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Stafford Steps Toward Equitable Pay

Hard work by the Stafford Education Association (SEA) to fix inequities in the pay system paid off as the school board Tuesday agreed to a rare mid-year step increase.

The 5-2 vote of the Stafford School Board means nearly 3,000 Stafford school employees will receive a step increase in April. Coming into this school year, returning employees had their salaries frozen -- getting neither a step increase nor any cost-of-living increase. Newly hired employees, however, were given full credit for prior experience, essentially earning a pay advantage compared to existing employees. That sent just the wrong message to employees who'd shown loyalty to the school system, said SEA President Jannette Martin.

"We made addressing this our first priority for this school year," she said. Martin and SEA members spoke out at school board meetings and in meetings with the school superintendent, reached out to local media, and kept the issue alive.

Opportunity presented itself when the Stafford Board of Supervisors proposed using $1.4 million from a recently discovered accounting error to give a one-time bonus to teachers, nurses, and paraprofessionals.

SEA mobilized, advocating a step increase for all job categories, and the Association drew 70 members to a rally in the freezing rain before the school board's Dec. 8 meeting. The school board sided with SEA's position on the need for step increases and said they should be given to all except newly hired employees and those at the top of the pay scale.

The April raises will provide a modest bump in pay for those affected. But the move means that they'll be back on track in their step schedule -- which translates into a better pay base next year and a year-to-year boost in career earnings, Martin pointed out. "It will equate to an average 2.5-percent pay increase next year, because that's what our steps are," she said.

"This is a major victory for us," she added.


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