Everyone deserves a living wage. Piedmont Education Foundation supports the Association of Piedmont Teachers, Piedmont’s California School Employees Association, and Piedmont Unified School District in their efforts to provide all employees with a meaningful salary increase.

While the need is obvious, the solution is elusive.

PEF respects the need for private negotiations between the District and Unions. But, we also understand that our community has questions about budgeting and how compensation is calculated. We hope the information below answers some of those questions. If you would like to learn more, please contact us at info@piedmontedfoundation.org or 510-653-1816.

What is the average teacher salary at PUSD, and how does it compare to other districts?

At PUSD the average APT (Association of Piedmont Teachers) salary is $93,380 Teachers also receive health benefits that average $12,282 per year, and PUSD pays into teacher pension funds at a rate of 19.10% of teacher salary. Teachers receive pensions from CALSTRS on retirement, but are not eligible for social security. Salaries of a 1.0 FTE (full time equivalent) teacher are based on 185 days worked each year. By comparison, PUSD principals work 220 days per year and directors work 225.

In Alameda County, the average teacher salary is $89,326. Statewide, it is $85,856. The average salary at San Francisco Unified is $84,756, San Mateo Unified is $82,699, Contra Costa Unified is $82,483 and Marin Unified is $81,514. PUSD pays in the top quartile of teacher salaries within unified school districts in the greater Bay Area.

Comparisons can be challenging. There are significant differences between types of districts even within the same county. In most counties, teachers at elementary school only districts make less than teachers at unified districts, while those at high school only districts make more. 

For comparative purposes, it makes sense to look at similarly-sized K-12 districts (Average Daily Attendance ~ 2,500) within the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area region.

State Aid vs. Basic Aid Districts

Not all districts are funded equally, which makes comparisons between PUSD and other districts difficult. While our schools appear similar and provide a similar education, funding sources can be completely different. It is important to understand that PUSD is funded, primarily, by state funds. Many districts that are compared to ours are actually Basic Aid districts.

Districts are automatically funded under the Basic Aid model when their property taxes surpass the amount of unrestricted dollars the state would have provided through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). This means they get to keep all local property taxes, and receive a small amount from state and federal sources. Basic Aid districts, including Palo Alto, Mountain View-Los Altos, and Santa Clara, receive significantly more funds than LCFF districts like Piedmont.

Why isn’t Piedmont a basic aid district?
Most California schools have not been funded by local property taxes since the passage of Prop 13 in 1978. Prop 13 had the effect of reducing property tax rates on homes and businesses by nearly 60% and effectively shifted control of school funding from local communities to the California state government. While new Piedmont homeowners are paying about market rate for their property taxes, a large percentage of our community have been in their homes for decades and are paying much less. The reality is, if PUSD were the direct recipient of all Piedmont property taxes, that amount would be far less than what we currently receive from the government. This is true for all but a handful of school districts in California.

For more detail on Prop 13, property taxes, parcel taxes and measures, please visit our Funding 101: Prop 13, Property Taxes and Parcel Taxes page.

Teacher Salaries 101

Each year, the Association of Piedmont Teachers (APT), PUSD’s teachers union, enters into negotiations with the school district. Negotiated points include working hours, class sizes, benefits, retirement incentives, safety conditions, evaluations, and, of course, salaries and raises. The current 2020-2023 contract is available on the PUSD website, as is the current salary schedule.

PUSD uses a “step and column” system to determine regular teacher salary increases. Columns are based on level of education and education credits. A teacher with a master’s degree in their first five years of teaching would earn $62,199, and once they earn an additional 15 education credits, their base salary increases to $64,921. In addition, teachers are eligible to receive salary increases by going up a step. A teacher advances a step every year. Depending on the step, salary may increase from 0 to 5.87%.

What about staff salaries?
We use the term “staff” in this context for classified staff, those eligible for membership in the California School Employees Association (CSEA – Piedmont Chapter 60). This includes a wide range of positions, covering student support, maintenance,  and more administrative positions. Paraeducators, custodians, health clerks, accountants, library aides, school secretaries, food service workers, and more fall under the “staff” umbrella. The negotiation process is similar to the one used by teachers. You can see the current CSEA contract here and the current CSEA Employee salary schedule here. Each position has a separate salary range, and all staff are eligible for incremental longevity increases. CSEA positions can be 10, 11, or 12 months. The average salary at PUSD for staff is $46,504 and PUSD provides an average of $11,920 in health benefits for each employee each year. PUSD also pays into CALPERS for staff retirement benefits at a current rate of about 25% of each employee’s base salary.

Where do management employees fit in?
The Association of Piedmont School Administrators (APSA) includes certificated, confidential, and classified management personnel. This includes principals, assistant principals, and director level administrators, but does not include the positions of superintendent, assistant superintendent, and CFO, which are contract positions. The current APSA contract is available here.

