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by Kathleen Moore

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Those Shen raises

By Kathleen Moore
Friday, October 12, 2012

Having spent weeks on the analysis of teacher raises recently, a phrase in the announcement of a new Shenendehowa teachers contract caught my attention.

It was one of those sentences where you can tell the truth with such confusion that no one will understand what you’re saying.

Here’s the sentence provided by the school district: The agreement provides incremental step increases and general salary increases between 0.25% and 1%.

I think the average reader would interpret that to mean that the total raise to teachers — through incremental step increases and general salary increases — was 0.25 to 1 percent.

Right?

Wrong.

I was interested in that figure because our analysis found the average local teacher receives more than a 3 percent raise in step increases each year. Then he or she gets a second raise, which is called all sorts of things. In this case, it’s a “general salary increase.”

To get a total of 0.25 percent to 1 percent would mean scrapping the entire step increase schedule — a raise schedule written in stone. Reducing that schedule is so unheard of that we wrote an entire analytical salary story when Schenectady teachers agreed to small changes in their step schedule.

Such a change is ground-breaking. To teachers, it might be earth-shattering. These are, after all, the raises they have been guaranteed. The schedule lays out an entire career of annual raises — good raises, usually 3 to 9 percent. You don’t give that up lightly.

And yet it appeared Shen had done so.

But, it wasn’t true. When I called, Shenendehowa media officer Kelly DeFeciani explained that “incremental step increases and general salary increases between 0.25% and 1%” actually meant “3.11 percent average step increases and general salary increases between 0.25 percent and 1 percent.”

Just to do the math for you, that’s 3.36 percent to 4.11 percent in raises.

I’ll leave it to you to decide why the teachers union, and the school district officials did not want to simply say that.

Reach Gazette reporter Kathleen Moore by email to moore@dailygazette.com.

 

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