Study finds Chesterfield County Schools fall behind in teacher pay

Education
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File: Chesterfield County school bus

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — The pay scale for teachers, school administrators, professional support staff and instructional assistants in Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) is lagging, compared to other schools in the area, according to a study by management consulting company Segal.

Information revealed at the Tuesday afternoon CCPS School Board Work Session shows that, over a 35-year career, a CCPS teacher with a Master’s degree earns 10 percent less than the market average.

As of July 1, 2020, a CCPS teacher with a Master’s degree would earn a starting salary of $48,082, and a CCPS teacher with a Master’s degree and 35 years of experience would earn $68,851.

In comparison, a Henrico County Public Schools teacher with a Master’s degree and 27 years of experience earns $86,626 in the 2020-21 school year, while a CCPS teacher with the same level of education and years of experience earns $61,677.

“It’s shocking to me,” Midlothian District representative Kathryn Haines said.

In the proposed fiscal year 2021 operating budget, CCPS Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty requested $34.5 million to solve the issue of teacher pay compression. Instead, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors allocated $100,000 to hire a consultant to study the school division’s recruitment, retention and compensation practices.

Founded in 1939, privately-owned Segal was selected as that consultant.

While Segal found that CCPS’ starting salary rates are similar to the market average in the greater Richmond area, the gap widens over time due to a slower pay progression.

“There is a teacher shortage, and the pandemic has accelerated the difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers,” Heather Kazemi from Segal said. “I saw a lot of people say they didn’t think they could stay because there are so many other opportunities.”

Segal studied 5,000 employees. Approximately 75 percent of CCPS’ employees also responded to an opinion survey.

The survey found that the majority of teachers in the district initially chose to work for CCPS because of location. Reputation and grade/school level/specialty offerings were also top factors. Although Kazemi says district employees had the option to select “salary” as one of the reasons why they began working at CCPS, only a small percentage did so.

Conversely, according to Segal data presented at the School Board Work Session, salary and salary growth are the top two reasons school-based employees leave Chesterfield. In fact, 81 percent of employees noted they left CCPS in search of a better salary.

“There would be real consequences for the quality of teachers and professionals, not just soon, but in the long term,” Kazemi said.

Segal’s survey also found that 55 percent of CCPS employees think the district’s pay rates are worse than average, compared to other schools in the area.

“We do have a teaching shortage,” Haines said. “They’re doing it because they love what they do, not because they’re being compensated adequately. If we want to get more teachers, we’re going to have to pay our instructional aids [more], as well.”

Segal proposed a three-phase plan to redesign compensatory pay and redefine pay scales. If the recommendations are adopted, CCPS’ pay increase steps would be bumped up so that the district ranks no lower than third highest among the peer divisions within the first year. By the third year of the plan, the goal would be to be ranked first among the six other school divisions in the region for the first five years of CCPS’ pay increase steps, in order to retain teachers early in their careers.

“I hope that we will be able to see an increase in more home-grown leaders and provide an incentive for our teachers to pursue leadership positions within the district,” CCPS School Board Vice Chair and Clover Hill District representative Dot Heffron said.

Segal estimates the fiscal impact of implementing these changes would total up to $46.7 million over the course of three years for teachers, school administrators, professional support positions and paraprofessional educators. Costs include the base salary increases plus Segal’s estimated increased contributions to Virginia Retirement System (VRS) benefits, retiree health insurance credit benefits, life insurance and Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

But, as noted during the School Board Work Session, this assumes that teachers are only working eight hours a day, five days a week, for 10 months out of the year.

“This summer, I think our teachers have been working nonstop getting ready,” Daugherty said. “When you look at this study, it’s a minimal of what we’re looking to try to do.”

“Chesterfield County likes to call itself a first-choice community,” CCPS School Board Chair and Dale District representative Debbie Bailey said. “Now we’ll get to work funding it.”

The Citizens Budget Advisory Committee will meet at 4 p.m. on December 14.

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