WANT TO KNOW SOME REAL DETAILS ABOUT JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOLS? READ THIS LETTER
April 23rd, 2018
I am writing this letter in response to your letter about the official district closure scheduled for Thursday, April 26th. I will begin by addressing what I view as blatant district policy violations, before moving towards my own thoughts on the supposed financial crisis facing Jefferson County School District R-1.
Under section A: number AD the District has stated they are:
“…committed to providing a learning environment that is safe, conducive to learning and free from unnecessary disruption while providing a quality education that prepares all children for a successful future.”
I believe that the planned mass teacher personal day is the very definition of an “unnecessary disruption”. While your letter on behalf of the district dated April 18th, 2018 states that you are “pleased to be able to make this announcement well in advance so that families can make necessary arrangements”, the fact is that eight days is not indeed well in advance.
I would direct your attention to Article 13-4-1 of the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) Negotiated Agreement – Effective 07/01/2016 through 08/31/2021. This article states:
“Educators will, to the extent possible, schedule personal leave to minimize the impact on classroom instruction.”
The scheduled mass teacher personal day directly violates this negotiated agreement. There is no convincing argument that can be made that Thursday’s activity is anything other than disruptive to and impactful on classroom instruction.
Moreover, Article 13-4-3 states:
“With prior approval of the immediate supervisor, educators may schedule more than two (2) accumulated personal leave days in a contract year or may use more than two accumulated leave days consecutively. Written requests for leave must be submitted to the immediate supervisor at least five (5) days before taking such leave, except in cases of emergency. The written request must provide information justifying the circumstances which merit consideration.”
I wonder what justification a FOIA request for the written leave requests of educators whom already took two or more personal days would reveal, as well as the dates the written requests were submitted.
Turning back to the district policies, section G: number GBEA addresses Staff Conflicts of Interest. Section i. (this is likely supposed to be I., as the others are II., III., IV. And V.) states:
A.Public employment is a public trust. Upon accepting district employment, employees accept the responsibility to act honestly and objectively for the benefit of the public, and to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. Because maintaining public confidence is essential to the district’s mission, employees must avoid any action that might create a conflict of interest.
B.Definition. For purposes of this policy, a conflict of interest is any real or seeming incompatibility between employees’ private interests and their district employment.
C.Disciplinary Consequences. Employees who violate this policy will receive appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment.”
I would suggest that the District closing down for a day so that teachers can take a mass-exodus to petition legislators does indeed present a seemingly incompatible difference between the employee’s private interests and the district’s stated mission of providing “a learning environment that is safe, conducive to learning and free from unnecessary disruption”.
The educators whom are taking this mass personal day are in direct violation of district policy section G: number GBEB. Specifically responsibilities six (6), seven (7) and nine (9). These responsibilities are listed as:
“6. Concern and attention toward their own and the district's legal responsibility for the safety and welfare of students, including the need to ensure that students are supervised at all times.
7. Support a healthy learning environment and be an appropriate role model for students.
9. Avoid any personal, financial or other interests that may hinder their capacity or willingness to do their job.”
I am at a loss to see how the actions of these employees is in any way compatible with the required responsibilities. Students will not be supervised in accordance with responsibility six (6). Students will not have a healthy learning environment in accordance with responsibility seven (7). Educators are literally placing personal and / or financial interests above the interests of their students, and as such are hindered in their willingness to do their job, in violation of responsibility nine (9).
When comparing the planned mass teacher personal day with section J: number JH, I find it odd that the first line under Student Absences claims:
“Attendance is the responsibility of the student, the parents, and the school. The importance of regular, daily attendance as a basis for academic achievement cannot be overemphasized. Absences have a negative effect upon instructional continuity, regardless of attempts to make up the work”.
So are the educators saying that regular, daily attendance is important, except for when the educators deem it not to be? The planned actions of your employees on Thursday are not in congruence with your stated policy objectives. If we read further, we can see what the district considers an excused absence for students:
“The following shall be considered excused absences:
A student who is temporarily ill or injured or whose absence is approved by the school administration on a prearranged basis. Prearranged absences shall be approved for appointments or circumstances of a serious nature only, which cannot be taken care of outside of school hours.
A student who is absent for an extended period due to physical, mental, or emotional disability.
Excused absences include funerals, illness, injury, legal obligations, medical procedures and religious observations, and extenuating circumstances determined by the principal.
A student who is attending a school sponsored activity or who is receiving Jeffco educational services shall not be considered absent for attendance reporting purposes.
A student who is visiting a parent or guardian who is an active duty member of the uniformed services and has been called to duty, is on leave from, or immediately returning from deployment to a combat zone or combat support posting.”
With the possible exception of “extenuating circumstances determined by the principle”, the educators whom will be absent do not fall within the defined criteria of an excused absence for students. Are the educators holding the students to a higher standard than they hold themselves?
Continuing in the same section, district policy clearly states that any absence not covered by the criteria of an excused absence is an unexcused absence. Interestingly enough, the district has identified “'sneak days,' 'ditch days,' and 'prank days,'” as unexcused absences for students. I would suggest that the planned mass teacher personal day is akin to a ‘ditch day’ and should therefore be treated as an unexcused absence for all district employees whom are not at their appointed place of duty at their appointed time for the entirety of their appointed duty day.
Continuing through section J: number JI, under Student Responsibilities it states:
“1. To help maintain an overall atmosphere conducive to learning, and to respect the principle that no student shall engage in any activity which disrupts or threatens to disrupt the school operation and/or interfere with the public or private rights of others.
3. To attend classes, be on time, and attempt to complete a course of study as prescribed by the Board of Education.”
At this point, it seems clear that the actions being taken by the educators on Thursday are directly at odds with the expectations and responsibilities of the students in Jefferson Country School District R-1.
