Now that the PUSD School Board has taken the important step of placing a local school funding measure before the voters of Pleasanton, it is inevitable that the issue of Step and Column salary increases will be raised once again by those pitted against the measure, so with your permission I'd like to shed some light on the issue for those community members who may not be familiar with the system.
The term 'Step and Column' is a term used in public schools to refer to a compensation schedule structured to provide incentives for experienced teachers to remain teaching in the district and seek education and training.
Step defines teacher salaries according to how many years a teacher has worked in the district. It is important to note that teachers do not automatically receive a 'Step' increase each year. A teacher can also improve her pay by earning college credits, commonly referred to as 'Column' increases. Columns indicate how many educational units a teacher has accrued. In PUSD there are five columns ranging from no BA and less than 30 units to a BA plus 75 units. It is important to note that teachers must spend considerable amounts of time and money to acquire these units and move across the salary schedule. With units at Cal state east Bay currently costing $225.00 each, it costs a teacher approximately $3,400 to acquire the necessary fifteen units to move across from one column to another. This amounts to $10,000 to reach BA+75 units, the far end of the column. Because of the time and cost required to reach Column V Step 20 only 130 full-time teachers (18%) are currently on the highest cell of our salary schedule.
There are many advantages to the 'Step+ Column' system. Pleasanton schools have been able to attract and retain many outstanding teachers that make our schools among the very best in the state. 'Step and Column' ensures that our teachers keep up with the latest information, trends and technology in teaching and instructional curriculum by providing an incentive to teachers to invest their personal time, energy and money into on-going education and training.
It is important to note that Pleasanton teachers have not received a COLA raise in over three years. 'Step and Column' has represented a lifeline for young teachers, new to the profession who might otherwise have been forced to leave teaching in search of a job, which would enable them to make ends meet.
'Step + Column' is not a system unique to PUSD. All of our neighboring school districts use it, as do all high-performing school districts in California. If Pleasanton were to abandon the 'Step + Column' system, we could expect to lose many of our best and most experienced teachers to other school districts.
As we move forward with the parcel tax measure, your teachers hope that the community realizes the commitment that they have already made to preserve the exceptional school district that we have here in Pleasanton. Despite the fact that they have received no COLA raise in over three years and despite receiving what amounts to an annual pay cut because they have to pay for their own medical benefits and the costs have escalated to the point where current Kaiser rates for a family medical plan and family dental plan have risen to $22,147 a year.
Despite all of this your teachers agreed to accept 3 furlough days last year and five this year to save jobs and preserve programs. Their sacrifice amounts to between $2,610 and $4,239 in gross salary depending on their position on the salary schedule. Together with their colleagues in CSEA and Management they stepped up to rescue the school district in its time of need and now they are simply asking the community to do the same. The $2m that the parcel tax would provide will not solve the whole problem, but it would help a great deal and APT remains committed to sitting down with the District at the negotiations table to find solutions to whatever deficit remains.