Raising Local Teacher Salaries (part 2)

San Mateo / Foster City School District salaries have not been competitive with nearby districts for years. This discussion (part two) is an attempt to understand and address this issue. This part contains a response from SMFCSD Superintendent Rosas.

If you missed part one of this series, it is here.

I needed to do some research on California school funding and found the following information online.  Note in my post below that I mistakenly thought that SMFCSD was a “Basic Aid” district.  In fact it is what used to be called a “revenue limit district” as I learned from our superintendent.

On October 13, 2016, I posted the following note on our local Nextdoor.com.

Following my post is the response that I received today from Superintendent Rosas.


“I decided to do some research to answer the Basic Aid district question myself since I am getting concerned that Nextdoor is not being read by people of influence in the local education community ...

What I discovered in a nutshell is that VIRTUALLY ALL of the districts on the peninsula are probably Basic Aid districts though I could not find a list of them since a new funding formula (the LCFF or local control funding formula) went into effect in 2013.

There are two types of school districts: revenue limit and basic aid. Each district has its own historical property tax dollar limit calculated in the following manner according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC – see the following for details at http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/…):

Footnote “1 See Weston (2010) for a description of the history of revenue limits and its calculation. Essentially, each district has a base revenue limit ($/pupil) based on its 1972–73 expenditures that has since been adjusted for inflation and equalized within six categories of districts based on type (elementary, high school, unified) and size (small, large). The base revenue limit is multiplied by a specific count of average daily attendance (ADA) and then adjusted to reach the total dollar entitlement. The adjustments range from separate allocations for Necessary Small Schools (NSS)—i.e., small, isolated schools—to accounting issues (withdrawing funds for exceeding statutory class size maximums). Total property taxes are then subtracted from the entitlement to calculate state aid.”

In a nutshell, a Basic Aid district collects property taxes that exceed their calculated revenue limit number and it thus does NOT receive additional state dollars for the purpose of reaching their “revenue limit.” This is the pot of money from which salaries are funded. They might receive “categorical” state funding for other specific purposes such as special ed.

A revenue limit district collects insufficient property tax to meet its revenue limit number and therefore the state tops off its funding. The vast majority of CA districts fall into this category, according to the PPIC.

Also note that Basic Aid districts are (were?  The law may be different now due to the new formula passed in 2013) allowed to keep excess property tax revenue above its “revenue limit” and use it for schools. Again, according to the PPIC, if all of the excess revenue had been sent to the state and distributed “equitably,” it would have only provided an additional $100/ pupil statewide, so local districts were allowed to retain it where it would create a much larger $/pupil impact.

Once again this is a byzantine system gone wild; the 1972-73 date is probably related to the passage of proposition 13 which is also responsible for our interesting system of levying property taxes.

The bottom line is that what I have heard all these years about why we can’t pay our teachers appears to be a gross oversimplification. The problem appears not to involve simply being a Basic Aid district, but instead may possibly be due to the byzantine 1972-73 basis (and daily attendance records?) used in the SMFCSD revenue limit calculation!!

Again, it would be really nice, if we could get a response from a local school district official who could tell us what the options might be to make our teachers salaries more competitive.

I have emailed a copy of the post above to the SMFCSD superintendent, asking her for an answer and permission to redistribute it here.”


Today, October 28, 2016, I received the following text from the superintendent of the San Mateo / Foster City School District, Joan Rosas, received her permission to distribute it and also followed up with a phone conversation with her.
Statement from Superintendent Rosas:

School Funding and Attracting and Retaining Educational Staff

The San Mateo–Foster City School District is what used to be called a Revenue Limit District.  Today it is called a Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) District.  This means that the district is guaranteed about $7,400 per student per year.  This amount does vary somewhat depending on the grade level of the student.  The funding is also allocated based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA), not on enrollment numbers.  In other words, students have to be present in their schools every day in order to actualize the entire per pupil funding amount. 

There are several school districts in San Mateo County that are not LCFF funded.  Instead they are called Basic Aid Districts.  The property tax collected in these Districts exceeds the approximately $7,400 per pupil allocation and they are able to keep virtually all of this funding.  These districts are obviously funded at significantly higher levels than LCFF Districts.  

LCFF funding was established to bring more equity to the funding formulas for schools and it has accomplished that task.  However, disparities still exist.

In attracting and retaining our educational staff, salaries and benefits are important.  During negotiations cycles, the San Mateo–Foster City School District collects comparable salaries from similarly funded districts and enters into negotiations with our union leadership.  While the school district can’t provide the same salaries as Basic Aid Districts or large corporations in our area, the San Mateo–Foster City School District does negotiate in good faith with our unions.  

So…in a teaching shortage, what might entice staff to consider the San Mateo–Foster City School District?  We understand that salaries and benefits are important.  We also feel that our supportive community and staff, specialized programs and professional development are attractive to new staff members.  Additionally, the San Mateo–Foster City School District is exploring ways to provide staff housing at below market rates.  This option could greatly benefit employees who are just entering the field or moving from other areas in California or even outside of California. 

Please follow District happenings by visiting our website at www.smfcsd.net and signing up to receive our monthly newsletter.


In my follow-up phone call with the superintendent I asked if the district had any monetary figures regarding how big of a tax assessment would be needed to make our district salaries competitive with surrounding districts.  I would like to get an answer to, e.g., the following question: To raise the local teacher salary schedule across the board by $1,000, what is the estimated cost per $1000 of assessed property value?
I expect much more than a $1,000 raise is needed to solve our problems as I mentioned in part one, but this figure would be a valuable basis for discussion.
If the figures are politically possible, it seems to me that we should take action before the “perfect storm” that I referred to in part one of this series occurs.
Please stay tuned!

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired scientist, teacher, bioinformatician, IT director, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist (7690 miles and 724,300 feet of climbing in 2015), backpacker, you name it! Current avocation is tutoring high school students near San Mateo, CA in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Please see the Bio link in the right sidebar for my detailed background information.

One thought on “Raising Local Teacher Salaries (part 2)”

  1. Thank you David for taking the time to ask our local school district current and relevant questions on school funding/teacher salaries. Most people do not understand the funding source (and the history) to school district funding. It was good to hear the latest on funding per pupil for SMFCSD as a result of LCCF. Thank you to Joan Rosas, SMFCSD Superintendent, for taking time to reply to David so that more people get educated about our local schools.

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