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

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%


Long Beach Unified 17% 29%


Fresno Unified 20% 44%


San Francisco Unified 22% 36%


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

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

Ontario-Montclair Superintendent’s $516,000 pay package tops state list

Today, Transparent California released 2015 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for over 800,000 K-12 workers statewide.

Ontario-Montclair schools superintendent James Hammond’s $516,573 compensation package was the highest of any K-12 worker statewide, excluding those who received one-time settlement or separation payouts.

A survey of 460 K-12 superintendents statewide revealed the average superintendent collected $213,511 in total compensation.

The next 4 largest compensation packages received by Inland Empire K-12 educators went to:

  1. Corona-Norco Unified superintendent Michael Lin: $390,925.
  2. San Bernardino City Unified superintendent Dale Marsden: $385,415.
  3. Riverside County Office of Education superintendent Kenneth Young: $345,579.
  4. Desert Sands Unified superintendent Garrett Rutherford: $326,884.

The below table contains the average compensation package received by full-time district employees, along with the total cost per student for employee compensation:

School District

Average FT compensation

Cost per student

Rialto Unified $76,342 $6,099
Hesperia Unified $76,564 $5,827
Murrieta Valley Unified $84,771 $6,821
Moreno Valley Unified $85,538 $7,415
Temecula Valley Unified $85,764 $6,396
Lake Elsinore Unified $86,898 $7,034
Ontario-Montclair $87,078 $8,507
Desert Sands Unified $87,677 $7,692
Colton Joint Unified $87,906 $7,829
Chino Valley Unified $88,690 $6,820
Riverside Unified $88,884 $7,223
Fontana Unified $89,203 $7,751
Palm Springs Unified $90,094 $8,127
San Bernardino City Unified $91,091 $8,085
Corona-Norco Unified $94,374 $7,105
Chaffey Joint Union High $106,866 $8,417

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner expressed concern over the continued growth in retirement costs.

“As more funds are diverted to servicing California’s rising pension debt, less is available for salaries or other educational resources, which is likely to harm both teacher recruitment and student learning.”

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time workers are defined as those receiving a total regular pay amount of at least $25,000.

To explore the data further, please visit

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or

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. Learn more at