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Six years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown cut a deal with unions and the Legislature to rescue the state’s two largest public employee pension funds from insolvency — but at a steep price for school districts and other public employers. Now, in the waning days of his administration, Brown wants a chance to persuade the California Supreme Court to relax some of the pension guarantees that have escalated the financial obligations of the state and local government agencies, including school districts.

At Brown’s request, the Supreme Court has offered, though not yet set a date, to hear oral arguments before the end of the year in a lawsuit that a local firefighters union for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, filed over a change in benefits under Brown’s bailout legislation.

School districts, the state and local governments will be watching closely to see if the ruling in that case — and in four related cases — could eventually lead to some relief from the billions of dollars in higher contributions that they must make over the next several years to the state’s two public pension funds: CalSTRS, which provides retirement benefits to teachers and administrators, and CalPERS, which covers other state, county and local workers, including hourly school employees like clerks and bus drivers.

The Legislature increased payments from the state and local governments in the 2012 pension reform law, the Public Employees Pension Reform Act, commonly called PEPRA. Without it, both pension funds, reeling from drops in the value of their assets during the recession, would have run out of money in 30 years. By charging higher rates — for local public employers, the state and to a much lesser extent, workers — and lengthening the retirement age for new workers, the rescue plan would gradually restore the pension funds to full health.

By 2020-21, when the seven-year phase-in period for higher rates ends, school districts’ pension contributions to CalSTRS will have more than doubled, from 8.25 percent to 19.1 percent of a teacher’s pay. This equals an average increase of $600 in spending per student for CalSTRS that districts otherwise could use for other purposes, according to calculations in a new study for the research project Getting Down to Facts (see graph). State contributions to CalSTRS from the General Fund, which were 4.5 percent of payroll in 2013-14, are projected to more than double to 10.8 by 2020-21. **

School officials in particular are worried that, if state revenues are flat or fall in the event of a recession, higher pension contributions will consume most or all new spending and force cuts in staff and education programs. In January, Brown expressed optimism that the Supreme Court will give school districts and other public employers the ability to alter the terms of pensions for current public workers so that “when the next recession comes around the governors will have the option of considering pension cutbacks for the first time.”

But the court may not go along. It could simply reaffirm the current pension agreement, with no future help for employers. Or it could agree with the unions bringing the lawsuits and reinstate pension entitlements eliminated by the 2012 law, which would end up costing school districts even more than they are scheduled to pay.

At issue is a 1955 California Supreme Court decision, which has come to be known as the “California rule.” It said that public employees are forever entitled to the pension benefits in effect on the first day they came to work. Pension benefits became an irrevocable right.

As a result of the California rule, which a dozen states have adopted, public pensions became a one-way street: Public employers could increase benefits as the Legislature has done several times during the past 20 years, but not cut or reduce them without giving workers another benefit of equal value — thus negating any potential savings for the employer.

Because courts have adhered to the rule for seven decades, when Brown and the Legislature crafted the pension rescue plan, they applied most changes to CalSTRS and CalPERS employees’ retirement age and contribution rates only to new employees.

Through a benefit tradeoff, the contribution rates of current teachers increased under the plan from 8 to 10.25 percent of their pay without violating the California rule. And the new law eliminated a few prospective benefits for current employees, the subject of the lawsuits. One was “airtime,” allowing employees to purchase up to 5 years of credit for work not actually done by making both their own and their employer’s pension contributions. Airtime, which created a bigger pension on retirement, turned out to be more expensive than the Legislature assumed. The new pension law also got rid of spiking, which allowed employees to increase the calculation for pensions by adding the value of unused vacation, leave time and other benefits.

The case before the state Supreme Court is Cal Fire Local 2881 v. CalPERS. In 2016, a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the state and CalPERS that airtime could be rescinded. The court said that it didn’t qualify as a vested right because airtime didn’t involve work already performed. Also, employees were given one last opportunity to buy airtime before it ended.

On the broader issue of the California rule, the court ruled that employers can’t touch pension benefits that workers have already earned but they can modify benefits moving forward. Short of abolishing or radically reducing a pension, employers can make adjustments “in accord with changing conditions” as long as the pension modifications are “reasonable,” the judges wrote.

