CCUSD Spending on Salaries Gone Wild
Students End Up Paying the Price
September 12, 2019
Last year, our school district had to pay over $6.20 million in state-mandated CalSTRS contributions. A million dollars of that payment included additional costs mostly due to the board approving overly-generous raises to certificated staff and teacher retirement incentives during the past five years.
This million dollar added expense doesn’t even account for the other raises given to classified employees which also increased our district’s complex-accounting of its contributions to CalPERS. It’s no wonder the board pleaded for the community to pass a new seven-year, $2,500,000 annual parcel tax—the district’s salary plan was starting to unravel.
Parcel Tax Spending
We now understand that about 90% of the district’s new parcel tax will probably end up being spent on its adult employees in some form of continued salary enhancements and/or being paid on their behalf for their health and medical benefits, along with the still mounting state increases in our annual employer pension contributions.
One standard way a school board can try to save money is to offer its veteran teachers a monetary incentive to retire early. The board offered our veteran teachers nearing retirement a $20,000 incentive. The idea was that as our veteran teachers retire, the district would hire new, less experienced teachers, at a much lower salary; thereby cutting district staffing costs. But, if it is not done correctly, in a well thought out and balanced manner, it can lead to school and classroom inequities, because the district could end up having to hire too many new, inexperienced teachers.
In the first decade before the Great Recession, our district’s average for first-year teachers ran about 5% of staff-like most other districts in LA County. But in the last five years, our district’s percentage of first-year teachers has almost doubled.
In 2016-17, one-in-three teachers at Farragut Elementary either had just one-year of teaching or little real classroom experience. In fact, in just a two-year span, teacher turnover at Farragut happened at such a rapid rate that the school’s average in-class experience slipped from a district high of fifteen years among our elementary schools, down to eleven years.
Now we hear that this year El Rincon Elementary has hired 8 new teachers and will have one-out-of-every-four of its teachers starting new careers along with a new school principal.
The reason given to the community for the increased “teacher salary investment” was to retain and hire the best teachers available. After the turnover of the last few years, was this lofty-sounding goal achieved?
Even with our district hiring scores of new, less costly teachers to replace its retired staff, our small district is still paying some of the highest percentages out of its budget for its CalSTRS and CalPERS contributions, including the pension costs for all those previous district-wide raises.
Students Paying the Million-Dollar Price
Due to the lack of financial foresight by some board members, it looks like the only thing we will be retaining--for years to come--is the high cost of our state pension contributions.
As a parent, you must realize that for every million dollars now being siphoned off from the budget to pay for decades-old pension obligations, is yet another million dollars not being spent on your child’s future education.