Teacher and administrative pay vary based upon ‘level of responsibility,’ tenure
December 18, 2017
Money: a subject that can bring people to the polling places, particularly when it comes to salaries and spending in education. Superintendent Mark Evans’ salary normally makes it into media coverage, but how that compares to teachers and other administrators can be overlooked.
It can look as if Mark Evans’ salary for the 2017-2018 school year is too much (his pay after his contract extension is $295,569). Comparatively, that is only a small sliver of the $11,231,531 spent in the budget on what the district labels as “Executive Administrative Services” and “Board of Education Costs.”
13 of the top 20 salaries in OPS belong to those at TAC, according to the Omaha World-Herald’s public employee database. The other seven salaries belong to building principals, and includes Central’s Dr. Ed Bennett, who made a gross salary of $131,242 during 2016.
Charles Wakefield, Chief Human Resources Officer for OPS, believes that while this sounds like a large sum toward administration, it is justified. “As with any large organization there is a level of central administration needed as this provides efficiencies that would be lost otherwise,” Wakefield said. “In spite of this, we spend less than two percent of our total budget on central office administration. The money spent at this level provides the support services that allow building administration to focus on students.” In relation to the entire 2016-17 budget, TAC administration accounts for 1.8 percent of a $608 million spent.
In July, two more Executive Director positions were added to be liaisons and coaches for building principals across the district. This brought with it some doubts from the public about adding another layer of administration. Wakefield believes that those positions have proven to be more beneficial than the previous system of a direct line between the superintendent and building principals. “The role of the Executive Director position is much more than a coach,” Wakefield said. “This position supports and supervises building leaders in a variety of ways both increasing accountability and support. Both national research and our own local experience show this model to be not only effective but a best practice in supporting student performance.” The funding for these six-figure positions came from eliminated positions at TAC, which meant that the addition of those jobs did not bring any supplemental spending in executive administration.
The total impact financially of central administration salaries on the district is not entirely significant. A much larger question is how the roles of an administrator who may work in a more general sense with large numbers of students and staff compare to a teacher that works with students in a specialized way. The average salary per full-time employee for school administration under the district budget is $60,000, compared to $53,000 for normal ten-month teachers.
How is the differentiation made between who makes more money? It starts at the negotiation table. The Omaha Educators Association negotiates a “master agreement” between the teachers and the district every three school years. The next time they are scheduled to negotiate salary is in 2018. “We use a comparability process to help determine compensation and benefits for staff,” Wakefield said. “In this process, we compare like positions in other districts that are similar in size, geographic region and make up to OPS.”
Administrators end up making more money compared to teachers because of increased responsibilities, Wakefield said. “The level of responsibility does increase significantly as an educator moves into administration and not every teacher chooses this path. Administrative positions have a larger scope and greater responsibilities. Administrator salaries represent this as well as the additional days/time that an administrator would work.” He also stated that in talking with teachers, most choose to remain in the classroom for the rest of their career instead of choosing the path of administration.
Other factors that determine a teacher’s salary are external teaching experience, seniority and time in the district and level of postgraduate experience. Teachers can also earn additional compensation for having a “leadership position” such as a department head or curriculum specialist. In the master agreement, there are “steps” that determine a teacher’s base salary based on years in the district and level of education, and how much a salary would increase based on the aforementioned factors.
At first glance, this brings up another possible point of contention. The difference between a teacher that has a bachelor’s degree and one that has a master’s degree is around four thousand dollars. OPS does give teachers opportunities to earn a master’s degree through grants. “Typically, the pay increase given for this over the lifetime of the teacher easily covers the costs of the additional education,” Wakefield said. “Many teachers, however, return for advanced degree as this is a way for teachers to further grow in and master their craft. Educators in general see continuing education and [lifelong learning] as important and many of us live this as we continue to learn and grow.”
Overall, the district negotiates salaries and attempts to compare positions and responsibilities to determine why a teacher with tenure may earn less than a new assistant principal to the district. It is simply all relative to the school and the unique roles that come with each building and each job description.