Teacher pay plan would cost districtsPublished 10:34pm Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Suffolk’s public schools superintendent appears supportive of much of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 2013 education agenda, but he is lukewarm on plans for a partially state-funded raise for some teachers.
McDonnell proposed the 2-percent raise for Standards of Quality teaching positions late last year. The plan, which the General Assembly will debate in coming weeks, would require matching funds from school districts.
“The biggest concern is fully supporting the initiatives and ensuring they are sustainable in the future,” Superintendent Deran Whitney stated in an email about the governor’s education agenda in general.
“For example, while the 2-percent raise is encouraging to hear, when you consider the logistics of it, it will cost local divisions much more to implement than just a local match.”
Whitney stated he “can not imagine” supporting a pay increase for SOQ-funded positions, while leaving other teachers out. “Thus, it will cause us additional money to provide a 2-percent increase for all SPS employees,” he wrote.
The issue came under scrutiny at last week’s School Board meeting, when members heard forecasts of a 2013-2014 budget deficit for the school district of $3 million to $8 million.
District Finance Director Wendy Forsman also reported that a 2-percent across-the-board raise would cost $1.4 million, of which the district would need to fund $655,468.
The governor’s offer is contained in the Educator Fairness Act, which would also tie teacher tenure to performance evaluations.
At the board meeting, new member Judith Brooks-Buck was critical of the notion of tying pay to performance for educators.
She said that as a professor at Virginia State University, she is under such a system. “I have earned that (performance bonus) … but because there is no money, you don’t get it,” she said.
The state money for raises is “going to cost local districts much more than we are going to get from the state to fund it,” she added.
This month, McDonnell announced a slate of additional measures in the second phase of his education plan. Regarding A-F “report cards” to help track schools’ performance, Whitney wrote that he supports accountability, as most educators, but “I don’t think schools need more misleading labels set from one or few criterion.”
Suffolk schools could benefit from release from SOQ requirements, and, regarding plans to waive eligible schools from Standards of Learning testing in order to increase instructional time with reading specialists, “Less testing and more focus on deeper teaching and learning could benefit all,” he wrote.
Whitney supports literacy and algebra intervention in grades six through nine, “with the necessary funding to provide this focus.”
Proposed teacher training for school-wide discipline is “encouraging,” Whitney wrote, adding that the program exists at several Suffolk schools while others have a modified version because of limited funds.
The district would explore any initiative to develop an assessment tool for children entering kindergarten, for which the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation would receive state funds to develop with public and private partners.