Teachers and staff will receive a 7% pay increase after the Board of Education approved a negotiated agreement reached by the unions and district on Jan. 17.
The deal, retroactive to the start of the 2022-2023 school year, provides a 7% pay increase to employees, with the exception of the district’s top six administrators. A 5% raise retroactive to the start of this school year and a 2% one-time payment given to these administrators.
Two unions — the Palo Alto Educators Association and the California School Employees Association, which represent teachers and classified staff — negotiated the pay raise. The agreements were separate, with the district negotiating with PAEA and CSEA independently. The Palo Alto Managers Association represents administrators but did not participate in negotiations.
The 7% increase is noticeably higher than increases from previous agreements. In the past two years, employees at PAUSD have received a 3% pay increase. PAEA President Teri Baldwin attributed the larger increase to the rising cost of living and inflation.
“The reason for a higher salary increase is that we are trying to keep pace with the cost of living and high inflation increases over the years,” Baldwin said.
In 2022, the average inflation rate was about 8%, compared to the average rate of 1.88% of the 2010s, according to Forbes.
PAUSD Deputy Superintendent Trent Bahadursingh said the district’s main focus during negotiations was on making smart financial decisions.
“A lot of (the agreement) depended on where the district is financially,” Bahadursingh said. “We needed to be fiscally responsible while still considering the compensation we give to staff.”
Lisa Hickey, Director of Certified Human Resources, said the district put a lot of consideration into the negotiations.
“Typically, 85% of the school budget goes to the staffing personnel,” Hickey said. “We want to make sure that whatever we propose and agree to are financially responsible decisions.”
PAUSD Assistant Superintendent Anne Le said a fair pay increase allows the district to recruit more experienced staff.
Bahadursingh also said the increase would allow the district to hire qualified teachers. Furthermore, Bahadursingh said that retaining and recruiting high-quality teachers will directly impact students’ education.
“Like any business, the goal is attracting and retaining staff,” Bahadursingh said. “PAUSD’s prestige and salary makes us very competitive.”
Benefits of the pay increases extend not only to PAUSD staff. Math teacher Daniel Nguyen who is part of the PAEA Rep. Council and also part of the Negotiations Team said better compensation allows teachers to focus more on their students rather than on making a living.
“When (teachers) can focus on their jobs more, they may be more likely to supervise clubs, maybe coach sports, maybe stay after school or come before school to help students,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said that while the negotiations process usually begins in the fall, this year’s negotiations ended much earlier than usual.
“The last time we had a tentative agreement, it was reached at the end of April,” Nguyen said. “This time, we were able to get a tentative agreement at the beginning of December. The process was a lot smoother and a lot faster this time around.”
In addition to compensation and benefits such as salary increases and medical benefits, unions also negotiate other topics such as class size, working conditions and leave provisions, which are part of PAUSD’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Even though pay has steadily risen for teachers, many educators in California are still dissatisfied. In a 2021 national survey conducted by the Teacher Salary Project, over 82% of 1,200 classroom teachers surveyed said they have worked at multiple jobs to make a living.
With all that in mind, teachers like Nguyen are grateful to work in PAUSD, where staff currently earn between $71,484 and $144,239.
“We have a lot of privilege living in this area,” Nguyen said. “We are fortunate to live in a strong economic area where the district will still be in a strong financial situation, even with this agreement.”