To Lay Off Teachers or Cut Pay? Report Outlines the Tradeoffs for Districts

By Debra Viadero — August 03, 2009 1 min read
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Looking for a way to cut school-district costs without laying off teachers or reducing class sizes? The University of Washington’s Marguerite Roza has an idea for you: roll back teacher salaries.

In a policy brief published last week, Roza notes that 93 percent of school districts across the country use a fixed salary schedule, plus a step increase, to calculate teachers’ wages. When you put the two increases together, Roza calculates, the total will bump up average teacher salaries in those districts by an average of 6.03 percent this year. That’s a good chunk of money at a time when many employees in the public and private sector are losing their jobs or swallowing pay cuts and benefit reductions.

Suppose, for instance, that a district had to make a 5 percent reduction in teacher expenditures. One way it could achieve that kind of reduction might be through laying off an average of 143 of every 1,000 teachers, which would lead to an average 17-percent increase in class sizes. But, if school officials let the annual step increase go forward and then rolled back the entire salary schedule for teachers by 8.16 percent, Roza calculates, they might be able to meet the 5 percent target without laying off teachers or boosting class sizes.

Roza’s strategy won’t work everywhere, but it’s worth a look. Her brief, “The Tradeoff Between Teachers Wages and Layoffs to Meet Budget Cuts,” was posted online last week by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University’s Bothell campus.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.