Monday, November 5, 2007

Budget Shortfalls and Teacher Salary Reclassifications


The Public School System’s Commissioner for Education, David M. Borja, has said recently that due to budget shortfalls, the Board of Education must take action and PSS will have to reclassify teachers’ salary schedules. To put it simply, what he’s saying is that PSS cannot pay teachers what it’s supposed to pay them.

Before I share my opinion on this, it helps to understand the history behind this issue.

In compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, the BOE and PSS adopted a new salary schedule that is commensurate to a teacher’s education, experience, and performance on the Praxis. PSS had to take this approach to ensure compliance with NCLB’s requirement for highly qualified teachers (HQTs). Otherwise, PSS would not have been able to continue receiving federal funding from NCLB.

Many of you will recall the controversy that emerged when the BOE and PSS implemented these new standards for teachers. Many teachers suffered a pay cut and some teachers even lost their jobs. However, overall, the drive to have highly qualified teachers in classrooms has been good for our schools and good for our students.

Now, because the governor’s office is proposing only 75% of the original budget request from PSS, and because the entire government remains on a continuing resolution budget, PSS does not have enough money to pay teachers who have acquired HQT status. This budget quagmire is exacerbated by the overcrowding and understaffing in public schools.

So, what’s my opinion on this? I think it is unprofessional, unethical, and unfair to have encouraged teachers to spend money and time in acquiring HQT status, and then deprive them of the very incentive you promised they would get. It also strikes me as rather irresponsible for the commissioner to discuss this possibility openly with the public without first discussing it with the board. The media is the wrong venue to bring such matters before the board.

What, then, should be done? First, the governor’s office should return the money it “borrowed” from PSS. Second, the governor’s office should reinstate the original budget and budget request of PSS. If the governor’s office refuses to do either, then it should reimburse the federal government for NCLB funds that PSS has received because refusing to pay for highly qualified teachers is equivalent to reneging on NCLB.

Third, assuming that the governor’s office will do nothing, the board should work with the legislature to reinstate its original budget request and to secure an emergency appropriation. However, this will be difficult to do with a lame duck legislature. Hopefully, members of that lame duck legislature will have enough of a commitment to the public that they will use their remaining time to help PSS. After all, without reelection worries looming over their heads, perhaps now they can make some bold decisions that may be politically unpopular.

Fourth and last (for now), assuming both the governor’s office AND the legislature do nothing, PSS has no choice but to look internally at what its options are. PSS and the BOE made a commitment to have highly qualified teachers and pay them as such. Now it’s time to live up to that commitment. I know that there may be nothing left to cut, but something must be done now before we lose good teachers or before a lawsuit is laid against the school system, a lawsuit that would sap even more cash from a cash-strapped system. And as I’ve said before, mitigation is so much more affordable, and preferred, than litigation.

12 comments:

Boni said...

This discussion needs to have the input of teachers and administrators. I have very personal views on this, being affected. The day I got my evaluation, the very day my papers were ok'd, was the day I was told, "congratulations for fulfilling all the requirements we've set for you, however, you will not be compensated for it." My thoughts? I invested in my professional growth. I didn't lose anything other than a much deserved reclassification. My entire family sacrificed for my becoming Highly Qualified. The PSS also invested in me, so I will continue to work with the system's best interest in mind. This is still a job I would volunteer for Galvin, regardless of a reclassification, but the Board and the system need to know that it affects morale and it puts people in a position of animosity. There is a severe problem of inequality now, numbers of professionals working for the same pay with very different levels of qualification. It needs addressing and soon.

Galvin Deleon Guerrero said...

Amen.

David said...

A few fleeting thoughts:

It's too bad that the governor's office is playing the game of "better to ask forgiveness than permission" with teachers' compensation packages.

Perhaps if some brave legislators could float the idea of paying the governor at the same scale as teachers, and with the same compensatory "delays", you might see a different approach to the obvious devaluation of "highly qualified" teachers.

Oh, who am I kidding? Everyone knows there's no such thing as a "highly qualified" governor. Of course he wouldn't sit down and take less pay for more accountability!

Perhaps teachers should teach as much as they are paid (that is, if they are paid at 90% of their promised salary, then they teach 90% of the school day).

Otherwise, governments and other agencies will continue to take advantage of the good will and intentions of teachers who admittedly would work for less pay ("for the kids").

I'm all for mitigation, as you say, Galvin. But why show up to a baseball game with a wiffle bat? The governor is obviously playing with a corked bat as it is.

Anthony said...

Galvin,

Great post. I watched while Boni dragged herself to night and weekend classes to obtain the BOE-required administrators certification. After completing the classes and putting the tuition and fees on our credit card, Boni was recently told there was no money for her salary reclassification, which in January 2008 will equate to a $10,000 raise. Due to these additional classes, she is now one class shy of a second masters degree.

Currently, education is not leading to dreams, but to debt.

Congratulations on your overwhelming victory and please keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...
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Jeff said...

Are your blogging days over now that the campaign is over?

Galvin Deleon Guerrero said...

No they're not. My apologies. There are two main reasons I have not blogged recently. One, I get very busy right around the holidays, which was made busier recently by my Marriage Encounter weekend. Two, I just received a bunch of orientation materials for PSS and wanted to do a little bit of homework before writing the next blog.

But I promise I'll be back by next week!

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Merry Christmas, Galvin

decolonize me said...

Galvin,

Are you out of the blogging business?

Or, as Ferris Bueller didn't quite say:

"Blogs move pretty fast. If you don't stop and update once in a while, you could miss it."

Saipan Writer said...

Coming out of lurkdom to encourage another blog post.

topics:
1) the fact that we've already lost some good teachers in the public schools. Stopping the out flow, plugging the holes.

2) the morale problems at various schools--using one strategy for all schools? or looking for individual solutions that fit particular needs?

3) getting heard at the legislative ground-level. (or why did the House appropriate $500,000 for casinos in Rota when PSS needs the money far more, and with better purpose?)

or whatever you want to blog about!

Betty said...

Hi Galvin,
Heard about delurking, so wanted you to know it's my first visit to your page. Interesting points. You bring a fresh perspective to the BOE, congratulations!

local teacher said...

please keep blogging. we need to hear from you.