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Proposed School Budget Includes Pay Raise for Teachers

by ARLnow.com February 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm 3,799 59 Comments

(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy proposed a budget Thursday morning that increases high school class sizes but grants teachers at least part of a desired pay raise.

The proposed FY 2012 budget includes a step increase for teachers and other school employees that was not granted last year amid a serious budget crunch. It does not, however, include a cost of living (COLA) increase. COLA increases used to be granted nearly every year until Arlington’s budget difficulties began two years ago.

Senior employees and employees at the top of the pay scale — who together make up about 33 percent of the work force — are not eligible for a step increase. Dr. Murphy is proposing a one-time payment of $1,000 to  those employees. The total cost of all pay raises is estimated at $16.4 $7.9 million. (The original $16.4 million figure included benefit and retirement increases.)

The new $470 million school budget raises the cost per pupil to $18,115, from a low of $17,322 last year and a high of $19,538 in FY 2009. The budget represents a $27.8 million — or 6.3 percent — increase over last year’s budget. It reflects, however, a projected enrollment increase of nearly 1,000 students over FY 2011.

The superintendent’s budget includes an increase in class sizes for grades 9-12, from 24.4 students per class to 25.4 students per class. Dr. Murphy leaves a one student increase in class sizes for grades K-8 as an “option” for the school board to consider. Dr. Murphy, facing a looming system-wide capacity crisis, also budgets for the purchase of 12 new relocatable classrooms.

“Capacity and enrollment will continue to be something we’re going to have to look at,” Dr. Murphy said, noting that Arlington schools still “have some of the smallest class sizes in the region.”

The budget includes some good news for supporters of the Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium.

Dr. Murphy recommends boosting planetarium staffing by a few hours per week while setting aside $230,000 in reserve for renovations to the planetarium. That’s in contrast to last year, when Dr. Murphy recommended closing down the planetarium. It was saved when a private group, the Friends of the David M. Brown Planetarium, offered to raise private funds to renovate the 40-year-old facility.

“My hat goes off to them, they’ve done an excellent job,” Dr. Murphy said. “They appear to be on target to meet their objective… It’s really what Arlington is all about.”

Dr. Murphy said he expects to reinstate a full-time position to staff the planetarium once renovations are complete in FY 2013. Currently, it’s staffed by a part-time employee.

Other notable items in the proposed budget:

  • The addition of 8 buses and 8 bus drivers to drive Arlington Career Center students to the Center directly from their homes. Currently, students are bused from the nearest high school. This will increase instructional time, administrators say.
  • Increase capacity at countywide programs like H-B Woodlawn, Drew Model School and Campbell Elementary.
  • Eliminate early release days at four elementary schools. Due to increased staffing needs, this will cost the school system $1.7 million. The schools have not yet been identified.
  • Two additional preschool classes for at-risk children. Part of the Virginia Preschool Intiative.
  • The hiring of a Supervisor of Counseling at the cost of $130,000.
  • One additional professional learning day for teachers and assistants, at the cost of $1.3 million.

A public hearing on the proposed school budget will be held on March 10. Board action on the budget will take place on March 24, and final adoption is expected on April 28.

  • Jim

    i’d be happy giving them a raise… but can we get rid of the union? what a waste – they just interfere with good governance.

    • mehoo

      Teachers should have the same rights as private workers.

    • arlcyclist

      Jim, David Koch is on line one…

    • NArl

      VIRGINIA IS A RIGHT TO WORK STATE!! In fact the headquarters of the right to work movement is in fairfax county off I495. There are NO collective bargaining rights in this state. Therfore the union or assocation have no power and or teeth. Virginia is not like the other unionized states in this country, thats why police, fire, and teachers get paid much less then there counterparts in union states. In this state teachers and all public service employees do have the same rights as the private workers in this state.

      • Patrick

        Being a right to work state does not forbid collective bargaining rights. A right to work state means that a person can not be forced to join a union and pay union dues as a condition of employment.

        • NArl

          Ok but what I said is still correct, Virgina is a right to work state, and it also has no collective bargaining rights. They did attempt to bring a bill that would give collective bargaining rights however it did not pass.

          • mehoo

            I’ve explained the real meaning of “right to work” to him/her twice already. Maybe it will sink in now.

      • Ben

        Actually, NArl, Virginia police officers and fire fighters earn more than many of their (not “there.” Please note the appropriate grammar usage, btw. I grew up in a right to work state. And apparently, I learned something from my public school teachers there. Not “their.”) counterparts in Unionized states.

