Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 1, 2013

Palo Alto teachers seek pay raise

Citing increased living costs, responsibilities, teachers say it's a matter of 'basic decency'

by Chris Kenrick

As Palo Alto schools cheer a surplus for the first time in years, teachers are asking for a pay raise.

Dozens of teachers crowded the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, Feb. 26, to say that the Bay Area cost of living has gone up nearly 8 percent since their last raise in 2008.

"Society keeps score by the almighty dollar, and we've failed to score a run," Gunn High School computer science teacher Josh Paley told the board.

"I'm really tired of being told I'm not worth it."

The average Palo Alto teacher salary is $85,721, ranking fifth among nine nearby districts, according to a comparison published in February by EdData.

The last pay raise for Palo Alto's 800-plus teaching staff was a 2.5 percent increase in 2008. On Jan. 15 of this year, the board approved a one-time bonus for faculty and staff amounting to 1 percent of 2011-12 pay.

Teachers said their salaries have been further eroded in recent years because of union contracts that boosted employees' share of health care costs.

"The salary increase we propose is less than the cost-of-living increase we face," Palo Alto Educators Association President Teri Baldwin said.

"This area is very expensive, and it's hard for teachers to live here," she said, noting that few can afford to live in Palo Alto.

"When I grew up in Urbana, Ill., teachers didn't make top dollar, but they could live in the community. Now, the overwhelming majority drive in from out of town," Paley said.

Paley said the only reason he can afford a house is because of his previous work in high technology and his wife's current job in tech.

"There's no way I'd tell a young person to plan on a career in teaching. There's a principle of basic decency I feel is being violated," he said.

Additionally, teachers also cited increased class sizes as well as new responsibilities associated with district efforts to include students with more severe disabilities in regular classrooms.

"We're going to be having full inclusion of very, very special-needs students in our classrooms with very, very little support from the administration," Escondido Elementary School teacher Elena Melendez said.

The teachers' testimony came as the school board discussed a financial outlook that is the best in years, due to higher-than-budgeted property-tax receipts and passage of California Proposition 30 tax hikes in November.

The school district's original $162 million operating budget for 2012-13, passed last June, included a $5.5 million deficit. But February 2013 property-tax estimates were $4.4 million higher than budgeted and passage of Proposition 30 eliminated the potential for $5.4 million in state funding cuts, according to the school district's Chief Business Official Cathy Mak.

Mak cautioned that increasing enrollment still means that per-student funding is 2 percent less than it was in 2008-09.

She also warned of likely increases of up to 1.5 percent in rates charged by the California State Teachers Retirement System to fund pensions.

She proposed restoration of about $2.6 million worth of the $10 million cuts made in recent years, to be allocated to teacher staffing, counseling, technology support and professional development as well as restoration of cuts made to principals' budgets and the possible hiring of a communications officer for the school district.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:10 am

They aren't asking for much, it has been 5 years, and the district has the money. Just give it to them.


Posted by Not so bad, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Some of us haven't had a raise since the recession of 2001!


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm

This is not the business of the public.


Posted by Not so bad, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

If they need more money, they can get a Su mer job and work year-round like everyone else.


Posted by Joseph Stiglitz, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

"When I grew up in Urbana, Ill., teachers didn't make top dollar, but they could live in the community. Now, the overwhelming majority drive in from out of town," Paley said.

Paley said the only reason he can afford a house is because of his previous work in high technology and his wife's current job in tech.

"There's no way I'd tell a young person to plan on a career in teaching. There's a principle of basic decency I feel is being violated," he said.


Hi Mr. Paley:

Well I know you don't teach geography so first of all I wanted to let you know that this is not Urbana, Illinois. Urbana sure is a nice place to live, with the University of Illinois and all -- Go Illini! But it's not Palo Alto and Illinois is not Stanford. Next time you go home to visit your parents, take a look at all that soybeans and corn and ask yourself, hey, where's facebook? Where's the bright center of the Universe? Where's the engine of economic prosperity? Is it here, hiding under this haystack? Nope. It's not. And where's Mark Zuckerberg's house and Sergey Brin's house? Don't they have hog farms around here somewhere? No, they do not.

And that's why teachers can afford to live in Urbana, and not Palo Alto. There's not really any way that PAUSD can afford to all its teachers a high enough salary to allow them to live in Palo Alto. We already pay Dr. Skelly a ton plus an interest free 2 million dollar mortgage. He's not worth it, by the way. And neither are you. Sorry to be so blunt but that's the bad news. The good news is, it's a silly thing to want and we do let you send your kids here even though other people with similar education and experience to you holding similar occupations who also work in the city like nurses and policemen and firemen can't. And they can't afford to live here either. That's because you decided to be a teacher instead of invent facebook or get a Nobel in physics. If you have a complaint about "a basic principle of decency" related to the compensation structure for the organization of work and occupations in the United States, I am pretty sure that the PAEA is not the bureau to handle that complaint.

It doesn't really take a Nobel in economics to figure this out.

Sincerely,

Joe


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

The nasty comments here are not what teachers deserve.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Work all year, get paid like other professionals.


Posted by about Illini, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Someone needs to check out Wikipedia - there is a lengthy list of accomplished alumni from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
A few examples: Marc Andreesen/Netscape, Jerry Sanders/AMD, Steve Chen/YouTube, Jack Kilby/the IC, Thomas Siebel/Siebel Systems and the professor (or emeritus professor?) who invented the LED and commercialized it....whether there are fields thereabout, there are also many thousands of accomplished persons.


Posted by And then. . ., a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm

They graduated and left Urvana Champaign. Often for Silicon Valley where they became fabulously successful. And that is why it costs more to live here than there. Do teachers at our high school really not understand the concept of the market and why a house costs more in Palo Alto than in Urbana? Frankly teacher making this point as a reason we should pay them more is making a self refuting argument. If you dot understand such a basic idea of economics how is it that I should pay you more to teach my child?


Posted by Susan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:53 am

First, summers should be spent working. An $85,000 school year salary is equivalent to approximately a $100,000 full year salary. Second, most people do not get pensions in this day and age. Eliminate your pension, and then a serious increase would be fair.


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