California school districts increased spending on administrator pay faster than teacher pay

Every so often, “clackers,” as teachers at Hiram Johnson High call them, will visit Mary Rodríguez’s class to watch her teach and make recommendations. These administrators, she said, wear shoes that aren’t ideal for Hiram Johnson’s floors, making it easy to hear them coming.

A lot of them roam the halls these days: Sacramento City Unified has increased spending on administrators during the last several years while cutting spending on teachers.

“We are just putting our noses to the grindstone and trying to teach the kids, and it becomes exhausting,” Rodríguez said.

The imbalance at Sac City has become the norm in California. As funding grew following years of budget cuts, California school districts increased spending for administrator pay faster than they raised spending for teacher pay, a Bee review of state financial data found.

General fund spending by school districts on teacher salaries rose by 15 percent, or $3 billion, from the 2010-11 school year to 2015-16. During the same period, administrator pay grew by 27 percent, or $700 million.

Adjusted for inflation, California’s school districts spent less money on teacher salaries in 2015-16 than they did in 2006-2007, the last year before the recession. The opposite was true for administrators: Districts spent slightly more on administrators in 2015-16 than they did during the year before the recession.

Teachers and the unions that represent them say the trend has hurt students by increasing class sizes, and that it has prompted some teachers to leave the profession.

“Even though they are paying more to administrators, we have this incredible turnover,” said Rodríguez, a special education teacher, referring to other teachers leaving her school due to low pay and other factors. “ It's beyond embarrassing.”

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