        Don’t believe me? Do a check on the Bureau of Labor Statistics page. You can research “police, fire and teachers,” individually.


        I won’t bother with a state-by-state (or position-by-position) comparison here, but suffice it to say, your statement that VA folks “get paid much less then there counterparts in union states” is inaccurate and grossly overgeneralized. In 2009, for example, the median wage for a VA firefighter was $45320. In Ohio (a forced union state), that rate is $40240. In Wisconsin (any questions on whether that’s a union state?), it’s $29560. In Michigan (the virtual birthplace of organized labor) – $43960. All three earn less than their Virginia counterparts.

        On the police side, the salary of VA officers is higher than their counterparts in 26 other states, including Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia (you guessed it. All union states).

        Same held true when I looked at teachers, though to be honest, I only looked at “Teacher, Other” and that may not be an apples to apples comparison.

        To be sure, there are instances where VA public servants earn less than their counterparts (Michigan police officers average salary is higher, for example).

        And yes, you’re right. Per the 2006 Virginia Code § 40.1-57.2 – Prohibition against collective bargaining – “No state, county, municipal, or like governmental officer, agent or governingbody is vested with or possesses any authority to recognize any labor unionor other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers oremployees, or to collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargainingcontract with any such union or association or its agents with respect to anymatter relating to them or their employment or service.”

        But your first statement wasn’t accurate. Hence, my reply. I’m just very disappointed when people – on either side of the aisle – propagate misinformation from the likes of Glenn Beck or Mother Jones in an attempt to convince others of the just nature of their cause.

        Facts first. Debate second.

        • ballston

          props for that.

        • mehoo

          Lots and lots of bad facts going around in this national debate about unions.

        • local

          So basically, Virginia already doesn’t have collective bargaining, and the employees still get paid about the same as those in states that do.

          Pretty much blows away the “unions cost too much” argument.

        • 4Arl

          Some data for Arlington:
          Ch 46 report (7/09): Active Uniformed (police/fire) average annual pay $70,833

          FY 10 Average Budgeted Teacher Salary: $69,991

          Note that these are averages, and appears to exclude benefits/retirement costs.
          Now as usual Arlington probably does not reflect the rest of Virginia given the politics here. It may be more interesting to compare with other localities than a statewide average.

  • Another WCA Resident

    I am glad to see that the budget does not include a class size increase for elementary school classes. We do not need another class size increase after last year’s increase.

    • teacher

      I agree. It’s already too crowded in our rooms right now!

  • Lou

    WIN for the Planetarium. That is great news.

    Regarding the pledge to keep looking at the capacity crisis, that’s nice. Maybe if you look at it long enough it will do a trick for you or something.

    • othersideoftheriver


  • Murphy’s Law

    Murphy pushed through an increase in class sizes for almost all grades last year, and now he’s pushing for another increase for high schools. He won’t be satisfied until he has stuffed as many kids in each classroom as Fairfax County does. So much for the legacy of great schools in Arlington. Murphy is a former gym teacher with almost zero real classroom experience, and it shows.

    Extra trailers will help, but Arlington urgently needs to start planning new construction now to ease the overcrowding crisis. Enrollment has been going up for years, while the board has failed again and again to solve the problem by constructing new classroom, either by adding to current schools or building new ones.

    • NArl

      instead of new costl;y construction, we redraw the district lines to put the children in the school cloest to them. so people who live in the central park of the county go to Washington lee, people in the south park go to Wakefield, and people in the north go to Yorktown.

      Maybe busing children accross the county is really not a good idea. Wakefied has a ton of space now, and the new building is going to have more. Washington lee is overcroward and was that way when the building was built. Yorktown is vre close to being over croward.

      Lets get rid of of the HB program and turn that into another centeral area high school. then HS classes will be smaller.

      oh wait parents don’t want to do all that so the classes are going to get bigger.

    • MC

      Fairfax County has far better public schools at significantly lower costs. I would be happy to have Arlington County schools merged with Fairfax’s.

      The 18k per student understates the real costs, as it doesn’t include the interest costs of bonds for recent school constructions, or subsidies for affordable housing programs that teachers are meant to benefit from. Meanwhile the public school system buy iPads…

    • ballston

      well if you want more schools, more teachers etc… there is only one way to do that…. and thats higher property taxes. Which, in my opinion, should be a referendum issue.