But another three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal disagreed with that interpretation in another lawsuit brought by Alameda County deputy sheriffs, which the Supreme Court also could decide to hear with the Cal Fire case. In the Alameda County decision, the judges said that reductions can be made to benefits only if there is compelling evidence that the changes are vital to shore up the pension system itself.

Brown takes over the case

In an unusual move that signals how important he views the case, Brown has transferred the Cal Fire case before the Supreme Court from Attorney General Xavier Becerra to attorneys in the governor’s office. In their brief to the court, Brown’s attorneys argue that restrictions on reducing pensions should not be a “strait jacket.” As long as a pension remains “substantial,” changes can be made if they are “reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose.” It was “imperative” to rein in “abusive practices” like airtime, the attorneys wrote, to regain public trust in the pension system at a time when the system faced hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.

In their brief to the Supreme Court, Cal Fire attorneys dismiss those arguments as “swimming against a 65-year tide of cases” protecting vested pension rights. Only “extreme hardship or imminent collapse of the pension system” could justify cuts in pension benefits and the state hasn’t made the case, they wrote.

Gregg Adam, partner in the law firm Messing Adam & Jasmine and the principal author of the Cal Fire brief, said a cut in benefits should only be temporary and what’s needed to get through a financial emergency. “The changes should be related to the pension system and not because employers” (like the Legislature and school districts) “would rather spend the money on education,” he said.

Chuck Reed, former mayor of San Jose and an advocate for pension reform, said that court interpretations of pension obligations limited the reforms that Brown persuaded the Legislature to pass in 2012. Only a change in the California rule would make it possible “to finally have negotiations with public employees about what works for all,” he said. That could include less money for pensions and higher pay for teachers and other public workers, he said. Or a defined-contribution retirement system like a 401(k) that shifts the risk from taxpayers to employees but would be portable for teachers who leave teaching too soon to qualify for a pension.

Adam said while it’s possible that the court will decide it is no longer strictly bound by the California rule, “I’d be surprised if it does so radically; the court usually acts in incremental ways.”

** Correction: The article and the graph on pension payments by contributor was updated to include additional costs that have raised the state's portion of payments to CalSTRS.

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  1. Paul 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Thanks for this article, John. "Pension payments to CalSTRS as a percentage of a teacher's pay" is useful, but the graph tells only part of the story. I hope readers will continue to inform themselves, and learn that: - STRS remains much less generous than PERS and UCRS. - For several decades before PEPRA, teachers had already been contributing a substantial share of the cost of their own pensions. That was not true of police officers, University of California … Read More

    Thanks for this article, John.

    “Pension payments to CalSTRS as a percentage of a teacher’s pay” is useful, but the graph tells only part of the story.

    I hope readers will continue to inform themselves, and learn that:

    – STRS remains much less generous than PERS and UCRS.

    – For several decades before PEPRA, teachers had already been contributing a substantial share of the cost of their own pensions. That was not true of police officers, University of California faculty and staff, or employees of certain state special districts (BART, AC Transit, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, some water districts, etc.).

    – The promise of a pension made up for a relatively low salary. Californians deferred the expense but don’t want to pay up. In my list of sweet pension deals, above, UC professors are the only workers who are both better paid and better educated than teachers, and UC staff are the only workers who earn less than teachers.

    Basically, the time axis for the STRS graph should start three decades earlier, and similar graphs should be provided for UCRS; PERS public safety; and PERS miscellaneous at our favorite state special districts.

    That employer (district + state) contributions to STRS will soon exceed 25% of payroll may be upsetting, but…

    – The increase is entirely to fund benefits promised to pre-PEPRA members. Teachers hired since PEPRA took effect have a less generous pension, whose normal actuarial cost is 18% of payroll. Teachers contribute just over 10% of payroll, which means that new teachers are actually paying more than half the cost of their own pensions.

    See Page TRB12 of
    http://resources.calstrs.com/publicdocs/Page/CommonPage.aspx?PageName=DocumentDownload&Id=a0108901-8790-4107-ad28-6f530538eb09

    – At BART (which is representative of all California police employers), the employer contribution for PERS public safety members had reached 56% of payroll by 2017, and the employee share was just 5% (up from 0 a few years before). The employer share is set to rise to 69% of police payroll by 2022. It’s such a public relations nightmare that, after 2017, BART started stating part of the employer contribution as a flat-dollar amount for the entire police force, to hide the full percentage.

