Growth in teacher pay dwarfed by soaring health, retirement benefits

A rapid rise in the cost of retirement and health benefits is dwarfing wage growth at many California school districts, according to an analysis of newly released 2017 public pay data from TransparentCalifornia.com.

Last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District spent $1.3 billion on health and retirement benefits for its employees, which represents a 25 percent increase from 2014.

The $4.2 billion the district spent on wages, however, represented only an 11 percent increase from 2014.

Both Fresno Unified and San Diego Unified also saw their cost of retirement and health benefits grow by more than twice their wage growth, as shown in the table below:

Growth in wages and benefits from 2014-2017 for California’s largest school districts

School District

Wages Benefits Benefits/Wages

Los Angeles Unified

11% 25% 2.20
San Diego Unified 10% 25%

2.50

Long Beach Unified 17% 29%

1.71

Fresno Unified 20% 44%

2.20

San Francisco Unified 22% 36%

1.64

As health and retirement costs consume an increasing share of school funds, there is less available for things like raising teacher pay. Making matters worse, most of the increase in benefit costs are for pension debt, which means current and future teachers are being penalized for past funding failures, according to Transparent California Executive Director Robert Fellner.

“For years, experts have warned that California’s government-run pension plans would one day foist the cost of their funding failures onto future taxpayers and public workers. Unfortunately, that day has now arrived. Tax dollars that should be spent on improving education will instead go towards pension debt, which obviously provides no value of any kind to current and future students.”

To explore the individual data sets further, please click here or on the name of the school district listed in the table above.

Top LAUSD earners

Former LA Unified Superintendent Michelle King received $410,497 in pay and benefits last year, the most of any LAUSD employee. The next four highest compensated LAUSD employees were:

  1. Assistant General Counsel Terry Cheathem: $350,025.
  2. General Counsel David Holmquist: $345,885.
  3. Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter: $327,888.
  4. Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson: $308,993.

The average full-time, year-round LAUSD teacher received $80,102 in wages and $103,420 in total compensation last year, according to the data.

Transparent California will be continually updating the site with new, 2017 data from the remaining school districts in the coming weeks. Be sure to follow our blog and Twitter accounts, or sign up for our mailing list, in order to receive the latest updates.

For more information, please contact Transparent California Executive Director Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or via email at Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. The website is used by millions of Californians each year, including elected officials and lawmakers, government employees and their unions, government agencies themselves, university researchers, the media, and concerned citizens alike. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.