreciated.

One of the problems that usually surfaces in conflicts between teachers and School Boards is the allocation of funds for teachers' salaries versus administrators' salaries.

This was recently highlighted in the threatened strike in Highland Park as reported in the HOME NEWS. The teachers disagreed with the Board when it said there was not enough money in the budget for a ten percent increase.

The teachers pointed out that the board had recently voted to add a new administrator--a curriculum director--to the payroll.

They also objected to a 25% increase in the salary for the Board's hired negotiator. In another HOME NEWS article of August 28th, it was reported that a local superintendent was voted a salary of $73,248 by the School Board.

The article noted that local school districts are on their own when it comes to salaries. There are no guidelines.

One solution to the problem of teachers' salaries is to establish guidelines for Boards of Education to follow.

It is understandable that a School Board might prefer to give an administrator a larger salary than a teacher.

They usually have close contact with the administrator and get to know him and appreciate his work.

Their knowledge of teachers, however, is very limited.

Teachers are required to go through channels and those channels are administrators who are competing for the same limited funds. Teachers, therefore, are usually "paper-people" to the Board and are only known by "hear-say." Guidelines would be helpful to all involved.

One solution is basing salaries on ratios.

Administrative salaries would be pegged to teacher salaries, thus removing the conflict of interest. The School Board should determine the highest salaries they could pay their teachers. This should be computed honestly.

The Board should not play games by keeping money hidden in other accounts and then "finding" the money after negotiations are concluded. School Boards should forego expensive projects like buildings and grounds or expensive equipment like computers if it means they have to compromise on salaries.

Also the number of administrative positions (each of which usually requires an extra secretarial position) should be kept at a minimum.

The ratio scheme might work as follows.

When the salary scale for teachers has been determined, than certain percentages above teachers' scale would be the scale for the principals, superintendents and other professional staff.

A similar technique could be used for determining the salaries for custodians, aides and secretaries.

We cannot be adversaries.

From the Commissioner of Education to the teachers ,we must be working as a team and treat each other with dignity and respect.

There should not be a hierarchy of power--the teachers against the world.

Teachers should not have to strike for competitive salaries when it is within the power of the School Boards to provide such salaries.

If School Boards cannot do this, their mandate should be reformulated before irreversable damage is done.

First published in 2001