    See Pages 14-15 of
    https://www.bart.gov/sites/default/files/docs/FY17%20Budget%20Pamphlet%20Final.pdf (and, if you’re curious, find the equivalent report for 2018 to see how the reporting basis changes).

  2. Todd Maddison 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Thanks, John - this is a great article. Does an exceptional job of laying out the issues and describing the impacts. When we passed Prop 30, we thought we were going to get an influx of money for "better education"; what we got was more money to fund pay and pensions of existing employees. In my district, Oceanside Unified, Prop 30 (renewed in part with Prop 55) has consistently generated an extra … Read More

    Thanks, John – this is a great article. Does an exceptional job of laying out the issues and describing the impacts.

    When we passed Prop 30, we thought we were going to get an influx of money for “better education”; what we got was more money to fund pay and pensions of existing employees.

    In my district, Oceanside Unified, Prop 30 (renewed in part with Prop 55) has consistently generated an extra $22 to $24 million/year for the districts since passage in 2012.

    Meanwhile, since 2012 the district has increased its pay alone by $23 million (an increase of almost 60%), and if we throw benefits into that, $49 million per year.

    If one looks at Transparent California data and examines the actual rate of pay growth for existing employees, one comes out with an average annual rate of growth in pay of 7.63% per year. This during a time when Social Security reports the average American’s pay has grown at a rate of 2.36% per year.

    By giving themselves raises at a rate three times higher than the rest of us get, the local district has taken over $6 million/year from money available to spend on things like expanded programs for those who need them, specialized classes for the gifted and talented, smaller classes for all, classroom supplies and maintenance, etc.

    That difference alone would be enough to move the OUSD budget from “in trouble” to “just fine” – notwithstanding the enormous increase in pension costs…

    And of course the bulk of that increase has gone to administrators; teachers’ average increase has been 5.52%/year, administrators 12.78% – and. as we’ve seen recently in a number of cases in San Diego County, apparently those administrators feel the need to give themselves the same raise they just negotiated for their labor groups (called “self-dealing” in worlds where that is considered unethical) on top of their normal raise structure.

    Somehow, we need to put the brakes on – with the average administrator making six figures and the average teacher in California making $80,000/year, we’ve reached a point where we can say people are now paid fairly – and start investing in things that really improve education.

    Thanks for your reporting as always!

  3. SD Parent 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    With respect to CalSTRS, the true claimants not addressed are the students in K-12 right now (and for the next 24 years), whose education is being short-changed because a significant portion of their per pupil funding that is supposed to used for their education is instead being used to shore-up pension benefits that should have been paid at the time of service (including for employees who are not even working in a classroom anymore). … Read More

    With respect to CalSTRS, the true claimants not addressed are the students in K-12 right now (and for the next 24 years), whose education is being short-changed because a significant portion of their per pupil funding that is supposed to used for their education is instead being used to shore-up pension benefits that should have been paid at the time of service (including for employees who are not even working in a classroom anymore).
    Let’s also not forget that the increased pension costs are also a result of rapidly increasing employee salaries – which school districts approved with little to no regard to the resulting increased pension payments.

  4. Jonathan Raymond 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Governor Brown is a very smart man - which he often likes to remind folks of. I guess he just didn’t think this would become such an issue when he cut the deal. Maybe he should have asked those of us running school districts at the time... Perhaps he’d be better looking at a 14th amendment argument. Think of all the dollars that aren’t going to our children - the vast majority of which are poor … Read More

    Governor Brown is a very smart man – which he often likes to remind folks of. I guess he just didn’t think this would become such an issue when he cut the deal. Maybe he should have asked those of us running school districts at the time…
    Perhaps he’d be better looking at a 14th amendment argument. Think of all the dollars that aren’t going to our children – the vast majority of which are poor kids of color. How’s that for an idea, Governor?

    Replies

    • Paul 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      I am having a hard time identifying "all the dollars that aren't going to our children." Are you suggesting that school funds should be paid directly to children? Or, more realistically, to their parents? Something like a private school voucher? Money spent on the public school teacher workforce is money spent on children. If you want fewer teachers, less effort, and faster attrition, then by all means, clamp teacher compensation. Since you were among the people "running … Read More

      I am having a hard time identifying “all the dollars that aren’t going to our children.” Are you suggesting that school funds should be paid directly to children? Or, more realistically, to their parents? Something like a private school voucher?

