Richmond teachers’ salaries currently sit at the penultimate place among the school districts in Contra Costa County. At the same time, housing costs have risen, and continue to rise, a fact that has resulted with many teachers leaving West Contra Costa Unified School District (to which the city of Richmond belongs) in search of higher pay. Beginning next year, WCCUSD will offer a starting salary of a little over $52,000 to teachers. This was approved after multiple board meetings that reached its decision to raise teacher salaries by 15% by the year 2020.
This new pay increase will bump WCCUSD up to among the highest paying districts within the county. The goal of this pay increase is to both retain highly qualified teachers in Richmond, and attract highly qualified teachers to cities like Richmond — a city with a population of students who have been historically underserved. Speaking on the value of quality teachers in Richmond, Superintendent Matthew Duffy said, “Our employees deserve to be paid like professionals, and I firmly believe that this will help us recruit and retain the best and brightest for our students.”
As an educator in Richmond, I know the economic hardship that comes from living in this city first-hand. I have lived in Richmond since I was 12 years old, and I remember that my family’s monthly rent was a couple of hundred dollars over $1,000. Today, 14 years later, a similar house in Richmond is being rented out for $2,600/month, which is more than double! Living costs have gone up over the last 14 years, but salaries have remained relatively stagnant. It is appropriate to raise educators’ salaries so that they can continue living in the cities where they develop their professions. I believe that community-oriented teaching is essential to effective teaching.
Still, one might be curious as to the results of losing jobs in order to cover the $37 million that this salary increase demands. Among the job cuts required to offset the salary increase, there will be “reductions in the Graduate Tutors and Playworks programs [that] will yield another $4.4 million through the 2018-2019 school year.” Is it worth losing these important programs in order to raise teacher salaries? Wouldn’t it be more cost-effect in the long-run to build housing for teachers? All of these debatable questions lurk behind the big news.
In the end, I want our students to have a positive experience in the classroom, and that requires highly qualified teachers. If WCCUSD believes that a higher salary will provide better experiences for our students, then I am on board. I am also excited as an educator because this pay increase will translate into an improved quality of life for us, and our profession will increase in value. Teachers have been paid too little for too long, and I am grateful that WCCUSD will begin to turn towards a direction that shows respect for the educator’s work, and I truly hope that our students can reap the benefits of this decision.
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