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Statement: “In fact, District employees will soon see a 7% salary increase plus additional perks that amount to an over 14% compensation increase in one year!” Ballot arguments against Proposition J, a parcel tax for San Diego Unified schools.

Determination: Misleading

Analysis: As San Diego Unified asks voters to approve a new tax, the debate has centered on whether the school district has made responsible cuts before turning to taxpayers. One of the big issues is whether employees have sacrificed enough.

Last year, teachers negotiated a contract with San Diego Unified that includes two years of furloughs, which amount to a 2.7 percent decrease in pay for two years.

After those two years, the school district then stops the furloughs, restores teachers to their normal pay, and gradually increases pay in three separate boosts, starting in July 2012 and ending in July 2013. Other employees got basically the same agreement as the teachers.

The end result is that in three years, employees will make 7.16 percent more in salary than they did before the furloughs. (We’ve already fact checked Taxpayers Association president Lani Lutar saying salaries would go up 7 percent and found it was true.)

So how do the tax opponents come to the 14 percent number, instead of 7 percent? They added in two more factors, which they called “additional perks.”

First, they counted reversing the furloughs — ending an existing pay cut — as a pay increase.

Second, they estimated how much employees would make in step increases, boosts that employees get automatically for staying in the school district. For instance, a teacher who earns about $51,600 one year would earn almost $53,600 the next. The tax opponents estimated that employees would get a step increase of about 3.75 percent on top of the other increases.

It’s true that ending the furloughs — and returning employees to what they earned before — means workers take home more money than they did during the furloughs.

But counting that as a “perk” is misleading. Restoring employees to their original pay isn’t the same thing as offering employees an added bonus, something that the word “perk” implies.

As for the step increases, it’s true that some employees will be eligible for step increases that increase their pay, which range from roughly 3 percent to 4 percent. But a significant share of employees won’t get them.

Once employees have been with the school district for a long time, the step increases slow and eventually stop. Only 58 percent of teachers, counselors and other certificated employees and 19 percent of other school employees will be up for a step increase in the year that the raises occur, according to the San Diego Unified human resources department.

Employees are also eligible for pay increases if they get more degrees or take more classes, but there is no clear way to factor that into the equation, so we didn’t try to add it to our analysis.

Because the tax opponents characterized the ending of furloughs as a perk and made a broad brush statement that employees would get a step increase when many will not, we have determined that this statement is misleading.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

What claim should we explore next? You can also email new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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