      Money spent on the public school teacher workforce is money spent on children. If you want fewer teachers, less effort, and faster attrition, then by all means, clamp teacher compensation.

      Since you were among the people “running school districts at the time”, I’d like to know whether you mentioned the STRS pension in your teacher job postings and at career fairs? Or, was a $40,000* starting salary attractive enough by itself?

      * Salaries vary by district, and have risen over time, but $40,000 was a typical starting salary in California as recently as the late 2000s.

      • Todd Maddison 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

        “I am having a hard time identifying “all the dollars that aren’t going to our children.” That would require a more finely detailed analysis than this, but I’ve done that analysis for my own school district so I can help you with that. In my district, since 2012 (passage of Prop 30 and also the earliest date that information on pay is available on Transparent California), our district has given themselves raises at a rate … Read More

        “I am having a hard time identifying “all the dollars that aren’t going to our children.”

        That would require a more finely detailed analysis than this, but I’ve done that analysis for my own school district so I can help you with that. In my district, since 2012 (passage of Prop 30 and also the earliest date that information on pay is available on Transparent California), our district has given themselves raises at a rate that annualizes to 7.63%. During that same time, “the rest of the U.S.” has – according to Social Security wage records – seen average increases of 2.36% per year.

        Using those numbers, if we assumed that our district was not giving itself raises at three times the rate that “everyone paying taxes to support that” was getting raises – in other words, we’re all equal – then Oceanside Unified would have an extra $6 million/year to use to fund things like smaller class sizes, special programs, supplies and maintenance, etc.

        And of course that ignores the pension costs. I haven’t done the math on that but given that in private industry the normal “employer contribution” to pension is 6.2% for Social Security plus (usually) a 3% match to a 401K plan, for a total of 9.2% – as opposed to the projected 19.1% – then our district would have an extra 10% of that expense, again to spend on things that actually benefit education for our kids. That number would be roughly $9 million/year, so combining the two gives us a total of about $15 million per year that could be spent on actual education, if district employees pay and benefits were simply held to match that of what everyone else gets.

        Does “spending more money on salaries” somehow result in better educational results? There are no studies that show a significant connection between that, and simply looking at the average pay numbers by state combined with their educational performance shows that there is indeed zero connection between high pay and success.

        “If you want fewer teachers, less effort, and faster attrition, then by all means, clamp teacher compensation.”

        Do you have data on this? As I understand it, there is currently a bit of teacher shortage going on, but yet the state Department of Education numbers show teacher pay is at an all time high – about $80,000/year – and has been rising at a rate that is, again, faster than that of the general public. That would seem to indicate that raising pay does – at best – nothing. I suspect the constant (somewhat false) drumbeat of “teachers are underpaid and disrespected” given to us by the industry has far more to do with discouraging people from going into teaching.

        “* Salaries vary by district, and have risen over time, but $40,000 was a typical starting salary in California as recently as the late 2000s.”

        And, as a matter of fact likely still is, unfortunately. In my district the starting pay in the last contract was $43,912/year. However note that this pay is negotiated by the union – it’s not dictated by the management – as part of their negotiated step-and-column schedule. If you look at that schedule, you see something curious – the average annual raises in the steps tend to be about 3% per year until you get to the last step, which is typically at least double that.

        If the Union wants to raise starting teacher pay they could do that very simply – reduce the final raise step to the normal average and give the savings to new teachers. Given that 6% of the typical nearly-$100,000 final salary is a lot of dollars, likely that could support increasing the new teacher starting pay to at least $50,000 or more per year.

        That is totally under the control of teachers and their Unions – if that’s important to you (which I think it should be), I suggest you start there.

        • Paul 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

          The worst recession since the Great Depression began in 2008. Of course wages grew afterward! You'd have to look back further than 2012 to determine a meaningful long-term growth rate. As it is, you choose to assail several years of post-recession gains without being willing to apply any offset for the years of stagnation (or outright decline, in some cases) that preceded them. Your California teachers versus all US Social Security participants comparison is also perfect, … Read More

          The worst recession since the Great Depression began in 2008. Of course wages grew afterward! You’d have to look back further than 2012 to determine a meaningful long-term growth rate. As it is, you choose to assail several years of post-recession gains without being willing to apply any offset for the years of stagnation (or outright decline, in some cases) that preceded them.

