When Heritage High School teacher Laurie Croft was hired by Lynchburg City Schools 29 years ago, she said she was coming into the “premier school division” of the Lynchburg area.
“[LCS] was the best paying, best professional atmosphere. It was fabulous. The value placed on veteran teachers is negative … The value has now gone into new teachers moving in who don’t stay. Three to five years and they’re out of the profession,” Croft said after the public comment period of the meeting.
Croft, along with about 30 other LCS teachers, attended the Lynchburg City School Board meeting Tuesday evening to advocate for better pay scales.
During the public comments section of the meeting, John Meadows, a member of Teachers United with a Voice and a Heritage High School teacher, said the group appreciates the time the school board has spent on addressing pay scales, but the group doesn’t “appreciate the final salary scale” that was proposed and the board approved in December.
“It falls short of showing financial appreciation for many of our educators, especially our veteran teachers,” Meadows said. “We know Lynchburg City Schools appreciates us, but there’s a difference between appreciation and financial appreciation.”
The proposed pay schedules add a “zero step” for people entering positions with no experience. They also ensure the average total salary increase is at least 3 percent and alternate raises every other year to align with years the division expects to receive more money from the state. The schedules also place staff on a comparable experience step.
Meadows, who has been teaching for 30 years, said with the proposed pay schedule, teachers on steps 14 to 29 are making less than someone on the same step in the 2008-2009 pay scale when the scales were frozen.
“We have and will continue to compare salaries to that year because our goal should be to move forward and not backward in salaries,” Meadows said.
After the meeting, Superintendent Crystal Edwards said the pay schedules were based off last year’s scales and “how we can give every staff member a raise going forward.”
“I sympathize with [teachers’] concerns. … We couldn’t go from 2008 forward. That would just be an enormous amount of money when you add that all up. That’s not to say they aren’t worth every penny,” Edwards said.
Also during public comments, Michael Bremer, a teacher at Sandusky Middle School, said the proposed pay schedule is “arbitrary and inequitable” and “demonstrates the inadequacy of funding for teachers” because raises will only be available every other year.
Kartherine Allen went before the board to share how the frozen pay scales have affected her finances and ability to retire.
“With no activity to reinstate the steps on our pay schedule since 2008, I have lost around $66,000 in yearly salaries, which I would’ve received if the scale had not been frozen,” Allen said. “I looked each year for the freeze to thaw and my step increase to materialize just to be disappointed year after year.”
Allen said with raises scheduled to occur every other year on the proposed pay schedules, her retirement will be delayed, and her “estimated monthly retirement benefit will be $349 less than if my steps had continued without interruption.”
Croft said although she’s eligible to retire, she can’t afford to do so.
“If I retire today, I wouldn’t be able to pay for my health insurance and buy food because my retirement has not grown in 12 years,” Croft said. “You can’t borrow money for retirement. I’ve borrowed for my children’s education, which is going to keep me working longer, but I can’t borrow to retire. VRS has got to be there. I can’t be the daughter that I need to be for my ailing parents because I’m going to have to work.”
The General Assembly approved in its budget a 5 percent raise for Standards of Quality positions statewide. LCS’ Chief Financial Officer Anthony Beckles said if the division wants to provide a raise to non-SOQ staff, the district will have to find the money to do so.
School board member Atul Gupta said if funding for the 5 percent raise is needed from the city then “the advocacy efforts should be toward the city to fund us more.”
“Without that funding we will not be able to do the 5 percent,” Gupta said.
Beckles agreed and said the school “board does not have revenue generating powers,” and it’s “up to the public to express their feelings to city council and/or Richmond because they’re the ones that give us our budget.”