Understand the consequences of underfunded K-12 students

Teachers & Staff — Our biggest investment in our children

Should Students Be Taught By Professionals?

The career path in K-12 teaching is too often regarded as not warranting “professional” status. More so, the K-12 education career path in Washington State is ultimately not structured to attract, develop, nor retain enough teaching professionals.

These people — career employees, the teaching professionals - are entrusted with an immense responsibility. Classroom teachers are tasked with adequately preparing children to become the next generation. These teachers hold a vast obligation — but would our economy acknowledge a fostering of their professional credentials or respect?

There are three staff characteristics in play for the majority of WA school districts:

1) Largest single factor in student learning outcomes is whether a great, high quality teacher is in the classroom (not necessarily a teacher with many degrees, but well trained in their discipline, and supported, experienced and well mentored as a professional — they are master teachers).

2) Largest single line-item in every school district’s budget is teachers and staff. About 70-75% of staff are at least partially paid by state Basic Ed dollars — the remainder are paid largely by local “enhancement” levies — and those state dollars fall well short of the actual cost. Almost all districts also pay their staff additional salary or benefits raised from local sources. The term and concept of COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment—see sidebar to the right) is one of the main double-whammies to districts. The COLA is granted by the state for state employees (about 70% of staff in many districts), but school districts really have to pay that COLA increase to nearly every one of their employees (the other 30% of whom all their salary is already paid out of local funds).

3) Avg. Ratio of School Administrators (managers) to Staff is often 30+ to 1. WA State has one of the lowest ratios in the country –good for saying that admin overhead is less, but bad for less professional development and oversight. All professionals require further development over their careers — teachers benefit from mentoring too.

Compare this to an average of 12:1 in a service business, and often 8:1 or less at many technology-based companies. These school employees are teaching children to be citizens and the engines of the economy of tomorrow, yet are supported significantly less than arguably less influential and entrusted professionals in other industries.

School Districts Employ Three Categories of Employees

A brief description of employee categories, which are treated separately and differently by law and salary scales.

This section in progress, thanks for your patience —

Certificated Instructional Staff: teachers and instructors

Certificated Administration Staff: perform essential administrative duties, keep our schools clean and safe, transport our students, and help with instruction.

Classified Staff: are targeted for budget cuts because they are thought to be not directly involved in instruction. But losing classified staff can lead to a loss of learning opportunities for our children these staff are critical.  Researchers recommend that:

♦ Schools should include nurses among their pupil support staff, and that schools should have one support staff for every 100 students in poverty.

♦ Each school should have a library and one librarian and each high school a library media technician.

♦ Each school should have at least 2 instructional coaches to help teachers learn to teach, and

♦ Middle schools and high schools should have 1 counselor for every 250 students.


It is doubtful that any school district can support this level of staffing; and if anything, some districts have been forced to cut such staff.   1Source:  (9)

Funding Washington Schools

3 Staff Stats

WA State needs 12,778 more teachers to match the national pupil-teacher ratio avg.

WA State taxpayers spend nearly $30.6 million on the turnover costs of replacing teachers within their first 5 years — 10 times more than the state invests in teacher training and support,

Despite all the cumulative deferred pay raises in the last 8 years, WA teachers remain $3,300 less than the national teacher average salary, and nearly $14,000 below the national leader (see State base salary schedule).

Sources: League of Education Voters, Cntr. For Strengthening the Teacher Profession.


More details follow below.


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What is the COLA and I-732?

Initiative 732 (I-732), approved by state voters in November 2000, required the state to provide an annual cost-of-living salary adjustment (COLA) for K-12 teachers and other public school employees and certain community and technical college staff, beginning in school year 2002. Each school district must distribute the cost of living the COLA in accordance with the district's salary schedules, collective bargaining agreements, and compensation policies and certify that the district spent the funds for COLAs.

In 2003, the Legislature suspended the COLA requirement for the 2003- 05 biennium (school years 2004 and 2005), and no COLA was provided with the exception of a few targeted salary increases for beginning teachers and classified staff. Additionally, the Legislature modified the COLA provisions for K-12 employees so that the state is only required to fund costs associated with providing the COLA to state-funded employees. Since all staff receives the COLA, this means that the costs associated with providing a COLA for locally and federally funded staff will have to come from those sources.

For the 2007-09 biennium (fiscal years 2008 and 2009), approximately $380 million was appropriated for I-732 salary increases for state-funded K-12 employees.

Source: 2008 Citizen’s Guide to K-12 Finance prepared by staff of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee with staff of the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) Committee.



Source: 2008 Citizen’s Guide to K-12 Finance

How Is The Salary Level for Teachers Determined?

