Should Teacher Salaries Be Increased?

Title:  Should Teacher Salaries Be Increased?

By  Fred Costello                                                                                     
Board Member At-large
Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
February 2, 2011


In its proposed 2012 school budget, the School Board’s top priority is to secure some form of pay increase for the employees of the Fairfax County Public Schools.  Dr. Dale’s proposed increase, if not offset, will cause an increase in real-estate tax of $200 per household.  The purpose of this report is to provide the background for possible pay increase.


The average-teacher salary is 88% of the average private-sector wage; however, the teacher works 82% of the days that the private-sector worker works.  A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that both teachers and other professionals work approximately 50 hours per week; therefore, teachers work the same 82% of the hours that the private-sector professional works.  The average-teacher total remuneration, which includes salary plus pension plus benefits, is 133% of the average private-sector worker’s total remuneration.


Increased teacher salaries might be justifiable if their productivity has increased or if the quality of education is increased.  Increases, if they occurred, are difficult to see in the data. Although the number of students has increased 7% from 2001 to 2009, the number of classroom teachers has increased 15%, as if productivity decreased.  This apparent decrease is partially offset by the increase in the number of disadvantaged students.


Teachers may need a higher salary to offset the recent increases in food and fuel costs, just as do non-teachers.  School superintendent Jack Vale has proposed a 3.6% increase in the school budget that includes a 2% increase in the teacher pay scales due to the cost-of-living (COLA) and another 2%, on average, due to teachers moving to the next step[1].  The CPI-U increased 4% over the last three years[2], during which time the teachers’ salaries remained the fixed; therefore, their standard of living has decreased.  The 3.6% increase corresponds to a $200 real-estate-tax increase per County household.  What benefits the teacher injures the taxpayer.  The injury can be avoided if (1) the retirement age is increased; (2) teacher pensions are modified; and/or (3) enough vacancies are left unfilled.  The retirement age would need to be increased two years if both the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) and Employee Retirement System of Fairfax Count (ERFC) are modified or six years if only the ERFC is modified.  If the ERFC pension is changed to a defined-contribution plan, with the County contributing 10%, the salary increase is more than offset.  If only 50% of the new vacancies are filled, the increase would be offset. 


The increase in real-estate tax could also be avoided if a new defined-contribution plan is made optional, so the teacher could choose between (a) the 4% salary increase with a switch to the defined-contribution plan for years starting in FY2012 (retaining the defined-benefit plan for years before FY2012), or (b) no salary increase while retaining the existing defined-benefit plan.


The complete report can be found as an Attachment.  It can be viewed by clicking on View after the report title below (under Attachments).


[1] See for school superintendent Jack Vale’s presentation.

[2] In the private sector, cost-of-living adjustments are usually considerably less than the cost-of-living (CPI-U) increase.


Fred Costello,
Feb 2, 2011, 7:28 AM