Freedom Foundation
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Snohomish School District’s Discriminatory Salary Schedule

While conducting an analysis for the Freedom Foundation’s major research project regarding the collective bargaining practices of school districts in Washington State, I discovered that the Snohomish School Board has taken an alarming approach to its teachers’ salaries. Instead of following the official salary allocation schedule—as does nearly every other of the state’s 295 districts—the union officials have decided to make up their own.

The union contract suggests the change is intended to make the schedule “more competitive in attracting and retaining certificated staff.” But on closer examination, the salary schedule they’ve devised is, at best, a “reverse Robin Hood” schedule that reduces the wages of lower-paid teachers to enhance the wages of the higher-paid teachers. It formalizes a regressive policy of paying some teachers more than the state allocation and many others less.

If you have . . .

and . . .

you get paid:

A Bachelor’s degree plus 30 credits of continuing education

4 years seniority

$392 less than the state allocation

A Bachelor’s degree plus 30 credits of continuing education

6 years seniority

$593 more than the state allocation

A Bachelor’s degree plus 90 credits of continuing education

12 years seniority

$658 less than the state allocation

A Bachelor’s degree plus 90 credits of continuing education

13 years seniority

$213 more than the state allocation

A Bachelor’s degree plus 90 credits of continuing education

14 years seniority

$1,122 less than the state allocation

A Bachelor’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education

7 years seniority

$2,502 more than the state allocation

A Bachelor’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education 

8 years seniority

$1,848 more than the state allocation

A Bachelor’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education

15 years seniority

$1,484 less than the state allocation

A Master’s degree plus 45 credits of continuing education

1 year seniority

$3,454 less than the state allocation

A Master’s degree plus 45 credits of continuing education

15 years seniority

$4,543 less than the state allocation

A Master’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education

6 years seniority

$1,828 more than the state allocation

A Master’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education

7 years seniority

$1,598 more than the state allocation

A Master’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education

11 years seniority

$332 more than the state allocation

A Master’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education

13 years seniority

$23 less than the state allocation

A Master’s degree plus 135 credits of continuing education

15 years seniority

$1,289 more than the state allocation

Nearly every teacher who earns under $40,000 in base pay or who has less than five years seniority gets paid less than the state intends. It appears that those at the top of the salary schedule with a base pay from the state of more than $60,000 are using the underpayment of beginning teachers to add $1,289 to their state allocation.

Of the 114 different possible pay cells on the salary schedule, 36 are getting paid more than the state base. By our estimates, this results in a total of 201 teachers being paid more than the state base and 234 being paid less.

One potential rebuttal from the district is that its levy-funded wage enhancements make up the differences in the salary schedule. But even those wage increases seem to be regressive. Older teachers on the high end of the schedule (10-plus years of seniority) get an average increase of 35 percent of their base salary. However, younger teachers on the low end of the schedule (less than 10 years seniority) get an average increase of 33 percent.

Although that’s a difference of only a few percentage points, it nevertheless illustrates a point. Instead of using a flat percentage to determine wage enhancements across the board, the district purposefully gives younger teachers a smaller increase when compared to their older counterparts. Thus, this defense does little to justify the discrimination inherent in the Snohomish School District’s salary schedule.

Further, there’s a possibility the decision-makers are favoring themselves. Five out of the seven union board members fall into cells that have been increased above the state salaries—some by as much as $1,828. While there are other teachers in those cells, it’s odd that the majority of union board members benefit from the salary schedule adjustment.

In addition to possibility that union officials are favoring their own self-interest, the decision-making process by which they arrive at the revised salary schedule is clearly not transparent—and seems disturbingly capricious.

At the end of the year, the salary schedule is revised to comply with the state-mandated average. If it falls short of that, the district alerts the Snohomish Education Association of the amount by which it has under-applied. The district also provides the association with the number of teachers who fall into each cell of the salary schedule.

The association then gets to choose—without any district oversight—exactly which cell to allocate that extra money to. The district abides by its choice without a second thought. Evidently, the district is failing to exercise proper oversight over the revision process.

At best, the Snohomish School District’s salary schedule is an arbitrary allocation system that randomly raises some teachers’ wages and lowers others—with the younger teachers getting the raw end of the deal. At worst, the union officials are using their control of the wage-allocation system to selectively enhance their own wages and those of their friends.

In either case, the school board should restore a fair, transparent system in the negotiations under way this summer.

To see for yourself the discrepancies in Snohomish’s salary schedule, please see the Washington State base salary schedule, the Snohomish School District salary schedule, and our analysis of the winners and losers here.


Note to Impacted Snohomish Teachers

If you are frustrated by being forced to pay $1,126 in union dues for the “service” of having your base salary reduced and given to those making the most in your workplace, you have options. Certainly contact those who are making these decisions on your behalf, and insist on a vote on any contract proposals. More than half of those in Snohomish are underpaid using the union-designed scheme. You have other options:

(1) Resign and request that the union give you the approximately $230 refund each year using this letter (more info here, WEA explanation of refund amount here).

(2) Decertify this union and open the way for a better union or no union at all. Teachers in a few other districts have created “local-only” unions that are much more attentive to members’ interests and charge lower dues. The petition calling for a state-administered secret ballot vote about decertification looks like this.