The Facts on Educator Compensation in District Schools

Mar 4, 2022

By Shannon Hodge, Founding Executive Director, DC Charter School Alliance

This week, there’s been a lot of online conversation about educator pay in District schools. I want to take a moment to set the record straight when it comes to public charter schools.

First, there’s critically important context about public charter school teacher salary data that’s being left out of the analysis and comparisons to government salaries or living wage indicators: we don’t actually have solid data to accurately make that analysis and comparison. Here’s why.

Information about charter teacher salaries are obtained from DC Public Charter School Board annual reports. Schools are required to report teacher salaries by a specific set of directions, which can be found on DC PCSB’s website here. On pages 8-9, teachers are defined as “any adult responsible for the instruction of students at least 50% of the time, including, but not limited to, lead teachers, teacher residents, special education teachers, and teacher fellows.”

What this means is that the data being cited contains all sorts of apples to oranges comparisons. Schools are asked to report average salaries and minimum and maximum salaries. But schools are not asked to report whether or not minimum and maximum salaries represent full-time teachers, part-time teachers, teacher fellows, or teacher residents. In other words, data floating around about educator pay in District schools don’t necessarily represent full-time teachers’ salaries. That context is extremely important when making blanket comparisons to other sectors and to living wage indicators.

Let me be clear –– we do need clarity on this data. Given the difficulty of accurately interpreting teacher salaries, we are collaborating with DC PCSB on improving the data collection process so that when we’re having these important conversations, we aren’t making apples to oranges comparisons.

Second, there is a wide range of executive compensation in charter schools not accounted for in examples floating around social media –– those examples are not representative of the full range of salaries or responsibilities of LEA leaders across the sector. For example, executive director responsibilities vary widely by LEA. Some leaders operate with minimal “central offices” while others have very large teams to assist with management responsibilities. And, many of the highest-paid charter leaders in the District have been with their schools for 15 years or more.

All of that context must be considered when presenting data about educator pay in our city to avoid misleading comparisons that aren’t helpful in advancing the discussion about fair teacher compensation. We agree that there’s still work to be done to make sure our educators are appropriately compensated, particularly as the costs of living in the District and surrounding areas continue to rise. That’s why we advocate for a budget that demonstrates commitment to adequate funding for our schools. That starts with at least a 5.9 percent increase in the UPSFF foundation level. We’re grateful for and encouraged by Mayor Bowser’s announcement of such an increase, but we need to do even more to keep up with rising costs in the city as the Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment for 2022 will also be 5.9 percent. Additionally, the Council should also consider creating housing and tax incentives as educator retention and recruitment tools.

We know that we all share the same goal — to build a truly equitable system that provides an education for all our students. We at the DC Charter School Alliance are ready to work alongside our schools, the Council, and the City to ensure we are providing the education our students deserve.