A Think Tank Plan to Boost Pay for LA Unified Teachers*

Manhattan InstituteTeachers in Los Angeles Unified schools could make an additional 7.15 percent a year in salary, with 60 percent of them achieving greater retirement security, if the district applied a cost neutral shift in their compensation package, according to a new report from the Manhattan Institute.

“Better Pay, Fairer Pensions: Reforming Teacher Compensation” examines the nation’s 10 largest school districts and concludes that moving money from pensions to salaries holds important benefits for teachers as well as taxpayers. LA Unified is the second-largest school district in the country, after New York.

The authors — Josh McGee, Vice President for Public Accountability at the The Laura and John Arnold Foundation in Houston, and Marcus A. Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York – say districts should eliminate the current approach to retirement benefits, in which teachers accrue larger amounts of money as they near retirement age, and replace it with a system in which benefits accrue smoothly, without waiting for spikes late in a teacher’s working life. They contend the change would:

  • Raise teacher salaries, in some cases substantially;
  • Give teachers more retirement security than they now have;
  • Make teaching a more attractive option for people who are unsure that they will work for decades in the same school district;
  • Offer teachers more control over when they stop working.

“With LA, the current system is so heavily backloaded that it’s not designed for many of the current teachers in the workforce,” Winters told LA School Report. “It’s great if you know you’re going to work in the same workforce for a lifetime, but most teachers don’t.”

Winters said the research shows that 94 percent of teachers leave the district before they would max out on their pension benefits.

The report says that of compensation packages in the 10 school districts, LA Unified pays the highest percentage, 18.51, toward benefits. Teachers in New York get only 8.43 percent. Winters said the leveling approach advocated by the report would not only put more money in teachers’ pockets early in their careers, it would encourage younger teachers to remain in the district for a longer period of time.

 

*This version clarifies that LA Unified, not teachers, pays 18.51 percent toward benefits.