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How will school salary cuts play out?

posted Jun 8, 2011, 7:59 AM by Wade King PTA Drive

June 7, 2011

Short answer to the salary question: It will vary among districts. Any loss in take-home pay will depend on local contracts, local resources and how much of the staff is hired using local funds. The cut is to an allocation. Actual reductions in take-home pay may range between 3 percent (for principals) and none.

The answer will also vary among individuals. Details (and there are many!) are below.

If I just need to know 2 things:

1.      Yes, districts can “make up” for cuts by supplementing with local funds, though there are some restrictions. (For teachers, extra pay is supposed to be linked to extra responsibility, time or initiative.) PLEASE NOTE: About 80 percent of school budgets go to salaries and benefits, so that doesn’t leave much wiggle room to accommodate cuts elsewhere, and districts are also struggling to offset huge cuts to direct instructional support for children. Collectively they lost $860 million in student achievement/I-728 funds, and another $215 million in K-4 class-size reduction funds. The salary reductions, in comparison, tally up to $179 million.

2.      No, school days cannot be cut. That doesn’t mean non-classroom staff can’t take furlough days. And it doesn’t mean classroom staff can’t take a furlough day in place of “extra” time they may be compensated for. (Many classroom teachers are paid for working days in addition to the 180 days in the school year. These can range from a couple to a lot. All depends.) PLEASE NOTE: The legislature considered bills to allow cutting short the school year, but failed to act on them. (Washington State PTA opposes cutting instructional time for kids; there are other ways to balance the budget.)

So, what was cut?

The state is reducing its portion of salaries by:

·         1.9 percent for certificated instructional staff – teachers, librarians, etc. 

·         1.9 percent for classified employees. These are support personnel; they can vary from the bus driver to the accountant, to the human resources director (and in some small districts, that might be the same person!)

·         3 percent for certificated administrative staff. Mostly, these are your principals.

Why the variance? The thinking was state employees all accepted a 3 percent cut, so the state should cut all salary allocations by 3 percent. It was pointed out that some school staffers already took cuts over the years that state employees did not, so legislators compromised at 1.9 percent. Previously, teachers lost some state-paid professional development days (which some districts then paid for with local funds); classified personnel have seen their hours cut as districts moved to preserve core classroom staffing.

Why will cuts vary among districts?

Some districts will have the resources to offset state cuts with local funding. But mainly, the cuts will vary because the allocation will be distributed differently.  The cut is to what the state covers. Those of us who are levy veterans know MANY staffers are hired with local funds.

·         Districts that ONLY have basic education staffing levels will see 1.9 percent and 3 percent cuts to the base allocation.

·         Districts that exceed those staffing levels will be able to redistribute the cuts among a larger pool of staffers. On average, one out of four teachers is paid for with local funds. That ratio is higher in districts like Seattle, where local funds make up about 40 percent of the budget.

Why will cuts vary among individuals?

·         Teachers get what are called “step” increases for years worked and additional education. A teacher who just got his or her masters, for instance, will get a nice increase.

·         Other teachers are nationally board certified and will get a bonus for that. If they are newly national certified, they will see a nice increase.

·         Other employees, such as classified staff, may not see a cut if their pay is already too low. Districts can’t pay less than state minimum wage.


There will be teachers who won’t see a cut in pay, just a smaller increase. Other teachers, those beyond the steps, who are not newly national certified and whose districts do not supplement the state’s base pay, may see 1.9 percent less. For the average teacher salary that would be $1,000. But there are many variables and you shouldn’t assume the average actual cut will be $1,000.

Can districts make up for the cuts?

Maybe. Most salaries are covered by a mix of state and local funds. The state covers what is called “base pay”; districts can supplement with what is called “TRI pay.” Districts could increase TRI pay for additional time, responsibility and initiative. Or, if teachers would rather work less for less pay, they could theoretically furlough a “TRI” day. It all depends on the contract and what the parties agree to.

Can districts still lay off employees?

Yes. As far as state law, June 15 is the cutoff. Normally it is May 15, but the late budget pushed the date back. HOWEVER (nothing is simple) individual teacher contracts need to be reviewed to see if they allow for the June 15 extension. Some older contracts may have outdated RIF language.

Do all contracts have to be reopened?

Not necessarily. Roughly a third are up for negotiation anyway. Roughly another third have what are called “pass through” clauses, so any reduction from the state automatically becomes part of the contract. The remaining have what are called “triggers” – any change means they need to renegotiate terms.

It is strongly advised (by lawyers and the respective professional associations) that all districts review and discuss the changes with their staff members, even if they have a pass-through clause. Districts have both collective agreements and individual contracts and they all need to align.

Plus, good working relationships rely on great communication.

How much was cut, in all, from K-12?

Not including pensions, K-12 education took a $1.7 billion hit.

That means, if current programs, staffing levels and various commitments were maintained at current levels, and planned cost of living increases went through, and I-728 was funded, and EVERYTHING (but pensions) were funded, K-12 would have $1.7 billion more.

Remember: Some of that money would go to state-level services, so not all the cuts are being pushed down to school districts. But most of it would directly benefit children, and all of it affects the quality and quantity of instruction.

MCCLEARY UPDATE: For those interested, the school funding lawsuit comes before the state supreme court on June 28, at 1:30 p.m. TVW will televise. Or go watch live, and bring the kids. Each side gets 20-30 minutes for arguments.