EdFirstSC Campaign Yields Teacher Raises, Pre-K, and Computer Labs in Charleston
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The timeline is pretty interesting here:
Board members express frustration upon hearing that they will be required by law to give teachers a step-increase (as promised at hire).
They are reassured to learn that the Administration is actively researching ways to avoid doing so.
District revenues are projected to be higher than last year's - a surplus that will total $25 million by June.
At the same meeting, a consultant from Fox Lawson & Associates reveals that a preliminary salary study shows the District underpaying employees. He states that a 3-5% increase will be recommended in the final report.
Board members vote to delay delivery of the final report until August, even though it will be available in May. The stated reason is that the report might complicate the budget process in June.
[Note: The final report was delivered in October. All data was identical to the preliminary report.].
District officials submit budget scenarios along with a request for a tax increase.
- Teacher raises, Pre-K expansion, and Computer Lab teachers will be funded (along with a host of other programs), if the board passes an increase of 5-10 mills, costing residents $6-12 (if they own a $20,000 vehicle).
- Other District priorities (including raises for administrators and Common Core training) are part of the base budget. They will be funded with or without the increase.
Pre-K receives a nice boost from the support of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, a coalition of faith-based groups. They did a wonderful job bringing this issue front and center.
Board members complain, even though Charleston’s millage rate is among the lowest in a state with one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation. Board member Chris Fraser asks if the District is still required to give teachers the step-increase they were promised at hire.
EdFirstSC launches a campaign.
It encourages 4,000 (awesome) Lowcountry members to contact the Board in support of teacher raises, Pre-K expansion, and Computer Lab teachers. It also publicizes the delayed salary study showing that Charleston teachers are underpaid.
Subsequently, a 2% raise for teachers (above their step-increase) is added to the BASE BUDGET request – with or without a tax increase!
District officials slash spending on Common Core training to pay for it, even though it means reconfiguring a school calendar that has been in place for months, and contradicts teacher contracts that have already been signed. Their hope is that teachers will not attempt to enforce the extra days in those contracts.
I share that hope. We asked, they answered, and they stuck their necks out to do it.
The administration tosses out most of its earlier requests, but Pre-K expansion and Computer Lab will still be funded if the board approves a 1 mill increase.
It will cost most residents around $1. Only three Board members vote for it:
- John Barter
- Chris Fraser
- Cindy Bohn-Coats
The point has been made that the increase will actually cost residents $60 (!)... if they own a 2nd home in Charleston valued at $1 million.
The following Board members vote against the increase:
- Todd Garrett
- Elizabeth Moffly
- Tom Ducker
- Craig Ascue
- Chris Collins
- Michael Miller
Interestingly, these folks seem to have heard the message about teacher raises, Pre-K and Computer Lab. They just don't want to pay for them. Repeatedly, and in vain, Board members request sacrificial offerings from the base budget. None are forthcoming.
After a lengthy discussion, they agree to:
cut teacher raises to 1.4%
partially fund Pre-K and Computer Lab
put District reserves, programs, and credit rating at risk with unsustainable funding
All to avoid the scourge of a $1 tax increase.
Chris Fraser casts the lone opposing vote, citing concerns about the long-term fiscal health of the District if spending increases without new revenue.
The Charleston Post and Courier proclaims a miracle. Let us all give thanks and praise.