Is There Pay Equity: Administrative and Teacher Salaries

The salaries or hourly pay scales in school districts vary. People not having licensure requirements for their jobs (i.e., custodians, office secretaries and clerks, teacher aides) are considered classified. Education, job responsibilities and years of service (step) determine the level/rate of pay. Teachers are considered certified. Number of post-baccalaureate graduate hours, degrees and years of service within the district determine their (step) salary. Administrators pay is by job description (assistant principal, principal, counselor, superintendent, department head, etc.). When unions negotiate salaries/wages, the results may not always be equitable. For example, when teachers negotiate a 5% salary increase, administrators may automatically get 2-3% more (7 or 8%). This makes for a significant gap because teacher salaries are half to one-third lower than an administrator’s salary.

Typical Teacher Workday

Many people believe that teachers make a lot of money for their job. They see teachers in school for 7-7.5 hours each day working with students, having a long weekend for Thanksgiving, 2-3 weeks off for winter break, 1-2 weeks for spring break and miscellaneous days off during the rest of the year. Most states have a school calendar of 175 days for students and 180 to 190 for teachers. The remaining 8-10 weeks is for summer vacation. Teachers have contact with students for approximately 6 hours each school day and had rotating supervision duties before and after school and sometimes during their lunchtime. In those hours of student contact, they deal with an average of 30 students at a time, who need to be kept busy, on-task, off cell phones, and interested in topics that can be incredibly boring. Of course, some of those students may be disruptive and disciplinary problems that teachers are “encouraged” to keep in their classrooms rather than refer out for administrative action. Easy job, right? You might want to think about that assessment.

What the Public Does Not See

A research study done many years ago asked how many hours a day teachers really work. The result: 10 hours a day was the average, with many teachers working up to 13 or 14 hours a day. It also discovered many teachers also work on the weekends for several hours, but that was not factored into the results. Also not factored in was job-related work of attending graduate school classes to retain a current teaching credential and/or qualify for pay raises. A typical 3 credit class requires a minimum of 30 hours of classroom lecture plus (averaged out) 15 hours of class related reading, research and/or writing. For that dedication, teachers must pay tuition and fees of approximately $1,000 per class, their own transportation, parking and meals and lodging if they live remotely from a university. For at least each building, there is at least one union representative who spends time outside the normal work day on union related issues and negotiations.

Administrators’ Duties

Administrative positions require a regular 8 hour day for 260 days a year. This boils down to getting the same Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks, the same miscellaneous holidays, but not the same summer vacation. Many administrators, such as building principals and supervisory staff, work during the summer, but typically take 4 weeks off during July. Higher level administrators can take their vacation time any time during the school year, but most tend to stay within the July timeframe because of the timing of their work loads.

During their typical eight hour workday, administrators supervise teachers for compliance and safety regulations. They monitor building conditions, budgetary oversight, student discipline, clerical staff responsible for data collection and entry for state requirements. They observe and evaluate teachers’ classroom performance and write reports that are the basis for teacher tenure, promotion or discipline. They supervise lunchtime (cafeteria and sometimes indoor/outdoor non-classroom areas), oversee bus arrival and departure. They attend meetings at the district office, regional or county offices, or even travel (reimbursed expenses) for state-level meetings. Should there be legal actions, the building and/or department administrators may be called into court for testimony; they must have appropriate documentation in their reports to support the district’s position.

Outside normal school hours, they supervise sports activities (often rotating among available building administrative staff), social events (dances and fund raising events), and attend school board meetings. They may be on the district negotiating team, which involves many evening hours sometimes for weeks when contract negotiations begin. They must also continue to take graduate classes for their credentialing requirements at the same costs of money and time.

However, not all administrative jobs are at school building. There are ancillary departments, for example Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, Federal Projects, Research and Development, etc., all of which have administrators supervising classified (non-licensed) staff who have a different pay scale from teachers. These positions tend to be on an 8 hour a day, 260 calendar year, administrative pay scale.

What Is Fair?

The reader will have to determine his/her own opinion of pay equity. There are different sources of stress for each position. Teachers are responsible for the instruction of students and have the physical, mental and emotional drain of dealing with their class load (20 in some primary classrooms, 30-35 in elementary classrooms, 150-180 for the day in middle and high school settings with 30-35 per period being the average). Administrators are responsible for state and federal compliance, submitting reports in a timely manner, and supervising those for whom they are responsible.