State funding—The Legislature allocates money to each district for state-funded employee salaries and associated fringe benefits. In the case of certificated instructional staff (CIS)—teachers, counselors, librarians, and other instructional staff requiring certification—the state funding is provided based on a state salary allocation schedule. An individual’s education level and teaching experience determines the allocation for base salary. Additional funds (a 1 to 3 percent increase) are provided for each additional year of experience up to 16 years. Additional funds (a 3 to 20 percent increase) are also provided for each additional 15 credits of approved education acquired up to a Ph.D. (See appendix B for the state allocation schedule for certificated instructional staff for the 2007-08 school year.)

The state does not require school districts to pay certificated instructional staff in accordance with the state salary allocation schedule. However, most school districts have adopted a salary schedule the same as, or similar to, the state allocation schedule. Some of the state’s 295 school districts receive higher salary allocations for certificated instructional staff.

The primary reason for this higher allocation is that these districts were paying their certificated instructional staff higher salaries when the Legislature took on responsibility for fully funding basic education programs in the late 1970s. In the 2007-09 budget, the Legislature took steps that will reduce the number of grandfathered salary districts. (See appendix C for a list of these districts and their allocation rate for school year 2007-08.) Additionally, the Legislature limits a school district’s authority to establish salaries for certificated instructional staff by setting a minimum and an average salary level.

Minimum salary – The actual minimum salaries in the district cannot be less than the minimum on the state salary allocation schedule for a certificated instructional staff member who has a BA or MA with no years of experience. The rationale for this limitation is to ensure a minimum salary for beginning certificated instructional staff.

Average salary – The actual average salary in the district cannot exceed the average salary calculated based on the state allocation schedule. A rationale for this limitation is to prevent districts from paying a few certificated instructional staff a very large salary and the rest at the minimum.

The state funding provided to school districts for certificated instructional staff salaries is subject to collective bargaining within the state limitations.

Supplemental Pay – School districts may provide supplemental pay for additional time, responsibilities, and incentives (also known as “TRI”) beyond that provided by the state. The vast majority of supplemental contracts are paid from local revenue. State law provides that supplemental pay contracts must not create any present or future funding obligation for the state.

What is the average salary level for teachers?

In the 2006-07 school year, the statewide average annual base salary for full time teachers was $48,011. In addition, the average additional salary was $7,476. This means that the total average annual was $55,487.

How does Washington compare to other states?

National information is often utilized to compare different aspects of K-12 finance. It should be noted that comparisons with other states, while interesting, often do not lend themselves to any definitive conclusions regarding each state’s K-12 finance system, due to differences in reporting practices, demographics, and public school funding systems.

Teacher Average Salary Levels

The chart on page 23 provides a comparison of average salary levels for teachers. In the 2005-06 school year, Washington’s reported average teacher salary of $46,326 made it the 22nd highest in the nation. The national average was $49,026. Compared to other states in the western region, Washington’s average teacher salary was $13,499 below California ($59,825), $3,718 below Oregon ($50,044), and $5,176 above Idaho ($41,150). The average salary levels depicted on this chart do not include supplemental pay. Since data related to supplemental pay in other states is not available, it is unknown how this might impact the rankings.

Students Enrolled Per Teacher

The chart on page 22 compares students enrolled per teacher in the 2005-06 school year. Washington’s 19.3 enrolled students per teacher makes it the 5th highest in the nation. The national average was 15.6. Compared to other states in the western region, Washington’s number of enrolled students per teacher was below California (21.0) and Oregon (19.8) but above Idaho (18.0). For a variety of reasons, this measure of students to teachers does not translate into the “average class size” in any given school, district, or state.

Source: 2008 Citizen’s Guide to K-12 Finance prepared by staff of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee with staff of the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) Committee.


How is the salary level of administrators and classified staff determined?

The Legislature allocates money to each district for employee salaries and associated fringe benefits. In the case of administrators and classified staff (such as bus drivers, food service workers, custodial staff, classroom aides), there is not a state salary allocation schedule. However, each district receives an allocation for these staff based on historical salary allocations adjusted for cost of living increases. This means that there are variations in the salary levels used for allocating administrator and classified staff position from district to district. In the 2007-09 budget, the Legislature provided additional funding to reduce the variation and increase the salary amounts for districts that have historically received lower funding. However, variation in the salary amounts continue to exist.

The actual salary levels for administrators and classified staff are determined through the local collective bargaining process. There are no state limitations with respect to salary levels of administrators or classified staff.

Source: 2008 Citizen’s Guide to K-12 Finance prepared by staff of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee with staff of the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) Committee.