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The Stepless Salary Schedule

Original post made by Stacey, Amberwood/Wood Meadows, on Feb 4, 2010

Maybe the Board could form an exploratory committee to look into alternative employee compensation systems. It would be the first step towards being ready for any Race to the Top funding.

One idea "out there" that I think warrants a look at is the "Stepless Salary Schedule" created by educator Bill Maas. It is in use in several districts in Arizona.

Here's a presentation on it: Web Link
And another, more detailed one: Web Link
Here's a Q&A from the presentation: Web Link
Here's a district's website with more info on it: Web Link
Here's Deer Valley's current stepless salary schedule for certificated staff: Web Link

One benefit to this alternative salary schedule is that there's no employees "frozen", or penalized for being senior staff. I think such a feature would be attractive to employees. It also gives a district more flexibility.

"Under your old system, when you have “lock-ins,” just trying to move everyone down on the salary schedule takes about 2.75% new money. In those years when you don’t have 2.75%, you have no system of distributing the money that you do have. So what it does is gives a system of distributing the funds available regardless of the amount. If you have more money that year than what steps would normally be, you have the same system. If there’s less money, you have a system. Under the existing system, when you have the lock-in steps, it leaves out about 20% employees, who are capped out at the end of the salary schedule. So this prevents that. It gives everybody, on an equitable basis, a portion of the money that’s available."

The Stepless Salary Schedule also lends itself to any merit-based pay system.

Comments (10)

Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 6:08 am

This seems like it would be worth exploring for the next round of negotiations (in 2013, assuming a three year contract is negotiated to begin in July 2010). I don't think enough explanation is possible for this year, within the time we have available.

The gist of the idea, as I understand it, is that there's a base salary, which is adjusted when a teacher enters the system. After that point, the district (unilaterally?) decides each year how much is available for raises, and applies the same increase to each person, based on their previous year's pay.

The district and the union no longer need to negotiate separately about whether there are increases in some steps or not. The public understands the system because there are fewer moving parts -- compared to our current system with COLA, the locations of cells and columns the step-and-column, etc.

In the example given, the worst casse scenario is 0 increase. That would not help us much in the current system, unless it made the percentage change set by the board somewhere between a 5% decrease and a 5% increase, with the amount set by the board unilaterally.

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:08 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Sandy wrote: "I don't think enough explanation is possible for this year, within the time we have available."

I agree, but it is time to get thinking started on this. PUSD signed the MOU for Race to the Top. It is supposed to be in this year that the first of the awards happen, assuming California wins some of the money. Even then, I hear there is the making of a RTTT 2 where individual districts can apply without the State.

RTTT isn't intended to provide funding for programs. It is intended to provide funding for the exploration and implementation of programs.

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:31 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Sandy wrote: "In the example given, the worst case scenario is 0 increase."

One benefit to the district is more flexibility in handling issues like years with 0% COLA. One benefit to employees is that no one is "frozen" on a schedule and the distribution of funds available is more equitable. The district referenced above has something like 20% of staff "frozen". So there's a penalty for being senior staff with the current salary schedule.

In Deer Valley, it looks like classified staff built a top level into their stepless salary schedule anyway. Bill Maas explains that they wanted that. So a stepless salary schedule can be built/negotiated to custom specifications.

Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 9:00 am

Sandy is a registered user.

Stacey, I totally agree that we should begin exploring this now for possible implementation in a future year.

I'm just wondering how they deal with years that have a negative percentage in COLA funds received from the state, as we did for the current fiscal year and are projecting for next year. The Deer Valley stepless schedule wouldn't be much help then, right? It wouldn't allow for the automatic implementation of salary reductions, I mean.

RTTT funds could certainly be used to pilot some kind of merit pay program that might be a successor to the current step-and-column approach. I understand that they are only one-time funds, and they are not automatic -- the state has to win a grant from the federal govt, and then the district would have to compete for and win a grant from the state.

I hadn't heard about those RTTT2 funding possibilities. That's something I'll try to read more about when I have time.

Right now, I need to hunker down and finish grading my MBA students' papers!

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I think salary reductions should still be negotiable. The point is to have automatic raises like with the current system not contribute to a budget shortfall in years of cuts. We see what happens with that, how it creates friction and animosity.

Posted by frank
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Feb 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm

How about an "at will" employment system? Why not do away with classified and certificated employee unions in our school systems? These unions do nothing but raise costs to taxpayers and work against what is best for our students, like direct limited taxpayer funds into contract-mandated compensation rather than programs that actually benefit our students.

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Another link that adds to this discussion:

"Why Change to Stepless?
- Pre-determined increases are not always affordable or realistic.
- Although the traditional, lock-step schedule is predictable and easy to manage, it communicates a false expectation for an increase.
- Teachers often fixate on schedule placement rather than their total compensation.
- Employees do not always consider the scheduled, pre-determined increases as part of their “raise”.
- Timing is right because of state budget issues.
- Stepless schedule allows flexibility.
- Be proactive.
- If there is money stepless is more transparent. Money is divided fairly based on percent available."

Posted by Resident Evil
a resident of Avila
on Mar 13, 2011 at 7:58 am

Sorry to take away your free speech rights by not agreeing with you (or whatever), but many of those claims don't make much sense. "It's transparent b/c it's stepless!"'s transparent NOW. You're the Great Googler, are you telling me you can't find the publicly posted salary schedule? "Step and column sets a false expectation for an increase." I guess this is true, if a district is trying to trick their employees by paying them less than the schedule states. Is this our working assumption here? "Teachers often fixate on salary placement instead of total compensation." HUH?!?

Thanks for Googling! So much better than thinking critically!

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Districts across the country are looking at the way they pay teachers and finding that the status quo, steeped in an industrial production model, is no longer adequate. Educators are coming up with solutions to the shortcomings of that outdated model. I highlighted one of those solutions. What are your ideas?

Posted by Broke
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Frank is right..CA is an 'at will' state...any employer can fire any of us anytime, for anything ! ! Oooops, that'S right, EVERYBODY EXCEPT the priviledged and entitled !.PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ! !
And COLA, isn't that for COST of living INCREASES ? ? ? My current CD gets .002%..hope by the end of the year it might get up to a whole %....1 %.... Why would there be any COL....what a scam !
I want some RTTT2 money to look at new, more fair and logical systems.

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