Teachers’ group: Fayette salaries not so special

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For all the talk about “what makes Fayette County schools special” that special category does not apply to the pay teachers receive.

That assertion was the central theme last week pressed by Fayette teacher and PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators) member Diane Basham at the regular meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education.

Basham provided board members with the results of a Metropolitan Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) report for the current school year that showed Fayette teachers rank closer to the bottom than to the top of the 68 small and large school systems surveyed.

A portion of the Teacher Salary Survey centered on pay levels for entry level teachers (T-4), those with 10 years experience (T-5) and a master’s degree, and those with 20 years (T-6) and a specialist degree.

Basham pointed out that Fayette County ranks #42 out of 68 school systems in its $35,082 pay to entry level (T-4) teachers. The Atlanta School System tops the pay list at $44,312 while the low is Meriwether County at 33,424.

Significant in the survey was Fayette’s ranking in 18 of the the state’s larger school districts (student populations ranging from 20,000-45,000). Within that ranking Fayette was next to the bottom with only Richmond County paying less. The Fayette pay scale for T-4 teachers is a few hundred to a few thousand dollars below all other metro Atlanta school systems surveyed. Though not a part of the survey, Basham said Coweta County’s rate of pay for T-4 teachers would have placed it at #26.

Fayette County did slightly better for its more experienced teachers. Teachers with 10 years (T-5) receive $52,300, which places the school system at #39 out of the 68 surveyed. Top pay went to the Atlanta School System with a 10-year rate of $73,114 while Meriwether County came in last at $57,825. Fayette’s pay for T-5 teachers was below that of the other large metro Atlanta school systems surveyed.

Fayette teachers with 20 years experience (T-6) fared no better than their counterparts with 10 years. Fayette again ranked #36 out of 68, with T-6 salaries at $68,784. That compares to the $80,426 top pay from the Atlanta School System and the low of $65,343 shared by Candler, Screven, Tattnall, Haralson and Meriwether counties. And for the T-6 schedule, Fayette again ranked below the other large metro Atlanta school systems.

Basham in her presentation referenced the 4.5 percent pay cut that became effective last July and the school system’s growing General Fund surplus. The bottom line, she said, is that PAGE is concerned about the future of Fayette County schools and recommends that the school board avoid further cuts in salaries and benefits and give employees input when considering additional cuts. Basham also raised the concern that cuts are being discussed based on financial projections that might be inaccurate.

“We can only pray that you make decisions in the best interest of the school system,” Basham said.