New study analyzes Charlottesville teacher pay

A new report by a consultant warns that Charlottesville City Schools could have more difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers in a strong economy.

“We are not just competing with other school divisions; we are now competing with other industries,” said Superintendent Rosa Atkins. 

Charlottesville schools recently contracted with Gallagher Titan, a Richmond-based human resources consulting firm, to review the division’s compensation program for teachers and provide market evaluations for 11 non-teacher jobs. Albemarle County Public Schools hired the firm last year to complete a similar study.

Andrew Klein, principal at Gallagher Titan, said all public school systems face significant constraints on how much they can pay teachers. 

“To recruit talent, you have to sell more than just the salaries. … If [the job] captures their passion, it will capture them,” Klein said. “You have to sell the rewards of being teachers, like making a difference at the individual student level.” 

However, Klein said there were actions Charlottesville could take to make its teacher salaries more competitive in comparison with other divisions in the state.

Gallagher Titan recommended that Charlottesville City Schools use a new competitive market to determine its teacher salaries. 

Charlottesville currently targets teacher salaries for the 75th percentile of a group of 27 school districts. Its adopted competitive market includes several neighboring localities, 11 Northern Virginia divisions and other large districts like Roanoke and Virginia Beach. 

Gallagher Titan’s recommended market includes 12 Virginia school divisions, most in urban areas: Albemarle, Arlington, Chesterfield and Henrico counties and the cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, Manassas, Richmond and Virginia Beach.

Klein said school districts in the recommended market have percentages of teachers holding master’s degrees or graduation and college enrollment rates that are similar to Charlottesville’s. 

Gallagher Titan calculated the daily compensation rate for each of the market comparators and adjusted the rates for days worked and the average cost of labor in each locality. 

“We did not find anything to be really broken,” Klein said. “What we found is that, if you choose the 75th percentile [of the new competitive market], you are down a little bit.”

At $45,161, Charlottesville’s starting salary for teachers with only a bachelor’s degree was well above the 75th percentile of the recommended competitive market. These teachers exceed the 75th-percentile target until they reach 20 years of seniority, after which they fall slightly behind.

The Titan Gallagher study found that Charlottesville’s most experienced and highly educated teachers were the furthest behind the 75th percentile of the market.

Charlottesville teachers with a master’s degree and 25 years of experience earn $ less per day than the 75th percentile of the study’s competitive market. This 8.9 percent compensation gap would add up to nearly $6,500 annually. 

Assistant Superintendent Kim Powell said staff soon would propose adjustments to teacher compensation based on the study’s findings. 

“When it comes to addressing pay tables, it takes a lot of money to address anything in a big way at any one time,” Powell said. “You have to work at it gradually over time.”

Powell said the compensation study, shared with the Charlottesville School Board at a Jan. 13 work session, is part of an effort to stay ahead of a teaching shortage that has severely affected other regions of Virginia. 

“When you start to think about what causes the teacher shortage situation, it starts with why [college students] don’t go into the teaching profession, or why teachers get diverted towards other jobs,” she said. 

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive directive in December aimed at addressing the growing teacher shortage. The directive cited a 40 percent increase in teaching vacancies in the last decade, with more than 1,000 fully funded positions remaining unfilled in October of the 2016-17 school year.

Atkins has requested funding to give teachers an average raise of 4 percent next year. The raise would consist of a percent cost of living adjustment combined with a step increase on the division’s pay scale.

Atkins said that many private-sector employees would see their salaries go up more than 4 percent this year. 

“We are benchmarking ourselves against environments that have been depressed,” she said. “If we don’t think outside of that realm, we all will stay in the same space.”

Jessica Taylor, a teacher at Clark Elementary School and president of the Charlottesville Education Association, said she was grateful for Atkins’ inclusion of the 4 percent raise in her funding request.

However, Taylor said she hoped the proposed raise would not mask “the real issue facing teachers and school divisions hoping to retain good educators”: a chronic undervaluing of the teaching profession.

“We are preparing the children of Virginia for their futures. … We are getting them ready to be problem solvers, innovators, champions of social justice and the leaders of our world,” Taylor said. “Why should we have to, year after year, plead our case and convince those in charge that what we do matters, and that we should be paid as such?”

The School Board will convene Wednesday for a work session on the fiscal 2019 budget and for a joint meeting with the City Council on Thursday.