  • Bluemont John

    # The hiring of a Supervisor of Counseling at the cost of $130,000.

    If you’re not even counseling kids, you sure as hell shouldn’t be paid that much. And why do counselors need a supervisor?

    # One additional professional learning day for teachers and assistants, at the cost of $1.3 million.

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME, MURPHY? This is ridiculous.

    • Maria

      Do you have any idea how much work counselors (and, yes, their supervisors) do every day? I’m not arguing over whether the salary is or isn’t reasonable, but I’m curious how much you actually know about this as you comment on it.

    • Josh S

      I agree with Maria – John’s comments smell of someone who knows not what he talks about. EVERYONE will always have an opinion about public schools since they touch almost all of our lives at some point, but if your only experience is as a student in a classroom, you’re missing more than half the picture.

      • Maria

        I’d argue you’d be missing at least 85% of the picture! I had no idea what school staff members do on a day-to-day basis until I was in the system myself. Again, I’m not saying that particular position is or isn’t worth $130,000 (questionable), but it irritates me beyond belief when people with little to no knowledge of how school systems work fancy themselves experts because they went to school for 12 years then read a couple of news articles as adults (not saying that’s the case for Bluemont John because I don’t know what his experience is, but in general).

        • Toucan Sam

          Sorry Maria, but how much of the ‘counselor’ work is make-work? I checked into the number of counselors at each individual high school and was stunned by their numbers. Please let us know what they do all day! I was in school 20, 30 years ago. Two guidance counselors.

          Or is ‘counseling’ now part of the social safety net? What are they rescuing?

          • Maria

            I don’t know what you mean by “make-work” (typo? or phrase I’ve never heard?) but I can tell you that counselors do much more than most people think. To be clear, I’m a teacher, so I don’t know every single responsibility they have, but I can give you an idea. Aside from counseling students on personal issues, which is pretty important, they do college counseling, college recommendations, course registration, and numerous sessions mandated by the county (goal-setting, etc.). Not to mention, they get, I’d say, at *least* 10-15 emails/phone calls from parents every day, often many more. They also are responsible for coordinating 504 plans, which are basically plans for students who struggle in school and their parents think they need special accommodations to help them but they don’t necessarily qualify for special ed. The number of those plans is increasingly significantly every single year, especially since they help students get accommodations for the SATs.

            High school is a significantly more complicated place than it was when you were in school, particularly in terms of college admissions. It’s a complex process, and in a school with almost 2,000 students, like where I work, if you had 2 counselors, you’d have a total disaster.

            As for the guidance department head (I’m in FCPS, but I assume that’s the same/similar position as the “counselor supervisor” in ACPS?), among other things, they are essentially responsible for creating the entire schedule of classes every year on top of planning/running basically all academic info sessions that take place throughout the year. Beyond that, I’m not completely sure, but I know it’s much more than that.

            Again, I’m not arguing that it’s worth that salary, but you’re the perfect example of someone who has no idea what happens behind the scenes in a school system but thinks he knows because he was in school “20 or 30 years ago.” Thank you for proving my point.

          • Maria

            For the record, I realize you were technically asking me to explain and not claiming to know, but the way you asked at least implied you don’t actually believe they do that much work.

  • Drew Parent

    Arlington did not buy iPads. It was a state pilot program and private grant that purchased the iPads.

  • teacher

    1.3million for ANOTHER teacher professional day?? really?? i wonder how much all this Cultural Competence stuff has cost the county?? anyone else think to ask this question?? how much money was spent on binders and copying/wasting paper for hundreds of teachers?? waste of money and time!!!!

    • Josh S

      If it’s the cultural competence BS, then yes, it shouldn’t be done – waste of money and time. But do we know for sure that’s what it would be? Isn’t it at least possible that it could be something worthwhile?
      Maybe a better use of the money would be to increase the fund used to reimburse teachers for supplies and materials…..

      • CMG

        Agreed. I bet the general public has no clue how much of their own money teachers spend on their classrooms.

        • Maria

          A. Lot.

        • teacher

          you are right.. i have spent THOUSANDS!!!

        • JP

          I am an APS teacher and I spend between $300-$600 of my own money on supplies each year.

      • mehoo

        Naah, let’s just assume!

      • teacher

        Cultural Comp is held on days other than inserves/professional days. I wouldn’t mind anothe prep day at school, but I don’t want to waste my time going to useless inservice classes.

