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September 30, 2023

Letter: Teacher salary data needs clarification

Thank you for reaching out for our comment regarding the negotiations between the Gilroy Teachers Association and Gilroy Unified School District. While we appreciate the article, we found multiple incorrect or misleading statements. We request that corrections be made and that those corrections be acknowledged within the article for prior and future readers to review. 

Below are the corrections that we are requesting the Gilroy Dispatch make within the article published on Aug. 31 titled “Gilroy teachers demand raises, smaller classes.” 

1. The Dispatch stated, “GUSD’s average salary of $91,690 puts it above Morgan Hill’s $89,709 and San Jose’s $86,433…”. We believe this statement is misleading because it conveys to the reader that the GUSD salary schedule is more competitive than both Morgan Hill and San Jose Unified. We believe the author misinterpreted what is meant by the “Average Salary Paid” column on the California Department of Education’s J90 report, which the Dispatch cited as the source data for this statement. The CDE defines “Average Salary Paid” as: The average salary that is paid to an employee on the certificated salary schedule. 

The average salary is determined by dividing the total salary schedule cost by the FTE. The average indicated represents scheduled salaries only and does not include salaries for extended year, bonuses for special accomplishments or payment for extra-curricular services such as coaching, drama or music. Bonuses for master’s or doctorate degrees are included only if the amounts are an integrated characteristic of a salary schedule column. 

The “Average Salary Paid” by a district is the total amount of actual salaries paid to teachers divided by the number of teachers, or FTEs (full time equivalent). This is a fluid number year to year and can go up or down based on the distribution of teachers across the salary schedule and should not be used to compare salaries across districts in the way the author seemed to intend. A large number of veteran teachers employed by a district will result in a higher “Average Salary Paid” and a large number of newer teachers employed by a district will result in a lower “Average Salary Paid” because veteran teachers are paid more than newer teachers. 

We believe that the intention of the author was to highlight where GUSD teacher salaries rank in comparison to the rest of the county and the “Average Salary Paid” is not a true measure of this. 

We request that the Dispatch not use “Average Salary Paid” as a metric to measure the competitiveness of GUSD’s salary schedule and instead use the actual salary schedule amounts listed in the Lowest Salary Offered, Highest Salary Offered, or Salary at BA+60 Step 10 columns of the 2021-22 J90 report or the current salary schedule figures posted on district websites. 

2. The Dispatch also stated that in 2021-22, “…it (GUSD) ranks seventh lowest out of the county’s 31 school districts…” in “Average Salary Paid.” Again, as we explained in the point above, “Average Salary Paid” is a poor measure of how competitive a district’s salary schedule is when compared to other districts. Furthermore, when we reviewed the CDE J90 report used as the source data in this article we found there were only 29 districts that reported data, not 31 districts as was stated by the Dispatch. 

In Lowest Salary Offered, GUSD ranks sixth lowest out of 29 districts who reported data for 2021-22. That would place GUSD behind San Jose but ahead of Morgan Hill. 

For the Highest Salary Offered, GUSD ranks fourth lowest out of 29 districts, behind both San Jose and Morgan Hill. 

For the Salary at BA+60 Step 10, GUSD ranks fifth lowest out of 29 districts, behind both San Jose and Morgan Hill. 

We believe that stating, “GUSD’s average salary of $91,690 puts it above Morgan Hill’s $89,709 and San Jose’s $86,433…”, misleads readers into thinking that GUSD’s salary schedule is more competitive than Morgan Hill and San Jose. That is not the case. Most Gilroy teachers would earn a higher income if they transferred to Morgan Hill or San Jose. 

One of GTA’s goals during negotiations has been to improve the salaries of educators so that we can better recruit and retain fully qualified educators. While we understand you have deadlines and there is a lot of data to review when dealing with school district negotiations, we believe it is important that your readers are made aware of these corrections so that they may be better informed about the issues involving their community. 

Caitlin Madolora is president of the Gilroy Teachers Association.

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