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Local: Education

Fairfax teachers say money equals happiness

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Local,Virginia,Education,Lisa Gartner

More and more Fairfax County teachers say their job satisfaction hinges on their paychecks, according to a survey of teachers obtained by The Washington Examiner.

Seventy-six percent of teachers said they agreed “very much” or “somewhat” that “teacher satisfaction is primarily dependent on salary” in a survey conducted by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, one of two district teachers unions.

That was significantly different from teachers’ responses to a similar survey last year, when nearly 70 percent said the relationship between happiness and pay was “weak” despite a two-year freeze on raises and cost-of-living adjustments.

This fall, teachers and other school employees received raises and a 1 percent cost-of-living bump.

“It could be that everyone’s noticing, ‘Wow, the extra dollars I’m getting in my paycheck has helped,’ ” said Ted Velkoff, a newly elected school board member and former PTA president at Chantilly High School. “People don’t go into teaching for the money, but there’s a consensus that people want to feel like they’re paid fairly.”

Velkoff and other members of the school board pledged to make teacher pay a priority in the upcoming budget session.

Superintendent Jack Dale has yet to propose a 2013 budget, but teachers union President Steve Greenburg said he expects Dale to again request funding for pay raises and a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

The surge in teachers linking money to happiness is a byproduct of having their salaries frozen for two years, Greenburg said.

“Yes, we’re happy that we got a raise so we were at least able to stay at the buying power we had the year before, but the year before we weren’t getting anything,” he said. “People have to pay their bills. Money does matter. I am thoroughly convinced we would not have as many teachers and firefighters and policemen if you didn’t pay them.”

The starting salary for a Fairfax County Public Schools teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $44,440, and can reach $87,000 for a teacher who works more than 22 years for county schools.

It costs about $40 million a year to give raises to all school employees, and around $16 million to $18 million for a 1 percent cost-of-living increase.

Greenburg said he plans to meet with the six new school board members, along with the chief of Fairfax County’s other school employees union, to discuss the budget and other issues early this month.

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