POINT OF VIEW: District committed, but state budget key to teacher pay

    Nov 18, 2017

I’d like to respond to Post reader Ernest Terrien’s Nov. 14 Letter to the Editor inquiring about the complete benefits package of a teacher with five years of experience.

The average five-year teacher rated as highly effective earns $43,297 for a 196-day contract that includes six paid holidays. In addition to this base salary, teachers receive additional benefits that significantly increase their total compensation. The Palm Beach County School District provides health insurance valued at $7,600 per employee on average. A single employee can receive health coverage at no cost by completing the Healthy Rewards Program requirements and qualifying for the $50 per month discount. Otherwise, employees pay $50 per month for single coverage. Full family coverage (spouse and children) is available to employees for as little as $250 per month with the Healthy Rewards discount ($300 without discount). These rates for dependent coverage are far less than what teachers pay in neighboring counties; and it is important to note our employees have not experienced a health insurance premium increase in five or six years depending on the health plan selected.

In addition, the school district contributes 7.92 percent of teacher salaries to their Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension benefit. For the highly effective five-year teacher, this contribution equals $3,429 per year. Employees contribute 3 percent of their salary to FRS as required by state statute. Teachers may select from the FRS defined benefit or investment plan pension options. Employer Social Security (6.2 percent) and Medicare (1.45 percent) contributions total $3,312 per year. Teachers receive 10 days of leave (sick or personal) per year at a value of $2,209 for this sample teacher. After factoring in all of the aforementioned benefits, the total compensation for the average five-year highly effective teacher climbs to $59,847.

Teachers are also eligible to earn additional pay through advanced-degree supplements and state performance pay incentives — including Best & Brightest Scholarships, School Recognition, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education and Industry Certification Programs. Year-round and Seasonal Supplements are also available to teachers who assume these additional responsibilities. Teachers working in Glades area schools receive an additional salary supplement.

The Palm Beach County School Board and Superintendent Robert Avossa have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to improving teacher compensation. Over the past five years, teacher salary settlements total 16.26 percent on average, and exceed both state funding increases and settlements reached with other district employee groups.

The School Board’s ability to offer salary increases is largely determined by the governor and Florida Legislature, both of whom set school tax rates and per-student funding through the annual state budget process.

Unfortunately, Florida ranks 42nd in the country in funding per student and this fiscal reality governs teacher pay far more than merit or community value.

MIKE BURKE, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Mike Burke is chief financial officer of the School District of Palm Beach County.