NASELLE — Under a plan negotiated by members of the Washington Senate and House, certificated and classified employees of public schools in our state will see a 1.9 percent pay cut in addition to forgoing a cost-of-living increase in pay. However, “step” increases, which are raises given to teachers for experience and added college credits, will be retained. Administrative staff and Naselle Youth Camp counselors will see their pay reduced by 3 percent.

Despite the pay cut that aims to trim $179 million out of a $5 billion shortfall through 2013, the deal calls for the 180-day school year requirement to remain in place, as lawmakers were worried about constitutional challenges if the school year were shortened.

The average teacher state-wide will lose about $1,000 in pay per year or the equivalent of 3.5 days of work. Those teachers who move up on the “step” salary schedule or who obtain more education will not experience pay cuts, but will not be getting as much increase as they would have received before the Legislature’s belt-tightening move.

“It is unfortunate, with all the cuts to education that additional revenues needed to be found in reducing teacher and administrative salaries. All staff in the Naselle School District work well beyond the required number of paid days already.  We are currently reviewing the Legislative budget and weighing the implications it has on our school district,” said Naselle Superintendent Rick Pass. “We will work closely with the entire staff and determine a resolution that meets the needs of our students, employees, and the district as a whole.”

“I personally would have preferred the Legislature cut days instead of pay. That would have allowed me to work an extra three and a half days some other place to make up for the cut. Our cost of living increases have also been stopped. The Washington Education Association recommended cutting days and not pay, but the Legislature ignored the union,” veteran Naselle teacher Rudy Rudolph said.

“I am worried, puzzled, resentful, sad, and demoralized, but too busy doing my job with the fabulous students to really process it all. Because it is a pay cut, with no change in time required, we in effect, are being told we must work without pay for three and a half days. When’s the last time your employer demanded you work without pay? Teachers daycare providers, the gas tank, the grocery store, the PUD expect to be paid. Health care premiums are skyrocketing. Our student loans still need to be paid back,” Ocean Beach Education Association co-president Miki Frace stated.   

“The state made a mess and our local education community is left to deal with it. All of our district, administration, board, teachers and certified staff have been handed a problem not of our making. The Ocean Beach School District and community are very supportive by building new schools, passing levies, the OB Education Foundation, WellSpring, community volunteers, and more; and yet we are in this awful position. I resent that the state did this and left us all to deal with it,” Frace said.

“I understand that we need to make sacrifices to help balance the budget, but I wonder why some state workers are cut and some are not. Why aren’t we all being cut?” Naselle teacher Brian Macy asked. Several classified school staff members (bus drivers, cooks, maintenance, secretaries, teacher aides, etc.) were confused as to what may happen, but relieved that they were included in the 1.9 percent drop in pay and not the 3 percent as originally proposed. Others had heard that those making less than $30,000 per year would not be cut at all.

Counselors at the Naselle Youth Camp, after working diligently with a stellar performance record to keep the facility open, had been slammed with seven days of furlough last year. During that time they could theoretically find work elsewhere, but obtaining a job where one works seven days on a sporadic schedule was difficult.

Now the furlough days will be returned to the counselors, but their pay will be cut 3 percent. Some said that the pay cuts had an understandable negative effect on employee morale. Others pointed out that gas prices were again climbing to near the $4 per gallon mark and the general consensus was that everyone was cutting back in some manner.

Considering Washington’s major source of revenue is through taxes on sales of goods and services, cutting back on consumption will only continue the state’s downward economic spiral. With unemployment in Pacific County already at 12.9 percent and those working in the largest sectors all receiving pay cuts; the future could be even more negative.

“Ocean Beach schools have some classified employees who are paid hourly and there may other details to work out, but we will try to do the best for our staff and still meet the Legislature’s directive,” Superintendent Boyd Keyser said. Both the new Ocean Beach Superintendent and Superintendent Pass’s salaries will be cut 3 percent, as will all K-12 administrators in Washington.

Beginning teachers make $34,035 with no extra college credits on the state salary schedule. Teachers increase their pay in each of the first 15 years of service as they gain a year’s experience and they can also increase their pay for every 15 college credits they earn. The top pay for a teacher with 16 or more years of experience and a Ph.D. or master’s degree plus 90 college credits is $64,174. The Washington teacher’s salary schedule for 2010-11 is at www.tinyurl.com/2s2rfd.

“It will be harder to attract and keep quality teachers if the state keeps cutting pay and while the workload stays the same. Young people will see this and opt for another field, especially with increasing tuition costs and larger student loans to pay off,” one local veteran teacher said. “Of course this is better than laying off people.”

Teachers often earn additional pay by coaching or advising extracurricular activities. Vocational teachers are among those who may also receive more pay for work done during the summer months. In most cases the extra college credits earned to move laterally on the state salary schedule is at the educator’s expense in both time and money. 

School districts may offer options such as incentive pay for additional time worked or added responsibilities. The school day could be shortened in some districts and the other option is to have no additional compensation or change in the current work day. 

About 90 percent ($4.5 billion) of the $5 billion state budget shortfall is addressed through cuts to public services including, but are not limited to, the following:

• Reductions to the Basic Health Plan for low-income, working adults ($129 million)

• Elimination of cash assistance for people who cannot work due to a disability, but do not qualify for federal Social Security Insurance. These individuals will instead be referred for a housing and essential needs benefit ($179 million)

• Salary reductions for K-12 employees: 1.9 percent for teachers and other staff, 3 percent for administrative positions ($179 million)

• Reductions to colleges and universities; increased tuition at four-year institutions expected to range from 11 to 16 percent ($618 million in cuts)

• Hours of care for seniors and people with developmental disabilities is reduced by 10 percent ($97 million) 

The remaining 10 percent of the budget solution ($459 million) consists of fund transfers. Since the recession began, lawmakers have made approximately $5.5 billion in cuts. The plan to make an additional $4.5 billion in reductions will directly impact children, seniors, students, low-income families, and people with disabilities.

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