How much does PUSD spend on administration?
Each district is required annually to file a School Accountability Report Card for each school site. The report card includes information on enrollment, teacher preparation and placement, instructional material availability, school facility conditions, pupil outcomes, parental involvement opportunities, class sizes, student support services, per pupil expenditures, and teacher and administrative salary information. As a comparison, California provides state averages on percent of budget spent on teacher salaries and percent of budget for administrative salaries for districts in the same category, based on ADA. Administrative personnel salaries are defined by the state in two categories: certificated and classified. Certificated supervisors and administrators include principals, assistant principals, superintendents and assistant superintendents, and other certificated personnel engaged in instructional supervision. Classified supervisors and administrators include non-certificated supervisory personnel such as a facilities director, H.R. professionals, business manager, and finance officer. Due to the pandemic, state law has suspended the reporting of certain indicators. However, PUSD’s School Accountability Report Cards for 2020-21, filed in February, 2022, are available on the district website. These reports include the comparative data for 2019-20. The percent of budget for teacher salaries is listed as 34%, compares to the statewide average of 31%, and the percent of budget for administrative salaries is 5%, compares with the state average of 6%. 

Where did the funds from Measure H go?
With the passage of Measure H, providing the district with an additional $2.5 million per year, PUSD was able to increase salaries over the past few years, by 2% in 2019-20, 6% in 2020-21 and 2.5% in 2021-22. CSEA negotiated a bit differently, with each employee receiving an ongoing $1,116 increase regardless of current salary in 2019-20, 6% in 2020-21, and 3% plus a health benefits cap increase in 2021-22. Also in 2020-21, teachers and staff received a one-time bonus, and teachers 3 additional days for COVID prep. While these increases have not kept up with the cost of living, the ongoing salary increases have accounted for all the funds from Measure H.

What is COLA and how does it relate to teacher salaries?
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in this context is an increase in LCFF funding intended to allow school districts to retain their purchasing power in the face of rising costs for goods and services. This year’s state COLA adjustment is 6.56%, which is less than the previously announced 7.5%, it is much less than the Consumer Price Index, which rose by over 8% last year.

While the COLA adjustment to LCFF increases the funds that the state provides to each district, this does not translate directly to teacher salaries for a few reasons. For one, the LCFF is also based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA) and ours has decreased significantly, though remains consistent with the decrease in other Bay Area Schools. For another, LCFF accounts for slightly less than 61% of the PUSD budget. A full 28% comes from Piedmont’s parcel taxes, which can only increase by a maximum of 2% each year (Measure G only). The remaining 11% comes from the federal government, PEF, and other local funding.

Why does PUSD spend so much on Benefits?
Benefits include health care, at an average of $12,000 per employee, as well as annually increasing pension payments. In 2021-22, PUSD contributed an amount equal to 16.92% of teacher earnings to CALSTRS and 22.91% of classified staff earnings. In comparison, the contribution rates in 2013-14 were 8.3% and 11.4% respectively. The increasing employer contributions toward these pensions is a result of California’s pension plans being significantly underfunded due to major portfolio hits in 2000, during the dot com crash,  and the 2008 recession. In order to recover funding, the state has required school districts to pay a dramatically increasing percentage of teacher and staff salaries to make up the difference. This increase does not translate to an increase in pensions payouts to teachers and staff after their retirement.

How do we give our teachers and staff a significant, ongoing salary increase?

PUSD strives for a zero-sum, balanced budget. They commit to spending all funds received through government and local sources on immediate needs, save for a state-mandated 3% reserve, and so do not have any additional pockets of money. Over 80% of the district’s expense budget is dedicated to salary and benefits. 42% on certificated salaries, 13% on classified salaries, and 27% on benefits. The remaining 18% is spent on books, supplies, services, and operating expenditures. PUSD has spent years trimming expenses as far away from the classroom — and teachers — as possible. CSEA staff share that they have taken on significantly more responsibilities as non-teaching positions have shrunk. While teaching staff have been rightsized to account for the decreasing student population, there have been little changes to the student/teacher ratio. PUSD would need to decrease the number of teachers in order to provide the remaining ones with significantly higher, ongoing wages.

The Piedmont community has put too much into its schools to allow this to happen. Our small classroom sizes and the breadth of classes we offer set PUSD apart. The APT contract limits the number of students to an average of 25 per class, and the middle and high schools both offer 7 periods while many nearby school districts offer 6. Right now, the best we can do is continue to advocate for California to provide a meaningful, ongoing increase in funding to its schools.

How much would it cost to provide a 7.5% increase?
A 1% increase for all employees costs about $340,000, so a 7.5% increase is $2,550,000 —  over 5% of the total district expense budget. PUSD would need to be able to maintain that funding increase over time. This year’s increase in LCFF funding does not quite cover this cost, however the district is working on identifying areas in which they can spend the one-time funds also provided by the governor’s budget to free up ongoing funding. It is also important to consider that our school employees should be able to count on regular raises. Unfortunately, PUSD can’t count on regular increases in funding from the government. We can only hope that California remains a boom economy, and urge our state elected officials to prioritize school funding.

Why can’t PEF pay for teacher raises?
PEF’s annual grant focuses on supporting teachers, dedicating over 70% funds raised to teacher salaries. Additionally, the grant helps pay for student support staff, including counselors, therapists, library and classroom aides, and paraprofessionals. If PEF were able to double our annual fundraising and maintain that rate over time, we would be able to support ongoing salary increases.

Hopefully, this answers some questions about teacher compensation. If you have additional questions, please contact the PEF office at info@piedmontedfoundation.org or 510-653-1816.