On December 4th, 35 teachers working for the Novato Unified School District took to the streets to protest the major pay issue that is currently on the minds of many educators in Novato, as well as educators throughout the rest of the U.S.
Novato Unified School District teachers get paid considerably less than teachers from neighboring districts. Statistics regarding high school teacher pay in the Tam Unified School District (TUSD) and in the San Rafael City Schools (SRCS), clearly show a sizable salary variance to the Novato Unified School District (NUSD) salary statistics.
At Novato High School, first year teachers without a Master’s degree receive a mere $47,509 compared to SRCS’s $57,059 and TUSD’s $60,316.
The reason behind this problem facing Novato schools is complicated. In a nutshell, school districts in California are funded in various ways depending on a variety of factors. 90 percent of school districts in Marin County, such as the TUSD are funded by property taxes within their district lines. NUSD, however, is not a Basic Aid District and simply receives the baseline amount of money that the state of California provides. The two systems create a massive difference in funding, with NUSD’s $11,000 per student and TUSD’s $17,000 per student. Some districts in Marin even produce up to $30,000 per student.
NUSD Superintendent Jim Hogeboom commented on the effects of the current system in an email.
“While this is totally unfair, it is also a reality, and it prevents us from being competitive with the other districts in Marin, 90% of which are Basic Aid (property tax system) districts,” wrote Hogeboom. “The bottom line is that since they receive much more money than we do, they are able to pay their teachers more money than we possibly can.”
The lack of salary makes it nearly impossible for some teachers to reside in Marin County.
Aaron Fix, Union President and Science teacher at Novato High, commented on the challenge of living where you work.
“A lot of our teachers, in fact most of our teachers can’t afford to live within the community in which they work,” said Fix. “Our teachers love our students, we care a lot about them and we want to be a part of the community and the lives of the community. When you have to commute an hour everyday to get to the community, you don’t really feel so much a part of it.”
As a result of the poor compensation, many NUSD teachers flee to neighboring districts, forcing yearly turnover.
“Yes, we hate to lose our great teachers to Southern Marin, but we know we can’t really compete.” wrote Hogeboom. “Instead, we try to support our teachers the best we can, offer high quality professional development, listen to their needs, and support them the best we can.”
Although NUSD cannot pay their teachers competitively, they are currently looking into building affordable teacher housing on property close to San Marin High School. If constructed, this could help NUSD gain some competitive advantage over nearby districts.
As well, Fix describes the teachers union and NUSD as being “close to a settlement.” This would represent a small raise for teachers, a step in the right direction.