Supplemental school levy would increase taxes to give school district employees bonuses and raises
This morning I was on a conference call with Our Schools Coalition and others to discuss Seattle’s new collective bargaining agreement with a national expert on these agreements, Ms. Emily Cohen of the National Council on Teacher Quality. Her written analysis is available here.
While Ms. Cohen indicated that Seattle’s new agreement is a step in the right direction, these steps appear to be very small ones. She said only 12% of Seattle’s teachers may be covered by the new teacher evaluations, that teachers will be measured for their ability to raise student learning against a relative, not absolute standard, and other problems. She also pointed out that only principals at the lowest-performing schools, 17 out of 91, will have new authority to refuse the forced placement of a displaced (presumably low-performing) teacher to their school, leaving principals at 74 schools unable to refuse the forced placement of these teachers.
Ms. Cohen’s comments and analysis make me skeptical that this agreement will raise teacher quality in the district.
The real issue is money. The leadership of the Seattle School District, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and members of the Seattle School Board, are seeking voter approval of a $48 million supplemental levy to fund increases in pay to teachers in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Ms. Cohen clearly stated that the important provisions in the new agreement are the new teacher evaluation and teacher assignment practices, not the bonuses.
Yet Steve Sundquist, Seattle School Board Director, said taxpayers must pass a supplemental levy to fund the agreement. He failed to mention that the district just received a $13.2 million federal TIF (Teacher Incentive Fund) grant to cover the cost of implementing the new teacher evaluation process and provide incentives for teachers to work in low-performing schools.
If approved, this tax increase will be borne by Seattle residents, 8.5% of whom are unemployed. The leadership in the district is completely out of touch with this reality when they ask Seattle residents to pay even higher taxes to increase teacher pay. Teachers in Seattle are the highest paid in the state, at an average pay of $70,850, plus benefits of 30%. And they are fully employed, having so far been protected from layoffs by millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds.