OUSD Board Meeting November 14th 2017 Notes

So… I attended this meeting and presented at least a bit of my pay and benefit analysis.  Impossible to do thoroughly in 3 minutes of course, but at least a little bit of it got done.

Below is a summary of what I took away from the meeting…

Admin’s Position

From the Admin side we saw a presentation from a consultant hired by the district to analyze the funding.

I’m totally in agreement with the conclusion that we need to keep a close eye on the budget, if nothing else to avoid being “taken over” by the state.

That report is a part of the meeting agenda, but I’ve got it separated out here in case anyone wants to read the whole thing – which I strongly recommend if you want to have an opinion on the issue.

Things I heard that seem questionable….

1) “Revenue projections….” OTA raises perfectly legitimate questions about this, pointing out “they’ve always been wrong in the past”.

I don’t have an history of “projections vs. actuals” over time, but if we look at last year’s “adopted” vs. “unaudited actuals” (the most recent data), we see in June 2016 the projection was for total LCFF revenue of $164M (page 2-1) and the final LCFF revenue was $163M (page 1-1). So LCFF funding came in at about a million dollars lower than projected.

Overall revenue was projected at $210M and came in at $217M, so that’s $7M in additional revenue – higher than projected.

OUSD budget docs can be found here.

So… the current analysis by School Services of California is based on the District’s current projection of assumes LCFF revenue of $172M for 2017-18, and given this projection they project a $12M deficit for this year, requiring we tap into the reserve to fund that.

If we assume they’re wrong in the same way they were wrong last year in LCFF funds (projecting $1M more than they got), the actual deficit will be $13M.

If we assume they’re wrong in the same way they were wrong last year on total revenue (projecting $7M less than they got), the actual deficit will be $5M.

If we take the “rosy” assumption, a deficit of $5M would reduce our reserve fund from $22.7M to $17M, which would not exactly be a crises.

2) “Teachers are paid comparable to others in the area”. This is questionable simply because some of the districts used as examples of “districts that pay less” are districts that also likely have a bit lower cost of living – Ramona, Bonsall, and Mountain Empire, for example.

On there are also districts that have a lower cost of living that are already higher paid than Oceanside – Lake Elsinore? Hemet? If we factored in “cost of living” and adjusted for that I suspect some of the districts currently ranked as paying less than Oceanside would move up the scale, quite likely overtaking OUSD and dropping the pay scale down a few notches.

Certificated Position

From the Certificated side, we had much public comment supporting the teachers.

I’m totally in agreement that we need to support our teachers. I also greatly appreciate “all the ways teachers are great in Oceanside” and believe that myself. Heck, I’m fortunate enough to be able to volunteer more than probably 95% of OUSD parents to help with our kids education, so I most certainly believe our teachers are doing the right things.

But the arguments made here tended to focus on “supporting teachers” as being only valid if that means “raises.”

Some did bring up other ways of support – having Board members visit schools more frequently, for instance. I suppose it’s only normal in a negotiation to focus on “getting a raise” as the key issue, but it would have been nice to hear some teachers advocating for other forms of support – more discretionary funds for classrooms or more support for libraries or SBRT’s. There are a lot of ways we can support our teachers that do not involve “dollars in the paycheck”, but there was little discussion of that. And if there was, there was even less in the way of concrete suggestions on how to fund them.

Almost all the funding ideas boiled down to “we don’t believe your revenue forecasts, let’s assume you’re wrong” or “cut ineffective programs or consultants”, but only one speaker – the CSEA President – identified a concrete suggestion for funding (in her case pointing out the inefficiency of the College Bound program and questioning whether it was a good use of funds..)

As I say above, I haven’t done enough analysis of past inaccurate projections to develop some kind of track record/history. I don’t know if we could somewhat confidently say “from past history we’re likely to have $7M more in revenue than projected” or if that’s just a one-time number from 2016-17.

And I don’t know what the total of dollars freed up might be if we cut poor-performing programs and fired “unnecessary” consultants. I suspect that’s not a huge number compared to the overall needs in the budget, but maybe I’m wrong.

I’d suggest that OTA work on identifying the total value of the programs and consultants they feel are “wastes of money” so we can have a real conversation about what that would fund.  And I’m happy to help them get there in any way I can.

Meanwhile, a few things I found questionable…

1) “We haven’t gotten a raise in years”. I don’t get this one. Every teacher under 22 years in OUSD has gotten regular raises, according to the step and column schedule, every year. As I’ve shown in the data, for the set of employees I could examine using this data, that has averaged 4.90% per year – almost three times the national average wage increase rate of 1.96%.

Arguments are made that “that’s just in the contract”, but most of us feel when you get more money in your check from your company, that’s a raise. Whether it happens because you negotiated a deal that makes it automatic or because you went into the boss and convinced them you deserved more money is immaterial – more money in your check = a raise, regardless of how it comes about.

I’ve also heard “that’s not a COLA”. I guess, but that depends on how you define a COLA. Normally when one is given a raise the assumption is that’s at least in part because the cost of living is going up. In business, barring promotions that’s really most of the reason raises happen – to give you a higher income to accommodate for inflation, and in recognition of (hopefully) your increased value to the company with experience. Although people in private industry often view their raises as insufficient, no one I know in business gets a raise and then expects a COLA on top of that.