          Your California teachers versus all US Social Security participants comparison is also perfect, if one imagines that:

          – housing costs haven’t risen faster in California than in Nebraska (for example)

          – teachers’ wages should grow at the same rate as wages for retail, fast food and service workers (who are far more numerous)

          • Evelynn-Joy 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

            Paul, you are absolutely right! When the recession hit, Hemet Unified School Distrit employees took several hits to "keep individuals from getting pink slipped" for the children in our community. That meant that we took between 8% to 10% pay cut for several years. It was over five years before we got that pay back and saw any increases, let alone went back up to pre-recession pay. Our average … Read More

            Paul, you are absolutely right! When the recession hit, Hemet Unified School Distrit employees took several hits to “keep individuals from getting pink slipped” for the children in our community. That meant that we took between 8% to 10% pay cut for several years. It was over five years before we got that pay back and saw any increases, let alone went back up to pre-recession pay. Our average is 1.5% a year since the raises are generally 1% in July and 2% in Jan.

            I am one of the pre-2012 decision individuals and in the teaching profession – the air time purchase was less than 2%, I believe. And there was not a major influx in teachers buying “air time” just before the law went into effect. Since I contracted to purchase “air time” in 2008, to the tune of over $93,000 (second career individual who lost a large portion of my Social Security benefits due to entering the teaching field), that money has been going towards helping fund CalSTRS for myself and others instead of sitting in a personal retirement 401K plan, which I and many others are not financially competent to mange (as evidenced by this years constant downturns of the Dow Jones – with a personal lost around 6% this year in an 401K equivalent program). I am thankful to have a retirement plan that will cover around 60% of my salary when I retire, of which probably 20% will be going back into the general fund to help pay for the continuing education of our students.

          • Todd Maddison 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

            “The worst recession since the Great Depression began in 2008. Of course wages grew afterward!” Of course they did. So did the general public’s. Are you saying that the educational industry is somehow more deserving of wage gains than the people who pay their wages? Seems a bit elitist to me. As far as the choice of periods, I chose the same period for both. You’re welcome to do an analysis for longer periods if you’d like, … Read More

            “The worst recession since the Great Depression began in 2008. Of course wages grew afterward!”

            Of course they did. So did the general public’s. Are you saying that the educational industry is somehow more deserving of wage gains than the people who pay their wages?

            Seems a bit elitist to me.

            As far as the choice of periods, I chose the same period for both. You’re welcome to do an analysis for longer periods if you’d like, however that data is not available as far as I can tell.

            So … on one side we have one analysis supported by data and with math behind it, on the other speculation supported by no data or math. Readers can make their choice as to which carries more weight.

            Your point about comparison of wages is good. Comparing CA to the US IS certainly not ideal – it’s “better than nothing” but ideally one would indeed compare the growth of educational pay in CA to the overall growth of everyone’s wages in the state. Do you have data on that? I’d love to see it.

            Whether teachers’ wages should grow at the same wage as everyone else is a judgment call, not a fact. If you have a better benchmark, what is that?

            Meanwhile, you may want to note that nowhere have I focused on teachers as the sole source of financial difficulty. Matter of fact, if you read the original comment. you can see that I’ve pointed out that – in my district – teacher wage growth was significantly lower than administrator wage growth. Teachers certainly account for more of the gross dollars involved – there’s more of them – but from a percentage standpoint if teacher wage growth is excessive, administrative wage growth is ridiculous.

            In either case if we were simply talking about a business where they were choosing to pay their employees a certain amount based on what the company could support, I’d be with you – but we’re not. We’re in a situation where revenue is relatively fixed – by the state – so every single person in the educational business knows that every single dollar they give themselves removes that dollar from money available to provide services to the kids.

            That’s the problem. If people feel justified in giving themselves raises at rates exceeding the general public while letting class sizes grow, closing programs for special kids, and letting maintenance slip in their schools I’m fine with that – they have a right to their opinions.

            Just be honest and come out and say it.

            • Paul 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

              Wages change at different rates in different professions. It's basic economics, a matter of supply and demand. If you compared wage growth from the start of the recession (2008 or so) through today, for California teachers and other degreed (or better yet, degreed and licensed) professionals working in California, I'd be interested in your comparison. I would never ask you or anyone else in these forums to "come out and say" anything, but here are some … Read More

              Wages change at different rates in different professions. It’s basic economics, a matter of supply and demand. If you compared wage growth from the start of the recession (2008 or so) through today, for California teachers and other degreed (or better yet, degreed and licensed) professionals working in California, I’d be interested in your comparison.