    • Harassed

      I agree with “teacher.” Cultural Competence is the biggest joke I’ve ever seen! Binders nobody reads, books nobody reads, movies from PBS that are in some cases 20 years old and completely irrelevant. I don’t know who is paying Marty Swaim, but money could be better spent ANYWHERE ELSE!

  • 4Arl

    If VA law prohibits recognition of government employee unions, why did they get special meetings with the county board and manager on compensation? Seems like bargaining…

    • borf

      Va. law does NOT forbid recognition of unions.

      Meeting with a union isn’t collective bargaining, just a meeting. Collective bargaining is where your pay and benefits and working conditions are set in a contract that your union leaders negotiate with the employer (the school board in this case).

  • Teacher2

    In a more union-friendly state like Pennsylvania, they can go on strike. In VA, it is against the law for public employees to go on strike. We’d be fired. So… collective bargaining, yes. Not forced to join the union, yes. Any teeth to the collective bargaining? Not really. (Not that I think it’s a good idea for teachers to go on strike.)

  • teacher C

    There’s an interesting phenomenon evident here- since most have spent time in school as students, they feel as though they are potential experts on education. Most everyone “knows” they could be a good or better teacher than all the current teachers. They choose not to, since it does not pay enough or it is not quite worthy of their time. Hence teachers are looked down upon – they have chosen a lesser preofession and they do it less well than all the lawyers and doctors who would be totally awesome teachers overnight somehow. None would think this of rocket scientists, brain surgeons or car builders. But somehow – teachers are perceived to pursue a craft that is simple and obvious. Let me assure you, it is none of those things. I welcome one and all to try it out. Come on – indulge your curiousity. Show us how easy it is. Show us why we do not need training days, so called “unnecessary” professional development, or pay raises. I dare you. Put your lives where your mouth is.

    • Arl. Parent

      As a parent that spends time in my child’s school as a class parent and PTA volunteer, I truly believe 99.5% of the “know it alls” would not last a day in your shoes. Keep up the good work Teacher C. Believe it or not, there are a lot of us parents that appreciate the excellent and hard work that you do for our kids and our families.

  • Arl. Parent

    Disappointed to see Arlington Traditional School was left off of the list of countywide programs proposed for increase capacity such as H-B Woodlawn, Drew Model School and Campbell Elementary. Seems to me if neighborhood elementary schools can take in 530+ students, why can’t ATS do the same to help alleviate the over crowding.

  • BrWs

    If the superintendent wants Arlington to “remain competitive and continue to attract and retain high quality staff” then perhaps teachers of high need area subjects such as Math and Science should get paid more than a PE teacher. Oh wait, Murphy was a PE teacher so he really wouldn’t understand.

    • ArlDad

      I couldn’t agree more. I am a scientist with a gov’t job that actually considered being a teacher in my younger years. I couldn’t do it because I could not afford to support my family on a teacher’s salary. I also think it is ridiculous that all teachers make the same salary regardless of what subject they teach. It comes down to supply and demand. If there is such a shortage of qualified science and Math teachers in this country wouldn’t it be logical that we pay those that are qualified more money? If schools want to hire the best and brightest science teachers then they need to offer salaries competitive with other science related jobs.

      • Maria

        I’m not disagreeing with you in a general sense, but a few things: first, there are many teachers who support families on teacher salaries (teacher salaries combined with a second income in many cases, though not all). So I’d think what you really mean is you “would” not do it… you *could* have done it if you truly wanted to. I’m a teacher, and I plan to start a family one day, and while it won’t necessarily be easy, I know I’ll make it work. If teaching was something you had a strong passion for, you would have at least tried to figure out a way.

        Second, I am not in a “high demand” field, but I put in a lot of work. It would be frustrating to me to be paid less than a science teacher simply because they’re in demand in many places. The PE thing does bother me sometimes because there are definitely PE teachers who do almost nothing. However, many of them work very hard as well. PE isn’t just watching the kids play sports anymore, and many of the teachers are trying very hard to make it a worthwhile part of students’ education.

        The problem with paying teachers different rates according to subject is that teachers are individuals, and they work in different ways. Some teachers do very little preparation and do an amazing job, and others work their butts off and ultimately aren’t very good teachers. So how do you justify saying that I should be paid less money than another teacher with the same experience and number of classes when you have no idea how much work we do as individuals?