Moving on, let us address the supposed financial crisis that is afflicting Jefferson County School District R-1, which is the purported reason behind the mass teacher personal day on Thursday, April 26th, 2018.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the May 2017 occupational employment and wage estimates for Colorado shows that the annual mean wage for Kindergarten Teachers is $50,590. The annual mean wage for Elementary Teachers is $52,390 and the annual mean wage for Middle School Teachers is $52,780. High School Teachers, (identified as Secondary School Teachers) earn an annual mean wage of $54,460.
Per the JCEA Master Negotiated Agreement, the negotiated wage is for 185 workdays. This translates into a daily salary of:
Annual Mean Wage
I realize that these numbers are for the average Colorado teacher and not the average Jeffco teacher. Further I realize that the number of Contract Days is an unknown quantity for the BLS numbers. I went through the Jefferson County School District R-1 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and was unable to find specific average salary data. I was able to find some numbers from the CAFR and with a little deductive reasoning, this is what I have come up with:
For 2017, there were 16 Non-Degree Vocational educators, 1291 Bachelor’s Degree educators and 4,058 Master’s Degree or Higher Level educators. The Salary range for these educators was between $38,000 and $91,819. The average salary was $58,000. This is higher than the Colorado average according to the BLS.
The CAFR also shows the District had 635 administrative personnel with a total cost of $53,526,362. Once again, there is data that we will have to assume, but if we assume the administrative expenditure is salary for the administrative employees, this works out to an average of $84,293.48.
What is also interesting is the CAFR shows income data for Jefferson County. In 2016, the per capita income for Jefferson County residents was $58,610. The US Census Bureau shows that the median household income for Jefferson County was $72,017 for 2016 and they claim the per capita income for 2016 was $38,367. I am not sure where the discrepancy in per capita income stems from. Using either number, it hardly seems that the average Jefferson County educator earning 58,000 for approximately 185 days of work is underpaid.
In a 52 week year, there are 260 workdays. According to the JCEA Negotiated Agreement, educators work 185 days, or are compensated extra if they work extra. This means that if the educators worked for the same daily rate a full 260 workdays, the average teacher in Jefferson County would make $81,513.51 a year. This uses the stated average salary of $58,000 and divides it by 185 contracted days for a daily wage rate of $313.51. If we assume they work a 10 hour day, this is $31.35 an hour. For an 8 hour day, it would equal $39.19 an hour. For comparison, the average hourly wage in Colorado was $25.99 for 2017.
Interestingly, the JCEA Negotiated Agreement shows that educators are not to work over a 40 hour work week, and that educators cannot be required to work more than 22.5 hours per year without additional compensation. 185 days translates into 37 five day workweeks, and an average wage of $1,567.57 per week worked. This translates into an average of $313.51 a day and $39.19 an hour. If every educator was required to work the full 22.5 hours extra with no compensation, it would translate into 1502.5 hours a year (40 hours a week times 37 weeks for 1480 hours, plus 22.5) and a new average hourly wage of $38.60. This is still 48% above the average Colorado hourly wage of $25.99.
According to Jefferson County’s Dollars & Sense 2017/2018 Adopted Budget dated July 2017, Jefferson County served between 81,180 counted students and 86,361 membership students. With a total expenditure amount of $697,704,558. This means the district spent between $8078.93 and $8594.54 per student. With 185 contract days, this works out to between $43.66 and$46.45 per student per day. This effectively means the district is spending a total between $3,770,521.26 and $3,770,811.00 per contract day.
According to the Dollars and Sense 2017/2018 Adopted Budget, State spending per student for Jefferson County is $7,483 per student, with an additional $1,396 in spending per student due to the Mill Levy Override. The total to spend per student is then $8,879. However, the same document claims the district serves 86,550 students and has a total expenditure and transfer of $697,704,558 for a per student cost of $8,061.29.
So why do Jefferson County Educators feel like they are not compensated enough? The average for Jefferson County is higher than the average for Colorado. The Average hourly wage is 148% of the average hourly wage in Colorado, and 378% (278% higher) than the Colorado minimum wage of $10.20. What level of compensation would be deemed “enough”? As noted in the Dollars and Sense 2017/2018 Adopted Budget, 47% of revenues come from property taxes in Jefferson County, 3% from specific ownership tax, 45% from the State of Colorado and 2% from specific ownership state tax. This means the average Jefferson County resident is already paying $605.70 to Jefferson County and $58.39 to the State for Jefferson County per year. This means every Jefferson County resident pays $664.08 per year in taxes to support Jefferson County School District R-1. Every Resident in this sense means every man, woman, child and infant. If we pare the number down to number of households, we get $1,544.65 to Jefferson County and $159.57 to the State to transfer to Jefferson County for a total of $1,704.22. With a median household income in Jefferson County of $72,017, this means the median family pays 2.37% of their annual income to support Jefferson County School District R-1. For half of the households in Jefferson County, this percentage is higher.
While I am not against any individual working to maximize the amount of money they earn, I am against the educators in Jefferson County violating their responsibilities and negotiated terms in order to make a public display. I do not believe there is a strong financial need for more teacher pay. I believe I have adequately broken down the relevant data, showing that the average teacher in Jefferson County is more than adequately paid with an average hourly wage of $38.60. I am truly at a loss for why Jefferson County educators have decided to hold their students to a higher standards than they hold themselves, and wonder if what you said in your letter is true. Is the Jefferson County School District R-1 really “unable to attract quality candidates”?
I look forward to any remarks or replies from you, your staff or your financial department.
Josh, Jefferson County Resident.