Pasco School Board members would be wise to ignore their state association's poorly conceived political cover as they ponder their wages for the coming year. Though board members are entitled to their indignation for being singled out by the state Legislature for a mandatory payroll adjustment, a decision to follow a consideration from the Florida School Boards Association would be an insult to 9,200 employees of the Pasco School District.
The staff, from part-time cafeteria crews to classroom teachers to top-level district administrators, has been under a wage freeze since the completion of a 2007 contract with the United School District Employees of Pasco. The 2008 contract forced workers to forfeit previously negotiated raises, based on years of experience, to help balance the district budget and to stave off potential job cuts. Negotiations for a new contract are ongoing, but the likelihood of a permanent salary bump is remote considering the multimillion-dollar cost increase for health insurance absorbed by the district. Instead, negotiations have focused on one-time bonus payments of several hundred dollars.
Which brings us to this morning's School Board meeting. The board must set its 2009-10 salary after the Legislature changed how the pay scale is calculated. The board must pick a salary tied to population as it has in past years, or it must adopt a salary equal to the pay of a beginning teacher, whichever amount is less.
Currently, the board is paid $37,714 annually. Based on population, the board salary would increase $24 to $37,738. Based on a first-year teacher's salary of $36,420, the board pay would be cut $1,294.
That there is even a question about which amount is lesser comes courtesy of the Florida School Boards Association, which recommended the board annualize a first-year's teacher pay to $45,525 when it considers its own wage. In other words, feel free to take the $24 raise instead of a nearly $1,300 cut because the teacher's contract is only for 196 workdays.
What bunk. The association apparently is unaware that for many teachers, the 39-week school year is based on six- and seven-day workweeks because of the volume of paperwork and planning time needed to do the job properly.
There is no way to rationalize accepting a salary increase, no matter how small, at the same time the district's employees face a potential second consecutive year of no step increases.
There should be no debate. The part-time Pasco School Board members should cut their salaries to the level of a first-year teacher.