Next up in my attempt to answer Prop. J’s frequently asked questions:

Will Prop. J money pay for salary increases?

Parcel tax opponents have attacked San Diego Unified for failing to cut wisely, arguing that employees haven’t sacrificed enough before the school district turned to the voters. One of its key arguments is that the tax will just pay for salary increases for employees, not classroom programs.

Let’s lay out what San Diego Unified has cut and what it has promised its employees.

The school district has eliminated hundreds of central office positions and shortened the school year, decreasing employees’ pay by roughly 2.7 percent for this and next year. But after the furloughs stop in two years, school employees will get three salary hikes that add up to a pay increase of more than 7 percent.

“How can they say they’re poor and then hand out a pay raise?” asked David Page, a parent and member of San Diegans 4 Great Schools.

School board members say it was the right thing to do.

Labor leaders point out that the average teacher salary in San Diego Unified is one of the lowest among school districts in San Diego County, even though its teachers are more senior than the county average. School leaders believe the economy will rebound before the raises kick in.

“A single teacher is not making a really vast sum of money,” said Barbara Flannery, a parent who supports the tax. “It’s strange that people want their children to go to college so they can be middle class and have a good salary — but then we don’t want to give teachers a good salary.”

That’s a philosophical question. But is the tax going to pay for those salary increases or isn’t it?

Well, the parcel tax is earmarked for specific programs, not salary hikes. However, paying for programs also means paying for some employees, which would include their higher salaries once the raises kick in.

For instance, if the tax passes, schools would get $150 per student for academic programs. One school might decide to pay for another counselor with that money. When the salary increases happen, the tax would cover the added costs for that counselor. So the tax will end up paying for some raises, but it can’t just be used to fund them for all employees.

Got more questions about Prop. J? I’m explaining how the proposed parcel tax for San Diego Unified schools would work and exploring claims on both sides of the debate. Tell me what you want to know!

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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