Enough is enough | SierraSun.com

Enough is enough

As teachers we understand there is a certain sacrifice we need to make to our community. But when is enough, enough?

The message sent to us from the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD) is they care about our “programs.” I believe teachers are the foundation of the “programs” offered in our district. The board does a great job of getting money to our “programs,” but they are unwilling to budget for teacher pay increases or cover our sky-rocketing insurance costs.

Teachers are faced with a 16.5 percent increase in medical insurance premiums for 2005/2006. That 16.5 percent increase is on our total premium, some of which is paid for by the district. The real impact is much greater than 16.5 percent on our out-of-pocket expense. I currently pay about $280 a month; but next year I will pay about $416 a month for the same medical plan.

I am one of the “fortunate” teachers because I will earn a 1 percent pay increase for step next year. The step relates to years of teaching experience. On our current pay scale, many teachers are frozen at certain steps and can not earn a 1 percent pay increase for three years; and our most experienced teachers will never get that step increase because they are frozen on the final step.

Teachers are also able to earn a 1 percent pay increase for moving over a column. Column refers to the educational experience a teacher has, which is basically credits earned by taking college courses. In order to move over a column, a teacher needs to earn 15 semester credits, the equivalent to a full time college load for one semester. Teachers are frozen on column increases when they have earned 90 credits above their B.A. or B.S. degree. This is the highest educational requirement for similar districts, offering the lowest pay once the maximum column is reached (Tahoe Truckee Education Association negotiation fact sheet). I am frozen on column and can no longer earn this 1 percent pay increase for any additional education.

For a teacher in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to earn a 2 percent pay increase under our current contract, they must not be frozen on step or column and take a full semester’s worth of college courses. There is no stipend or compensation awarded to teachers to help pay for the college courses to earn the column pay increase. Fifteen upper division college credits can run as much as $5,500.

When is enough, enough? It is time to adjust teacher pay so the pay is equivalent to similar districts. Compared to similar districts, we are the lowest paid teachers. I also believe our top district administrators should have a pay adjustment so they are in line with the teachers.

Currently, our top administrators are paid at the highest end of the spectrum, when compared to similar districts. Why is there such a discrepancy between teacher pay and top administrative pay?

In her guest column (“Two sides to teacher pay story” May 25, 2005), Cindy Gustafson, the president of the school board, stated that the top administrative adjustments only make up a very small percent of “the total allocated to teachers’ salaries.” So, it is fine to pay top administrators significantly more because there are fewer of them?

Let’s keep in mind that since the 1999/2000 school year, teachers’ salary increases have totaled 11.74 percent, while the superintendent increases have totaled 54.74 percent (TTEA negotiation fact sheet). Enough is enough!

Trent Kirschner is a teacher at Tahoe Truckee High School.

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