        • 4Arl

          You mean PE teachers who appear, to a non-PE teacher, to be doing almost nothing. This is the challenge of establishing anything close to an objective standard for compensation.
          Should pay be based on how hard you work, or whether your field is in demand? Seniority? Tough choices.

          • JohnB

            How about pay based on results?

          • borf

            How do you measure results? Are you sure that teachers should get 100% of the credit or blame for how students perform?

          • Maria

            But how do you factor in student ability? Don’t get me wrong… great teachers can get (comparatively) good results from all students, no matter their natural abilities, but my class that is half students with special accommodations is not going to get the same level of test grades as my honors classes. Even if you separate those, you’re still going to have disparity from year to year and class to class, no matter how effective a teacher may be.

            Studies also show that the school itself is an extremely important factor in student achievement, so a highly effective teacher at an ineffective school is not going to, generally, get the same results as a highly effective teacher at a highly effective school.

            This is one of the reasons teachers hate programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top… standardized tests treat all students like they are basically the same when EVERYONE knows that’s not the case.

          • Westover

            True, but you still need to have some basics to get through life. What ever happaned to the Virginia Standards of Learning/Minimum Competency tests that were required in the ’80s? A kid should prove they can write a check and balance a checkbook before graduateing, they should prove an understanding of basic chemistry and physic principles, these are the basics of life that too many kids are not learning. These are also basics that should not require a teacher to “teach to the test”.

          • Maria

            Maybe they should be required to prove they can spell “happened” and “graduating” before graduating 😉 Just teasing! I swear. Don’t be mad.

            Anyway, although I’d have to disagree with what your ideas of the basics are for getting through life these days, I do agree that that concept would be much more useful than the type of testing they go through now… in a general sense, at least. But I suppose that’s getting into a whole other discussion of the state of our education system and how well it is or isn’t preparing our kids for life in our world today.

          • Maria

            Ha, well generally, yes, but I’m friends with some PE teachers who openly admit to doing almost nothing. Those are the ones I am referring to. I can’t judge fairly otherwise.

        • ARLdad

          @ Maria. You may have chosen to become a teacher because you decided that the reward of teaching outweighs monetary gain. You may also decide to perform charity work over the weekend. Teaching is hard work. It is unfortunate that if someone wants to be a teacher they need to SETTLE for earning less money. If we want to attract the best teachers we should not consider Teaching as charity work.

          Secondly, I don’t know what subject you teach and I am sure you work very hard. However obtaining certain degrees are more difficult than others. Supply and demand is the way of the world. Open the Washington post and you will see just how many Science related jobs are in demand. Can you say the same for English, Social Studies, Art, or PE?

          @ JohnB. When comparing results in science or business you must standardize the variables other than the one you want to test (the teacher). If all the other variables (income, race, parental involvement, ect) then you will never be able to fairly assess if a teacher is effective.

    • Fat PE teacher

      My PE teacher is Fat and wants me to run the mile. He should have to run it too.

  • Casey

    Does anyone know if the cost of living increase usually applies to substitutes as well?

  • Jimmy Johnson

    People are just making up numbers on here. The average cop is not making $70k in Arlington. Look at that Arlington report– it’s for 800+ uniformed. Last I checked the PD in Arlington has 300ish. It must be including all Fire/EMS and all the brass in Police/Fire to be that high of a salary. The poster that said Arlington non-union cops are making more than union cops is living in a vacuum. $45k a year in Arlington is not MORE than $40k a year in WV. I’m pretty sure I could buy the whole state of WV for $40k and a house for another $12k, unlike NOVA. Factoring in cost of living, I don’t think you can make the argument that non-union public safety makes more than union public safety just about anywhere. There’s a reason why the Fed pays NOVA/DC area a 25% locality pay, one of the highest in the country. If you’re comparing WV and Ohio to NOVA as apples-to-apples, you need to get your head examined.

    • 4Arl

      The $70K number is from the cited Chapter 46 report and includes both police and fire with the exception of a few old-timers who started in Chapter 21. Younger P.O.’s aren’t at that level, and you make a good point about how far Arlington’s starting pay of $45K goes vs. a low cost-of-living area. But the $70K represents what the county is paying in non-overtime salary on average, which means the dollars are going to someone in police/fire/sheriff.

    • borf

      You cite crazy (head examining) numbers on WV, but I suspect that’s for effect. Your point is a good one however. The cost of living here is so much higher than the rest of the mid-Atlantic region.


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