School Beat: School Budgets and Teacher Salaries

by Lisa Schiff on September 29, 2005

The mystery of education budgets has just gotten both a little clear and a little murkier. Earlier this year, Education Trust-West (, a policy institute devoted to education issues published a study examining the issue of how salaries for teachers are budgeted across a given district in California.

Contrary to what one might expect, school budgets do not reflect the real salaries of the teachers employed at that site. Instead, budgets are based on the average salary of a teacher in a district. Since teachers who have been teaching longer get paid more, schools that have a greater degree of less senior teachers are likely to be paying more than the actual total cost of the teachers teaching at their schools. By contrast, schools that have more senior teachers are paying less than real total cost of those teachers.
The Ed Trust-West made this situation more tangible to those outside of the budget loop by recentlylaunching a new site that shows the exact salary “gap” of each school in each school district in California. So now it is possible to actually see just how much your school is paying out or being covered by this policy. (
On the face of it, this situation doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Lisa Schiff is the parent of two children who attend McKinley Elementary School in the San Francisco Unified School District and is the president of the board of directors of Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco (

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