Last night the DCSD Board of Education met to discuss their goal of creating a predictable competitive salary schedule for teachers and other certified employees. The Board members were provided five “option samples” that were not dissimilar to the option presented three weeks ago. Each one resulted in approximately 60% of the certified staff getting a pay freeze, while the district would cover the 1.25% employee increased contribution. Superintendent Tucker made a recommendation not to move forward with any of the “option samples” presented, but instead for the district to adjust compensation for every employee to cover the 1.25% PERA increase, and move only new-hires onto the compensation structure. None of the scenarios presented, including the Superintendent’s recommendation, met the Board’s goal of a system that moves toward a competitive salary structure, and would instead result in DCSD’s certified staff moving backwards compared to neighboring districts.
During this meeting several Board members commented that because DCSD doesn’t have collective bargaining, our district has more work in engaging teachers for feedback, as well as having more work in creating a system for compensation since they are not collaborating with their union. One Board member said, “Why wouldn’t we engage in a CBA?”
Finally, people are recognizing the implications of the decision DCSD administration made a year ago. Last spring, DCSD teachers and staff asked the Board to enter into collective bargaining with us; we want to have shared ownership and accountability for our district. Unfortunately, the answer was no, and now we are facing the consequences of that decision.
The district failed to put a financial plan in place for the creation of the compensation structure. If teachers had been at the table a year ago, one of the first things we would have discussed is the financial plan to make the Board’s resolution around compensation a reality. As it is, money has been spent that shouldn’t have been, and commitments to spending have been made without consideration for the compensation priority. Now the district is discussing cuts that never would have needed to be made, if only there had been a plan.
But collective bargaining isn’t only about compensation--it’s about how we treat our teachers. If we trusted teachers to provide professional development, and to partner on creating curriculum, how much money could the district save?
Douglas County is working with a budget for about 50,000 students. Because over 24% of our students attend charter schools, and dollars for those students only pass through our district’s budget, we need to approach financial decisions like a district of 50,000 students. Larger districts benefit from economies of scale and can offer more programing. We implore DCSD to budget what they value, and make financial decisions that support teachers and school staff. After all, “Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.”*
*Opper, Isaac M., Teachers Matter: Understanding Teachers' Impact on Student Achievement. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2019. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR4312.html.