OUSD Pay Analysis FAQ

I’m posting this FAQ to address common questions I’ve gotten from people on reading my analysis.

Unlike the analysis, which is based on actual data and math that can be checked, this FAQ contains opinion.

Don’t your numbers include pay raises given as a result of promotions or additional training?

Yes, they do.  As do the county BLS numbers I use to compare them to.

Both numbers are simply totals for actual pay numbers in both cases – no differentiation is made in either to separate out pay changes due to promotions, job changes, training, etc. 

This makes them an “apples-to-apples” match.  Excluding such increases from one side without excluding them from the other would be invalid.

But if I look at the total cost of salaries in the budget documents, they don’t add up to the same numbers….

No, they do not – because, as explained in my methodology outline, I exclude some records from the final calculations to make those calculations more accurately reflect pay received by full time employees.

School districts have many people who are paid for part time work, if I did not exclude them they would affect the average and median numbers, making them look artificially low.

The intent of this analysis is to look at the pay statistics for full time employees, not at the total salary cost for the district, which can be obtained from budget documents.

If the net cost of labor in the budget is not rising at the rates you describe, how can your numbers be accurate?

Net cost of labor is determined not just by pay of employees, but by the mix of new vs. senior employees as well as the total number of employees.  Changes in both can affect the total cost of labor but not reflect actual raise rates for those employees.

As an illustration…

Imagine we had 100 employees all making $100,000/year.  The total expense to the district for that group would be $10M/year. The “average pay” of this group would be $100,000/year. 

Now imagine that 50 of those retire the next year and are replaced by 50 new employees making $50,000/year.  The 50 remaining get a 10% raise each, so they are now making $110,000/year.  

We now have 50 employees making $50K (=$2.5M) and 50 employees making $110K (=$5.5M) for a total expense of $8M/year.  The “average pay” of this group would be $80,000/year.

If we simply look at total pay expense, we might think “wow, the district has really cracked down on raises, they’re paying less than they did the year before!”

And if we look at average rates, that would seem to confirm that – the average pay has dropped a whopping 20%!

In reality, of course, the 50 new hires may or may not have increased their pay, depending on what they were at in their previous job.  Quite likely they’re making more, given that “more money” is often the reason for a job change, but we have no way of knowing that.

Meanwhile, the continuing employees have all gotten what would be considered a fairly enormous raise, of 10%.

Your numbers don’t match the State’s “J90” pay data, published online.  Why?

Because the J90 data is based on an average of all certificated employees, not on actual pay rates for individuals. 

As described in the example above, the J90 average could be lower than the actual raise rates, if turnover results in a larger proportion of teachers who are at lower steps in their schedules.

How can you count increases based on the step-and-column schedule as “raises?”

Because they are.

If we use a dictionary to find the definition of “raise”, we’ll find them all in agreement that a raise is any increase in pay, for whatever reason. The fact that some portion of that is due to a pre-negotiated scheduled increase does not mean it is not a raise.

In private industry similar situations occur – where employees who have contracts have worked out a predetermined schedule of increase.  Their increases are also considered raises.

Excluding increases due to predetermined step-and-column increases would not only require a definition of the word “raise” that does not exist in the dictionary but would ignore the commonly accepted idea that “getting more money” without having to provide additional work means you got a raise.

So, are you saying that OUSD employees are overpaid!!!???”

Absolutely not.

The people who work in education for OUSD are hard working people who are dedicated to the education of our kids.  In most cases they deserve every dollar paid to them.  I would never call them “overpaid” (as a general rule) or advocate that their pay rates be cut.

I also do not feel anyone in the district has been doing this for “nefarious, self-serving purposes”.  While they have certainly benefitted, I know many people in the district and would say every single one of them really does have our kids best interests in mind.

On the other hand, given the data shows they have benefitted from higher rates of growth than everyone who is paying taxes to support them and are now, in general, making more than those people, I do feel that now is the time to slow down that rate of growth.

And, given that that growth has resulted in the need at various times to cut back on programs and services provided for our kids, it seems only obvious that doing this would give the district more money to spend on such things, focusing more spending on things that directly impact our kids rather than simply putting more money into the pockets of adults.

What would YOU like to do with the money?

I would spend the money freed up by a slowing of wage growth rates to spend on things that parents have already identified as priorities, in various past LCAP processes and other meetings.

For example…

  • Decreased class sizes
  • Better funding for Special Education and social-emotional learning programs
  • Expanded programs for GATE and other advanced kids
  • Higher pay for starting teachers
  • Expanded use and availability of technology (chromebooks and the like)
  • Better funded science program supplies
  • Increased discretionary funs for classroom supplies
  • Better maintenance of existing facilities

Nice list, but doesn’t “higher pay for starting teachers” conflict with your idea to restrain wage growth rates?

Not necessarily.

If you examine the latest OTA salary schedule, the average growth rate for the entire schedule is 3.27% per year.  The final step, however, is 6.02%.  Given that 6.02% is applied to higher base rate, the total dollars in that raise greatly exceed any other raise in the schedule.

We could easily reduce that final raise to the same rate as the rest of the schedule, and use that money to boost starting pay, with the net impact to the budget being zero.

How much that would boost starting pay is hard to calculate without knowing the exact seniority level of all teachers, however just as a ballpark number with an average schedule step 22 pay rate of $95,000,  a raise of 6% means $5700/year. 

Reducing that raise to 3.27% would reduce that expense by $2600.  I don’t know what the mix is of teachers reaching step 22 every year vs. new hires, but if we assume progression in the schedule is equal every year that means we could raise the starting pay by that $2600, moving it from the current $45,238 to $48, 838/year.

Given we hear a lot about difficulties in recruitment and also hear about the need to give starting teachers a better living, that seems pretty worthwhile to me.

I don’t believe you!

You are absolutely welcome to believe whatever you’d like, however this analysis is based on data and methods clearly outlined and verifiable.

If you simply want to believe something else, you can do that, however if you have any specific issue with the data sources or the methodology that you feel makes this inaccurate, I’d love to hear them.  I’d like this to be as accurate as possible too, my kids go to OUSD schools also (and are getting an excellent education there…)

You can contact me at ousd@maddisonweb.com if you’d like to discuss.

Do you work for Transparent California?  Isn’t that a conflict?”

Yes, I do work for TransCal.  I am the researcher responsible for gathering pay data from all California K-12 school districts.

I’m not sure what conflict there would be in that, given my TransCal responsibilities have nothing to do with any policy determinations and are limited to simply making requests under the California Public Records Act and posting the data they send to the TransCal website.

Transparent California’s data is not accurate!

TransCal’s data is obtained via public records requests made to each school district annually.

If the data provided by the district is inaccurate, then of course TransCal’s published data will be inaccurate, however that is not an error on TransCal’s part.

TransCal’s only modifications to the data are those necessary to put the data into a standard format for the website.  Each district may report the data in different ways, and TransCal simply lines up that reported data so that, for example, if a district reports their “other” components of pay separately (as in “car allowance” or “additional stipends”, etc) those components are summed together to become the “Other Pay” listing on the TransCal website.

One common area of misunderstanding is the fact that some districts report data based on fiscal year (July through June), not calendar year.  This means the total shown on an employee’s W-2 at the end of the  year may not match the TransCal numbers, particularly if they received a mid-year change in pay.

We would encourage employees to discuss their reporting directly with their district if they feel errors have been made in their reporting.

If a particular W-2 does not match the TransCal data, if anyone would like to provide us with a copy of that W-2 we would be happy to check the original data file to confirm what the district reported and then contact the district to verify they are reporting accurately per our legal request.