Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fair and Competitive Compensation for all Classes of Employment

It is very important for the Board of Directors that they find the balance and flexibility needed to ensure competitive salaries not only for our professional teaching faculty, but for our professional employees across all sectors and classifications in our school district.

It is within that context you may have heard rumors the school board is considering a change to the compensation structure that is used for the teaching staff. That is a true; but what isn't true is that teacher wages are being cut in any way. In fact, every teacher that is currently a member of the Hudson faculty will see an increase in their take home pay next year. The size of that increase is where the debate lies. Indeed, these are complex and emotional issues! In order to fully understand those issues, it is important to understand where this is coming from, why the Board feels it is necessary, how teacher compensation is determined, and how our faculty stack up against peers in similar institutions.

For starters, this isn't a new idea being proposed by the Board. It predates me, and I can recall a great deal of energy being expended on this concept early in my tenure here at Hudson. Nonetheless, it really began to gain traction about a year ago when the Board of Directors instructed me to evaluate and recommend a change to our teacher salary schedule. Our current teacher salary schedule is an indexed matrix that increases at an annual rate of 4%. Quite simply stated, this means a teacher on the schedule will receive an automatic 4% pay increase with the start of a new school year. That 4% by the way, is prior to any base salary maintenance. So when the base wage is adjusted upward, because of the index, it compounds the 4% salary increase. Depending on how much the base wage is increased, it increases many teachers' salaries much greater than 4%. Because of the current realities we are experiencing with annual increases to the state cost per pupil, proposed tax reform legislation in excess of $1 billion a year, and other proposed legislative changes, it has become apparent to the Board our current index is unsustainable over the long term.

Think about this; when the legislature finalized the growth in cost per pupil at 1%, that equated to  a $33,940 increase in revenue for our school district. Under our current system, to advance teachers one vertical step on the salary schedule comes with a price tag of $80,466. This is before we increase the base wage even $1. Nevertheless, we will annually invest approximately $180,000 for increases in employee compensation. Yet under the system we have been using, the lions share of that investment has been used for teacher wages. The natural effect of that strategy has been the depression of wages for other classifications of employment. 

The Board has a multi-pronged strategy for employee compensation that includes comparable, competitive, and sustainable wages for all employees. It is within that frame of reference changes are being studied. As a start, the Board is prepared to make a similar investment in employee compensation for the 2018-2019 school year. If we use a $180,000 investment as a benchmark, it simply means the division of that investment will look different.

Keep in mind, the Board is committed to competitive and comparable wages: for all employees. This makes an analysis of pay from our talent competitors a very valuable exercise. As you will recall from my post Compensating Teachers, the average Hudson teacher will earn $54,410; whereas the average salary for a teacher in our peer group is $50,263. When considering total compensation, the average teacher at Hudson will earn $76,967; and the average amongst the peer group is $67,255. For a detailed look at these analyses, click here; or here to see how our pay compares in the Metropolitan area. On the other hand, when considering our classified groups of employees, an entirely different compensation picture emerges when comparing averages:

Making a change to the teacher compensation system is a very difficult needle to thread. Ensuring all employees are held harmless and see a raise in pay is challenging when working with an index. Over the course of the last year, multiple models have been built, tested, and discarded. At this time, a prototype exists that meets the Board's objective(s) of sustainability, flexibility, and competitiveness. Instead of an automatic 4% annual increase, this model starts with a 2% automatic increase. When coupled with base maintenance, teachers on the salary schedule will see an increase in pay exceeding 2%. You can view a draft model of this index by clicking right here.

The Board believes this model is reasonable and appropriate when considering legislative proposals and variables that are well beyond the scope and control of the school district. They believe this model will give them the flexibility needed to ensure competitive salaries not only for our professional faculty, but for our professional employees across all sectors of classification.

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