FCPS takes strides towards increased pay for employees

The compensation study aims to unify pay and raise salaries to combat the large wage penalty in Virginia and ensure that employees are paid fairly for their hard work.

Photo courtesy of Alayna Steele

The compensation study aims to unify pay and raise salaries to combat the large wage penalty in Virginia and ensure that employees are paid fairly for their hard work.

Educators are paid notoriously low wages for extremely impactful work. FCPS is looking to increase those wages so that teachers can live comfortably and feel appreciated for the incredible impact they have on their students.

The issue of non-livable teacher salaries in the United States is widely acknowledged but remains mostly unresolved. Teacher protests and walk-outs, as well as teachers quitting entirely, are increasingly common in U.S. school districts, especially with how COVID-19 has affected teacher workloads and stress levels.

“[Livable wage] depends on where you work and where you live,” explained teacher Heidi Averette. “I do think it is improving in the DMV, but increases and adjustments are still needed, especially given the increasing cost of living in the area. Early in my career, as a single teacher, it was difficult to live comfortably in this area of the country and I, like many other teachers, worked a second job the first few years of teaching.”

Virginia has a weekly wage penalty of -32.7 percent, making it the largest wage penalty in the country in 2019. Wage penalty refers to how much less money teachers make compared to other college-degree reliant professions in the state. FCPS aims to combat this problem in hopes that teachers will stay in the school district while still being able to live comfortably. 

“I think [FCPS has] done a lot of work to bring us up so that we’re not at that same deficit,” said Principal Michael Mukai. “I think for a long time we were losing teachers to Arlington [and] Loudoun [County] because we were behind in our salaries.”

As a step towards solving this issue, the county school board published a compensation study to unify pay and raise salaries to ensure comfortable living across the county. The focus of the study is to ensure that teachers feel valued and respected as well as to reward them for their hard work with appropriate wages. This is achieved through a division of the Unified Scale, splitting it into three different salary schedules to ensure that all employees are paid sufficiently.

Notable improvements made through the new Unified Scale are that custodians, office assistants, and facility positions are eligible for overtime. Among other improvements, it also increases earnings, equalizes pay ranges for those in senior management positions, and provides higher percentage increases and annual pay steps to employees.

“[The school board was] concerned that the wages lagged behind other jurisdictions, and they [wanted] to make sure they [reached the] regional average,” continued Mukai. “[They’ve] done a market scale adjustment over the last few years where they have worked to bring teacher salaries up to the market scale so that they’re no longer making less.”

While teaching will probably always be an underpaid job, FCPS is taking the necessary steps to ensure that their appreciation for their teachers’ hard work is shown through their salaries, and the compensation study is a positive step towards a hopeful future.