Facing huge budget gaps, are school district officials forced to lay off teachers? It’s true that teacher salaries make up the largest slice of the district budget pie, but salary costs can be cut without layoffs. Rather than handing out pink slips, some districts have explored rolling back salaries.
An estimated 60%–80% of the more than $500 billion per year spent operating the nation’s public schools goes directly to paying and supporting school employees. Much of the money is directed to basic teacher salary costs. The problem for many locales, however, is that wages are often decided many years in advance, via collective bargaining agreements.
In contrast, decisions about how to close budget gaps get made just ahead of the affected school year as revenue projections are finalized. Sometimes in closing gaps, district leaders treat salary decisions made years ago as immovable (which they are not) and focus only on furloughs and layoffs.
This Rapid Response brief demonstrates the effect on wages, layoffs, and class sizes of a range of policy options available to districts forced to cut salary expenditures.