2017-05-17 / Letters

County administrator alters ‘facts’ in SRP decision

On April 26, the Board of Supervisors discussed the Supplemental Retirement Plan (SRP) for Chesterfield County teachers. In order to justify extending the SRP to 20 years of teaching rather than accepting the School Board’s proposal for 15 years, County Administrator Joe Casey defended his position by stating that “this now positions Chesterfield’s teacher pay scale to be the highest at every step among our peers.”

He reminded me of another politician whose use of superlatives (“highest, greatest”) signals his highest and greatest use of alternative facts.

With all due respect to Casey, the Virginia Department of Education has a full list of teacher salaries online all the way back to the 1990s ( Ten years ago in fiscal 2007, Chesterfield County’s budgeted average teacher salary increased by 4.66 percent to $46,486. The budgeted average teacher salary in Virginia increased by 4.24 percent to $49,252 in the same year. In 2007, therefore, Chesterfield County paid their teachers $2,700 less than the average for teachers elsewhere in the state. In 2007, Virginia ranked No. 28 in teacher salaries nationwide, with the average national salary of $42,768. Chesterfield teachers actually earned better back then.

Now let’s jump to fiscal 2017. Chesterfield County’s budgeted average teacher salary increased to $50,797 or .2 percent (note the decimal point before the 2). The budgeted average teacher salary in Virginia increased 2.29 percent to $56,148. This means that Chesterfield County is paying its teachers $5,351 less than the budgeted average of county schools in Virginia in fiscal 2017. In fact, 24 counties in Virginia pay their teachers an average budgeted teacher salary higher than Chesterfield County, according to my calculations. Note also that the closest national rankings to this year is 2014-2015, when Virginia dropped down to No. 30 in teacher salaries nationwide, with an annual average national salary of $50,620.

In the last 10 years we have dropped our national ranking in teacher salaries from No. 28 to No. 30. How are we going to attract the best teachers when our salaries cannot compete with 24 counties in Virginia and cannot compete with 20 other states? We cannot afford to slide backward and expect to recruit quality teachers when the rest of the nation is moving forward.

Viewed from a business standpoint, our Chesterfield “brand” is being affected. “Great schools” have always been Chesterfield’s trademark, touted by real estate agents to recruit new families and companies to the area. What will we do to help the housing, business sector and new job growth when these real facts now come to light?

Chesterfield voters, we can do better.

Marni Pilafian

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