Paso Robles teachers demand higher pay

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Despite receiving pay of more than $70,000 a year on average, Paso Robles teachers say they are in dire need of a wage increase. [Tribune]

More than 100 teachers, parents and community members demonstrated Tuesday evening outside of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District administration building. The teachers and their supporters called for district officials to grant the educators a pay increase.  

The Paso Robles Educators, the local chapter of the California Teachers Association, is currently in salary negotiations with the school district.

In the 2019-2020 school year, Paso Robles teachers received the fourth highest average pay among educators working for nine different school districts in SLO County, according to the California Department of Education. San Miguel Joint Union School District did not send teacher pay data to the state.

That year, Paso Robles teachers collected an average salary of $71,640. By comparison, Lucia Mar teachers received an average salary of $70,945, and Templeton teachers received $72,841 in average pay. 

Most SLO County districts have given teachers raises in the past couple years. Paso Robles teachers say they have not received a salary increase in three years.

Kate Luster, a first grade teacher at Kermit King Elementary School, said teachers are just asking for a cost-of-living increase. Kristin Usilton, who teaches at Glen Speck Elementary School, said every district colleague she knows is working multiple jobs outside of teaching.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, district officials said they are worried about declining enrollment impacting the budget in the future. Like most districts in SLO County and in California, Paso Robles Joint Unified has for several years had fewer students enroll and attend class. The district is down 221 students from the previous school year, and officials are expecting to lose another 59 students next year, followed by 114 students the year after that. 

The Paso Robles district had a reserve fund of $14.3 million, or 15 percent, as of June. State regulations only allow the district to carry a 10 percent budget reserve. 

As with all districts statewide, this year, Paso Robles received a 5.07 percent cost of living adjustment from the state of California. The slightly more than 5 percent increase to the district budget is intended to compensate for rising costs schools in California are enduring.

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