The exception to this “regular raise” structure would be teachers who have reached the top of the step and column scale (22 years.) I can empathize with them, but in my experience in every company there is a point where people reach “the top of the scale for that position”. I’ve had that conversation myself – with employees who are all-around great people – a number of times. Whether a “the top of the scale” of $100K-ish (with a nice pension plan that brings total comp to around $125K/year), is an adequate amount is not something I can have an opinion on, yet at least. I haven’t done the work to look at the available studies and don’t want to give an opinion without data behind it…

2) “The district needs to pay starting teachers more”. As with whether the current top end is reasonable, this is something I don’t have data on, but I would agree it’s likely true that we should increase the pay of starting teachers. As I understand it the starting teacher wage is a part of the step and column schedule, which OTA establishes. Seems like it’s not the district determining the first step, but the Teachers Association. Am I wrong?

If you look at the schedule, the last step – from 21 years ($81,259 base) to 22 years ($86,493 base) is a 6.44% increase. What if the schedule were revised to make that a 2 or 3% increase (consistent with most of the other steps), and gave the extra money saved there to the lower rungs? I can’t imagine the district would care – the net to them would be the same.

In the current schedule, teachers start at $43,912 and stay there until the third year, at which point they get a whopping 1.23% increase to $44,450. Even lacking data that seems “not good” to me. If they took the $5K raise at step 21 and reduced it to $2 or $3K, then added that money into steps 1 through 3, wouldn’t that accomplish the job of paying starting teachers more without needing District approval – in any way except agreeing to the contract?

3) “The district is forcing teachers to close their classrooms and stop doing clubs”. I’m missing where the district was involved in that (aside from not coming to agreement on the contract.) The “work slowdown” (or whatever we want to call it) was, I think, initiated by the OTA, not the district. Teachers are using one of the only leverages they have – which I understand completely – but fact is that it’s their choice. I don’t think the district has “forced” them to do it.

I get the fact that they deserve a lunch and breaks. I agree with that, but their contract (10.1.1) says their lunch is INCLUDED IN their defined 7.5 hour workday.

In every business I’ve ever been involved in, that’s not how it works. Lunch is very rarely considered a work hour. If one works “8 hours” that usually means 8am to 5pm, with an hour out for lunch – a total of 9 hours start to finish.

In the teacher’s contract, item 10.1.1. defines their work hours a 7 ½ hours per day, “including a daily duty-free lunch period.” In the business world, we would consider them as working 6 ½ hours a day.

Now I KNOW they put in FAR more than that “voluntarily” – to help kids, grade papers, prepare lessons, etc, but that’s just what the contract says.

I would prefer that the contract specify an 8 hour work day, not including lunch, to put them on parity with “pretty much everyone else”. If that time was not accompanied by an increase in class time that would then give them an additional 1 ½ hours a day of “paid time” to do the things they currently “volunteer” to do. That structure would just make more sense.

And, just to complete the picture here, let’s contrast total “defined” work hours between teachers and private industry for a second….

Teachers have a defined 185 day work year (contract item 10.13). Private employees typically work about 239 days (365 – weekends – “big 7” holidays – average 15 days vacation…).

We’ll ignore the “paid lunch” question right now, and stick with the contract. With a 7.5 day work day, that means teachers put in (contractually) 1387.5 hours in their “work year”.

In private industry, 239 * 8 = 1912 hours.

The difference is 524.5 hours per year.

If we were to assume it’s reasonable to expect teachers to put in the same total hours for their annual pay as “everyone else”, and we spread those 524.5 hours over the 185 day schedule, that means teachers need to work another 2.83 hours per day devote as much time during their year to working as people in private industry.

Not a value judgement on how hard teachers work or how much they deserve their summer’s off, just math.

4) “Admin has given themselves raises, we should get them too!” A goose/gander argument, and it does make sense But the idea that “they’ve been giving themselves raises while we’ve got nothing” is false, in that during this time teachers have been moving up the step and column annually while Admin has been going through a normal annual raise/review process. However from my numbers it seems when it comes to the RATE of that increase, Admin has exceeded teachers.

With that, the “Jane gets ice cream for dinner, I should too!” is not really a valid argument anywhere. The real issue I think teachers should be addressing – and they do, but not consistently – is the idea that Admin should be held to the same standard as teachers. If the teachers step/column schedule produces an average 4.9% increase per year, let’s see Admin held to that same rate.

5) “We spend a lot of money on ineffective programs and consultants”. Absolutely true that OUSD does spend on programs and consultants. Which ones are “ineffective” is in the eye of the beholder, but I would agree that the district should do more to identify those that are not giving us a lot of bang for the buck.

I would question whether that’s “a lot of money”. I don’t know the full amounts, but anecdotally I doubt if we cut every single un-necessary program and fired every consultant we’d get more than a couple million extra in the budget. Which is not to say it’s not worth looking at, but it’s certainly not going to fund much in the way of raises for anyone.

6) “We need smaller class sizes” I’m great with that – so tell me where the money is going to come from to do that? As I’ve said about programs and consultants, if we cut every single one of those it would probably barely fund the $2M the teachers say their requested raises would cost (and… does that $2M include increased benefit costs…?) If we did that, would teachers want that money spent on raises, or on more teachers to reduce class sizes? I can’t imagine there would be enough money to do both.

7) “Teachers are under paid”… Maybe true, maybe not. I’m not on a side that says teachers are OVER paid, I’m fine with where we’re at right now.

I do have to say that if we look at the data for 355 teachers who have been with the district since 2012 (almost half of the 865 total teachers), the average wage of that group is $98,299, with a total cost including benefits of $124,049. The overall average is – according to the state’s “J90” records, $79,639.

And, as noted above in the Admin section, I do believe that the budget reporting over-states the rank of the average OUSD teacher pay vs. surrounding districts. As a taxpayer, however, I have to point out that having one jurisdiction claim their people are underpaid by pointing to higher wages paid in another government jurisdiction is a very suspect argument….

Overall, there are problems on both sides.