On paper, San Francisco public-school teachers earn more over their careers than their counterparts at two-thirds of the other large school districts in the U.S. But when adjusted for The City's high cost of living, educators in the San Francisco Unified School District actually rank third-lowest nationwide.
And while a tentative contract agreement reached last week promises a 12 percent pay raise over three years, it would be beneficial for the SFUSD to examine the pace at which pay increases are given.
That's according to a first-of-its-kind report released today by the National Council of Teacher Quality.
The report examines the likely lifetime earnings of teachers and ranks school districts by the number of years it takes a teacher to reach a salary of $75,000 annually. The data is based on the 2013-14 school year salaries of 113 districts, said Nancy Waymack, a co-author of the report who also works for the council.
The analysis shows that in San Francisco, teachers make more money than other districts at the beginning of their careers ($47,245) and remain closer to the top of the list after 30 years ($82,428). That amounts to lifetime earnings of more than $2 million, the 32nd-highest out of districts included.
But the rub comes when factoring in how expensive it is to live in The City.
When adjusted for the cost of living, that $2 million has the spending power of only $1.3 million.
Only Hawaii at $1,267,138 and Newark at $1,184,217 have worse disparities than San Francisco.
Comparatively, the highest-ranked district before adjusting for cost of living is Washington, D.C., where teachers' lifetime earnings are $2,685,382. At the bottom of the list, Oklahoma City teachers make slightly more than $1.3 million over 30 years.
Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta rank among the highest adjusted lifetime earnings, with $2,434,309 and $2,294,212, respectively.
California school districts examined in the report also fared better than San Francisco when factoring in cost-of-living adjustments, though most still wound up near the bottom of the list.
Oakland teachers earn $1,368,123 over a 30-year career, while Los Angeles and San Diego each clocked in around $1.6 million.
The report also examined salary growth among the districts. It takes San Francisco teachers 20 years to earn $75,000, while teachers in Boston begin making that amount after seven years.
One recommendation from Waymack was that districts could re-evaluate their pay structures, particularly in the beginning of teachers' careers, “to make sure we're doing it in a way that is as advantageous as possible to keep teachers in the profession and in the district.”
Still, the report's findings should not discourage prospective teachers from moving to The City, noted Waymack, who also worked for the SFUSD from 2002 to 2012. San Francisco's natural beauty and weather are positives, “but unfortunately, your pay does really matter,” she said.
And the recently reached tentative contract agreement between the SFUSD and the United Educators of San Francisco is a step in the right direction, Waymack and union officials noted. Per the new contract, a teacher with 12 years of experience — the average for the SFUSD — will make almost $78,000 annually by the 2016-17 school year. That's up from $69,135 in the previous contract.
“Obviously, the cost of living in San Francisco has skyrocketed, and this deeply impacts teachers,” said UESF spokesman Matthew Hardy, adding that city-funded housing options would also be beneficial.
Superintendent Richard Carranza said the SFUSD agrees with the report, but its hands are tied.
“We can't control the cost of living in the city we serve and, while we can and do advocate for more state funding, we ultimately can't control the revenues we receive to serve our students,” he said in a statement.
This story has been updated to include adjusted cost-of-living earnings for teachers that were incorrectly reported for seven school districts, including the San Francisco Unified School District, due to misinformation provided.