Rodney Tom: No correlation between teacher pay and student achievement

At a Saturday town hall meeting, Sen. Rodney Tom said there's no reason to invest education money in increased teacher salaries.
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State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom

At a Saturday town hall meeting, Sen. Rodney Tom said there's no reason to invest education money in increased teacher salaries.

There is no relation between spending on teachers and student achievement in school, Washington's Senate majority leader said Saturday.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, told constituents Saturday that a statistical study of the state teachers' salary structure and graduation rates show no correlation between the two. About 125 people participated in a Saturday 48th Legislative District town hall meeting in Redmond with Tom, Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, and Rep. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland. Tom is leader of a 23-Republican-two-Democrat majority coalition in control of the Senate.

The majority coalition expects to release its 2011-2013 state operating budget proposal in the March 28-30 time frame, Tom said. The Senate budget proposal will precede that of the Democratically-controlled House, which will release its proposed budget a few days later. Hunter is one of the House's chief budget writers.

Neither Tom nor Hunter discussed specific budget numbers at Saturday's town hall. The education budget will be the biggest chunk of both proposals, driven by a 2012 Washington Supreme Court ruling that the state is not meeting its constitutional duties in providing K-12 education. 

Democrats' preliminary estimates contend $1 billion to $1.7 billion will be needed in 2013-2015 to meet the Supreme Court's requirements by 2018. Meanwhile, Republicans preliminary estimates are looking at $800 million to $1 billion. Republicans — plus Tom and coalition member Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch — argue that more reforms are the key to reach the Supreme Court's goals, dubbed the "McCleary decision." Meanwhile, Democrats contend that the education system is somewhat adequately mapped out, but needs more money to make that system work. 

Republicans — plus Tom and Sheldon — argue that no new tax revenue is needed to meet the Supreme Court's requirements. Democrats disagree. "It's hard to imagine [the 2013-2015 budget] not having some [new] revenue in it," Hunter said. 

Tom noted teacher salaries are based on time on the job and post-bacheloreate education. He said a study of figures of the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program — a state office that provides financial analysis and numbers for legislative committees — shows almost no correlation between spending on teachers and graduation rates.

Some Democratic education budget scenarios include teacher pay raises.

"We want to make sure the investments affect student outcomes," Tom said. "We'll make a substantial down payment on McCleary."

For exclusive coverage of the state Legislature, check out Crosscut's Olympia 2013 page.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8