Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Problem with the Superintendent’s Salary and Bonus: An Insult to Teachers

The problem with the Superintendent’s salary and bonus: NOTE: this is not a math lesson (though I think the math is accurate), so if I am wrong about the numbers, please let me know. 

TUSD teacher base pay in 2016-17 is $35,700.[1]  With ten years of experience, a teacher makes $40,700—or just over 10% more than a first-year teacher.[2]  Teachers may receive a stipend of $2,000 for a master’s degree, and $3,000 for a doctoral degree, and all teachers can get performance pay of $650 minimum each year (varies each year).[3]  In 2013, teacher base salary was: $33, 948.80 (so 1st-year teachers make about 5% more in 2016, after three years).[4]  A teacher hired as a first-year teacher in 2013 would make $37,200 in 2016-17 (about 10% more in three years).[5]

The Superintendent’s base pay rose from $210,000 in 2013 to $260,000 in 2016,[6] which represents an increase of more than 20%, and the Superintendent collects more than just his base salary.  In June of 2016, he got a bonus of 50% of his $210,000 base salary ($105,000).[7]  Each year, he also received $25,000 of incentive pay added to his base salary.[8]  So he made (far) more than $360,000 in June 2016.[9]  As such, his salary has doubled, while teacher salaries . . . have not.  And we cannot forget that the Superintendent has myriad deputies and assistants who are all, presumably, highly compensated.  If money talks, then TUSD believes administrators are more important than teachers.

But the research shows that not only are administrators not as important as teachers, teachers are actually the single most important factor in raising student achievement rates.[10]  So have TUSD leaders not read the research?  Have they chosen to ignore it?  Do they have an interest in raising student achievement scores?  Do they realize that TUSD student achievement scores have not improved for a long, long time?  Have they visited: and seen the following graphs?

Current TUSD funding priorities, as evidenced by this discussion of TUSD’s salary decisions, are contrary to raising student achievement levels.  In addition to providing proof that teachers are the most important determiner of student achievement, scientific research from California shows that spending on teacher and instruction has a positive effect on student performance—whereas spending on administration has no (or even a negative) effect on student achievement.[11]  TUSD data supports that notion.  It is time for TUSD to change; researchers found that “reallocating $100 from non-teaching to teaching increases the average tenth grade math score by 0.4 points.”[12]  We can start by reallocating about 50% of the Superintendent’s salary to raising student achievement levels.  People are constantly reminding me, after all, of the low cost of living in Tucson—what could Sanchez possibly need so much money for?

If the ultimate goal of a school district is to raise student achievement rates, funding should be allocated, first and foremost, to that which raises student achievement levels: teachers and classroom materials.  Second, leaders should figure out how to lower administrative costs and, third (or fourth or . . . last), they should allocate resources to covering those administrative costs. 

TUSD has been very generous with the Superintendent—they gave him over $100,000 simply for staying in TUSD for three years.  Yet teachers who have been in the District for decades are expected to jump with excitement at a $700-dollar raise.  The fact that TUSD leaders continue to tout the raise as a major benefit to teachers is . . . well . . . twisted.  The assertion makes it difficult (for me, at least) to accept that TUSD values teachers, despite the research asserting that teachers are the single most important factor for improving student achievement.

[1] TEA Consensus Agreement for 2016-17,
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.; TEA Consensus Agreement for 2013-14,
[5] TEA Consensus Agreement for 2016-17, supra at note 1.
[6] Superintendent’s 2015 contract,
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.
[10] Michael Barber & Mona Mourshed, How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out On Top, McKinsey & Co. (2007),
[11] Kelly Bedard & William O. Brown, The Allocation of Public School Expenditures, Claremont Colleges: Working Papers in Economics 1(August 2000),
[12] Id. at 10.

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