              I would never ask you or anyone else in these forums to “come out and say” anything, but here are some questions for other readers to ask, as they evaluate your positions…

              – How could growth in the total teacher payroll be held to 2-3% per year? That would mean eliminating step increases (in other words, not paying teachers anything extra as they gained experience) or eliminating cost-of-living increases (where negotiated; most locals are lucky to wring out 1 or 2% a year these days).

              – Are teachers’ unions solely responsible for the typical district salary grid (which does make starting salaries very low, relative to salaries for the oldest teachers)? Do school district leaders — hired at double to triple a teacher’s salary, for the express purpose of leading, budgeting, negotiating, etc. — bear some responsibility for not trying to re-weight the grid and boost starting salaries? Wouldn’t a good leader know how to make a deal?

              – Is someone who “was running school districts at the time” likely to be a STRS member, receiving a pension based on the generous final salary of an administrator? Would it be fair for such a person to argue that STRS costs too much, and that future teachers deserve a less generous pension formula?

            • Todd Maddison 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

              “If you compared wage growth from the start of the recession (2008 or so) through today, for California teachers and other degreed (or better yet, degreed and licensed) professionals working in California, I’d be interested in your comparison.” Sorry, I’ve made my comparison. My opinion is that the educational system should not be giving itself raises at rates that exceed the rate of growth for everyone who pays their salaries. If you feel a … Read More

              “If you compared wage growth from the start of the recession (2008 or so) through today, for California teachers and other degreed (or better yet, degreed and licensed) professionals working in California, I’d be interested in your comparison.”

              Sorry, I’ve made my comparison. My opinion is that the educational system should not be giving itself raises at rates that exceed the rate of growth for everyone who pays their salaries. If you feel a different benchmark with a different set of data is valid I’m afraid it’s up to you to provide that data or analysis.

              Yes, holding teachers’ salaries to 2-3% per year would require a different approach. I would be fine with an approach similar to what “almost everyone else in the world” has, where they get annual reviews and raises based on performance. The “double-dipping” we see in education – where they have annual step-and-column increases but then layer another set of raises on top of that – is not something that happens for 90% of the rest of workers in the U.S., who “make do” with one annual raise, usually of 2-3%.

              Teachers unions are solely responsible for the salary grid. They design it, they propose it, they negotiate it. It’s the teachers union that votes on the final contract and the teachers union that signs the agreement. If they feel starting teachers should make more, they should propose a schedule that does that, in a way that keeps the net cost to the district for payroll the same. If you think an administration would reject that because they don’t want starting teachers to be paid more, that’s very unlikely.

              The pension problem could be easily solved by going to defined contribution. With that, the district’s cost would be clearly and easily seen, as a matching expense every year, with no off-loading of costs to future generations. I would be fine if that kind of program even included a more generous match than private industry – call it 6 or 9% instead of the usual 3 – but at least it would both fix their costs in time as well as have a system that would allow teachers to carry their retirement to new jobs with them, and even pass on anything left unused to their heirs.

        • el 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

          You make it sound like those pay raises were forced on the district. Your district could have chosen not to give raises and instead to hire more staff - with the caveat that the labor market might not support that, that (both in retaining existing staff and hiring new staff) and that the staff would have to be persuaded that that was a better way to spend the money. The reality is that in the 2008 … Read More

          You make it sound like those pay raises were forced on the district. Your district could have chosen not to give raises and instead to hire more staff – with the caveat that the labor market might not support that, that (both in retaining existing staff and hiring new staff) and that the staff would have to be persuaded that that was a better way to spend the money.

          The reality is that in the 2008 timeframe, not only were salaries flat and very arguably too low for the market to begin with, and that by the time Prop 30 came along, staff was aching for relief from significant pay cuts and stagnation.

          As for the “average $80,000 salary” – this varies substantially across the state, and of course also by the local mix of entry level and senior teachers. There are districts that don’t have any teachers making that much. For what it’s worth, in Oceanside you’d probably need two people earning that salary to be able to afford a median mortgage.