PERS (retirement funds) were taken from my paycheck by surprise on my July 1st pay. I work for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas as a 1st grade teacher. We all knew it was likely that teacher pay would be affected when we followed the legislative session. It was surprising that in the middle of the summer, when most teachers are on vacation we received a pay cut. PERS is a negotiated item. According to the contract the school district has put in writing that they will pay 100% of a teacher’s required portion of the retirement amount.
Here is some background on PERS:
It seems strange that this pay cut hit during the union enrollment drop period?
Normally pay changes occur in September when the school year starts. It is highly unusual and a surprise to have a significant change in July. The school district did send out an e-mail about a week before the pay change – but that was it. So teachers not checking their work e-mail . . . really had a shock. Not only this but all 18,000 teachers sign a personal contract that lasts from August to August each year. So the negotiated agreement was broken AND each teacher will have 4 pays in July and August that money was taken. This makes their yearly amount according to the individually signed contracts smaller than what is written and signed.
I should say SOME teachers saw a significant decrease. Veteran teachers with more experience were hit hardest because they have more money vested with PERS. The less experienced teachers who work for less money barely had a hit to their bottom line – if at all. This pay cut was a direct hit on the people working at the top of the pay scale since newer teachers are not yet vested in PERS.
Experience does matter to a quality education. My experience matters. I have over 20 years of educational teaching and working in schools experience. I have taught hundreds of students to read over a few decades. We used to treat veteran teachers with respect. In fact the pay scale is a “merit” system that rewards teachers with experience and education that improves their teaching. I took this pay cut personal. It was more than the money. I will get over the amount. BUT . . . I have a strong feeling that my skill, experience, and work is not appreciated. The pay cut was a SLAP IN THE FACE.
School districts put the money where they think it’s valuable. Much of the money goes toward personnel. In a district like ours where close to 75% of the teachers have 3 or less years of teaching experience and most drop out of teaching before year 5, it is rare to find someone like me still in the classroom. I’m a mentor. I’m a friend to my co-workers. I can honestly do some things that a newer teacher would not be able to do. Have I convinced you that I’m valuable yet?
My main concern is that I understand that the district is trying to eliminate the Teacher’s Health Trust Insurance program AND I’m going to take a 2.5% decrease in my pay overall. I sign documents all the time about what I will be paid and when – but it’s all a lie? When are the other pay cuts coming and how much are they going to be? Is the district going to tell me about them? Was the July 1st pay a stunt to try to bust the union? How do we proceed from here – just file lawsuits?
What a scary year for everyone involved. Seems like these things could be done with some dignity and respect. I can guarantee the teacher’s union would negotiate at anytime if asked to do so. That is why over the decades teachers sacrificed pay raises and other items to build contracts with the district – for times like these. You have to respect what is written for it to work.
I know I have to take the cut – but don’t step on my neck while you do it!
I teach public school. Students are my special interest.