Group claims Snohomish teacher salaries out of whack
SNOHOMISH — The Snohomish School Board heard a statement last week from a labor reform group regarding what it calls inequalities in teacher salaries in the school district.
According to the libertarian think tank the Freedom Foundation, Snohomish’s salary schedule is “regressive” in that it comparatively underpays and overpays certain teachers compared to state standards. Snohomish’s pay system abnormally reduces the wages of lower-paid teachers in order to increase the wages of higher-paid teachers, the Freedom Foundation argues.
The group is examining teacher pay statewide and found in Snohomish that approximately 274 teachers make less than the state standard and 217 teachers make more than the state standard.
The foundation’s appearance in Snohomish comes at a time when the school board is negotiating with the Snohomish Education Association teacher’s union over a new contract. The Freedom Foundation favors labor reform.
“I wanted to make you aware that you have a very deliberately regressive policy in general,” Jami Lund, a senior policy analyst from Freedom Foundation, told the school board. “You have folks that are gaining and losing in your salary schedule relative to what the state intended for them that make no sense whatsoever.”
The school board listened intently, looked through the information provided but there were no further comments by school officials at the meeting.
Snohomish School District spokeswoman Kristin Foley said post-meeting that the district does not plan to respond or take action on the findings.
Lund listed examples of alleged “winners and losers” whose salaries are affected.
A teacher with 12 years experience, a bachelors degree and 90 additional credits of professional development is penalized $658 on the salary schedule, while two other teachers with identical credentials receive a $213 bonus on the salary schedule because they have 13 years experience.
But, three other teachers with identical educations and 14 years experience each receive $1,122 less in pay than their counterparts with 13 years of experience.
“At best, (the salary schedule) is capricious,” Lund said. “I would ask you to consider avoiding the appearance of choosing winners and losers, either randomly or based upon some preference for some people and some dislike for others.”
A few weeks ago, the Freedom Foundation sent a mailer with its findings to more than 200 teachers it says are affected by the salary schedule.
It is unclear if teachers are apathetic to the issue.
Lund said in August that the foundation received very few responses to its letters, and nobody spoke up at the Aug. 13 school board meeting after the mailers went out.
The Freedom Foundation also held a get-together at the Snohomish Library an hour before the school board meeting. Both the nonprofit’s meeting and the school board meeting were sparsely attended, the Tribune observed.
The nonprofit initially examined Snohomish School District for a study they were conducting of school districts statewide.
Foundation leaders said they found Snohomish School District’s salary schedule adoption “unique” and that it “reflects the priorities of union officials to selectively enhance the wages of many older, well-paid teachers at the expense of younger, lower-paid teachers.”
The district currently ranks sixth in the state for having the most expensive teacher union dues, according to the Foundation.