Our View: Bad optics in school board budget

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(Photo/Cody Mello-Klein)
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The school board budget adopted this month had to be cut slightly due to pandemic-caused shortfalls in the city’s revenues.

Unfortunately, the school board opted to axe planned pay increases for teachers and most staff, while going ahead with budgeted raises for principals, administrators and a select few employee categories.

We understand that the pay increases are planned over several years and are part of an overall effort to bring all categories of Alexandria City Public Schools employees up to market rate averages. But that doesn’t excuse either the optics or the reality that going ahead with raises for employees already earning higher salaries, but not for those earning less, wasn’t fair.

In addition to the optics of this particular decision, a reasonable argument can be made that using outside, market rate averages is not the best way to determine pay levels.

School board member Michelle Rief articulated one concern with this approach, saying that the market over undervalues lower wage earners. Using market rate averages to determine pay levels then locks those employees into a lower pay scale.

We are also concerned about the “everyone else is doing it” mindset that comes with using what other jurisdictions do as a way to determine policy of any kind.

Our elected officials in Alexandria are supposed to weigh tradeoffs, then make difficult decisions. Simply following a formula eliminates both the need and the ability for them to think for themselves.

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