Marin teacher pay hikes eclipsed by rising costs

The average pay for teachers in Marin County has been rising, but not as fast as the cost of living, according to state and county data.

Public school teachers in Marin were paid an average of $ 89,935 in 2020-21, said Mary Jane Burke, the county superintendent of schools. That was a 1.79% increase over $ 88,352 in 2019-20.

Statewide, the average teacher pay rose to $ 85,856 in the 2020-21 school year, an increase of 1.6% from 2019-20, according to new state data.

By comparison, inflation rose by about 5% from May 2020 to May 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means California teachers typically saw their real wages drop.

Over the same period, typical home values ​​in California rose by about 15%, to $ 657,000, according to Zillow, a real estate data company.

Teacher pay was highest in the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District in Silicon Valley. The district’s faculty salaries were about $ 145,200 on average.

Meanwhile, the cost of living has been rising. The median price for a detached home in Marin was $ 1.7 million in February, according to the most recent data from the county assessor’s office. That was a year-over-year increase of 11%.

“Given the volatility of the current economy, there is no question that our educators are being negatively impacted,” Burke said. “This also includes increased fuel cost for school staff driving long commutes due to high cost of housing in Marin.”

Union leaders representing teachers in Marin say they are all too well aware of the situation.

“Rising home prices are making it harder and harder to raise a family in Marin on an educator’s salary, which is why so many teachers are faced with unsustainable daily commutes,” said Morgan Agnew, president of the San Rafael Federation of Teachers.

“Until we deal with the structural issues of a lack of affordable housing and low pay for teachers compared to other professionals, it’s going to get harder and harder to recruit and retain the most talented and dedicated educators,” said Agnew, a math and computer science teacher at Terra Linda High School.

Mariah Fisher, president of the Novato Federation of Teachers, said the situation with her members is even worse because they are at the bottom of the pay scale in Marin.

“While the average in Marin may be $ 89,000, Novato is very different,” Fisher said. “I’ve been teaching for 17 years, and I am not at that salary yet.”

Jim Hogeboom, superintendent of San Rafael City Schools, said the district has done its best to stay competitive, even offering sizable one-time bonuses to some staff members during the pandemic to try to ease the financial burden.

“While the state and federal government have provided schools with needed one-time money, including COVID relief dollars, this cannot be used for ongoing salary increases,” Hogeboom said. “As a result, we have used a combination of increases to our pay scale with one-time bonuses to compensate our staff. ”

“Knowing that maintaining a strong compensation and benefit package for our valuable employees is a top priority for our district, we will do all we can to allocate resources so that our employees receive their fair share of new monies coming into the district,” Hogeboom said . ”Unfortunately, with inflation at a 30-year high, this may not be enough to keep up with the very high cost of living in Marin. ”

Average teacher pay depends on a number of factors. Pay increases with seniority, so a district with a preponderance of veteran teachers would tend to pay more on average than a district with a lot of inexperienced teachers. Cost of living also plays a role, as districts located in expensive communities must pay more to attract talent.

The best balance between salaries and housing for teachers is in Tulelake, a small town in Siskiyou County. The average teacher salary there last year was $ 75,027, and the typically valued home cost about $ 163,000.

The toughest place to be, by that metric, is the Ravenswood City School District in San Mateo County, where the average pay is $ 74,400 but the typically priced home is about $ 1.67 million.

According to the California Department of Education, average teacher salaries at larger districts in Marin for 2020-21 included:

• Marin County Office of Education, $ 99,097

• Larkspur-Corte Madera School District, $ 89,337

• Mill Valley School District, $ 98,910

• Novato Unified School District, $ 80,630

• Reed Union School District, $ 95,489

• Ross Valley School District: $ 79,017

• Ross School District, $ 95,638

• San Rafael City Schools, Elementary District: $ 90,051

• San Rafael City Schools, high school district: $ 103,787

• Sausalito Marin City School District: $ 85,089

• Shoreline Unified School District: $ 86,977

• Tamalpais Union High School District: $ 107,908

The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.

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