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April 21, 2004

Lawmakers OK bill to hike pay for teachers in schools for deaf

From: San Francisco Chronicle, CA - Apr 21, 2004

Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
©2004 Associated Press

(04-21) 20:16 PDT SACRAMENTO (AP) --

Teachers at two state-run schools for the deaf and the blind could get a pay raise under a bill approved Wednesday by an Assembly committee.

Assemblyman John Dutra said the salaries for teachers in the three state-run special schools are as much as 40 percent less than those of teachers in nearby local public schools, leading to high turnover among staff and frequent vacancies.

About 1,000 students attend the two state-run California Schools for the Deaf, one in Riverside and the other in Fremont. Another 110 students are enrolled at the state School for the Blind in Fremont.

Dutra, D-Fremont, wants the state schools to base teacher and administrator salaries on what comparable jobs pay in local school districts.

"The amount of money necessary to take care of the problem isn't huge. It's probably around $10 million," he said. "What's more significant is that the students and the teachers deserve better treatment and equal treatment."

Because all of their students are deaf or blind, teachers at the state-run schools do much more paperwork than those at traditional public schools and must have special training, parent Bridgetta Bourne-Firl told members of the Assembly Education Committee.

"And still they earn a lot less than the teachers in the school district and it's not justified," she said, testifying through a sign language interpreter. "The California School for the Deaf has a national reputation for its quality, but this can change without fixing the big problems."

Steve Orman, a teacher at the state-run school in Fremont, also using an interpreter to testify, said he sees his co-workers leaving and moving to areas with a lower cost of living.

Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, co-author of the bill, noted that Orman, "would make $11,200 more (a year) if he were working at Fremont Unified. That's a huge sacrifice to make."

The salary differential starts with a teacher's beginning salary, when a teacher can earn $6,200 more at a local school.

"If you're a first-year teacher, that's your hungriest year," said Goldberg, a former teacher. "In four years, you're talking about a $24,000 differential."

By the end of a teacher's career, the salary at a state-run school is $70,000, compared to the $87,000 top salary at a nearby public school district, she said.

Dutra's bill, which is co-authored with Goldberg, would also require all public schools -- not just the two-state run schools for the deaf -- to give hiring preference to teachers of deaf children who scored well on a sign language tests.

The California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union, supported the salary hike for teachers, but opposed the sign language test requirement.

The bill was approved by the committee on a 6 to 2 vote. On the Net:

Read the bill, AB2394, at

©2004 Associated Press