Study: Teaching in FCPS a Six-Figure Career Salary Sacrifice


A teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools can expect to make nearly $300,000 less than a one employed in nearby Arlington County during the course of the teacher’s career.

That is a finding by a study from Segal Waters Consulting presented to the FCPS School Board at a work session on Monday.

FCPS is in the process of determining its budget needs for Fiscal Year 2017, and it has repeatedly pointed out that 1) salaries are not keeping pace with neighboring school systems; and 2) the rising cost of employee benefits is one of the drivers of an expected budget gap of more than $50 million.

FCPS has withheld step increases for teachers for three of the last six years. Salary scale adjustments were also frozen for two of the past six years. FCPS said in a budget presentation two weeks ago that 2017 spending will be up more than $113 million from 2016. Some of the biggest spending will be on step increases and benefits for employees; growing enrollment; and infrastructure.

The study showed that FCPS teacher salaries start to lag behind at around Year 5 of a teacher’s career.  Over a 30-year career, an FCPS teacher earns $142,000 less than the survey average and $293,000 less than a teacher at Arlington Public Schools.

The study showed Year 5 of a career for a teacher with a master’s degree, using current pay lanes as a comparison, a teacher earns $2,804 less than teachers in the average of neighboring districts. By year 10, that figure grows to $6,820; by year 15, the annual gap is $8,569.

“Our superior teachers are the heart of FCPS and I find the salary comparisons to be sobering and very concerning. As I have said many times, we cannot cut our way to excellence,” FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said in a statement. “As a community we can, and we must, do better. If we expect to maintain and grow the outstanding achievement of our school system, we must make significant investments in our teachers.”

Garza said that teacher turnover has risen from 5 to 7 percent in the last few years. Many of the teachers head to Loudoun or Arlington. FCPS said more than half of teachers who left said that pay rates influenced their decision to leave. Thirty percent said it influenced their decision a great deal.

“This third-party study is proof that multiple years of pay freezes and the inability to provide step increases have put our teachers at a great disadvantage during their prime earning years,” said Garza. “Teacher turnover has risen 2 percentage points, from 5 to 7 percent, as we lose teachers to nearby districts that pay more throughout a teacher’s career.”

Other jurisdictions in the Segal Waters study: Alexandria, Arlington County, the District of Columbia, Loudoun County, Montgomery County (Md.), Prince George’s County (Md.), and Prince William County. The survey looked at base pay and promotional increases, pay supplements and stipends, health benefits, and retirement benefits.

The company will now continue the compensation study by completing a market study analysis; conducting employee surveys and focus groups; developing a new compensation philosophy; recommending compensation models and approaches to help the district recruit, retain, and reward high-quality employees, including a new salary scale approach; and estimate the costs of implementing the recommendations, FCPS said.

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