Stephanie Smith 0

Geographical Stipend for Areas with High Cost of Living (Philadelphia and Surrounding Areas)

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Dear Agora Board,

Recently one of our Family Teacher Coaches spoke to the board on our behalf and shared with you some of the concerns we have as Philadelphia teachers and Family Teacher Coaches regarding our pay scale. However, in this letter we want to provide you with concrete evidence and data to support our request for a geographical stipend for employees working in the Southeast Region.

In the past we were told that we should feel free coming to the board with requests or concerns. We hope that you see our numbers and hear our voices.

In Philadelphia (southeast region) the price of living is considerably higher than our peers in other parts of the state and our salaries are much lower than state average.  We think we should receive a stipend that balances the disparity between cost of living rates compared to the other regions listed.  It’s not as though we would be making “more” than our colleagues, it just means that our salaries equal out when higher living expenses are factored in. 

Since Agora has employed a single pay scale to compensate all staff members and that fails to recognize the dramatically different cost of living in various geographic areas, the bottom line and net result for members of our staff from Philadelphia and immediate suburbs is that we effectively are paid less than our peers at Agora and at other schools, even as we take on some of the most challenging and important work under Agora’s mission.  Compared to Agora employees in other parts of the state, we are forced to make decisions on important purchases and living expenses that result in a lower quality of living. 

Please see the statistics below from the following website based on a salary of $35,000 per year:

Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh

The cost of living in Pittsburgh, PA is 22.2% lower than in Philadelphia, PA .

Philadelphia vs. York

The cost of living in York, PA is 17.8% lower than in Philadelphia, PA .

Philadelphia vs. Erie

The cost of living in Erie, PA is 23.9% lower than in Philadelphia, PA .

Philadelphia vs. Harrisburg

The cost of living in Harrisburg, PA is 18.2% lower than in Philadelphia, PA .

Philadelphia vs. Reading

The cost of living in Reading, PA is 21.6% lower than in Philadelphia, PA .

Philadelphia vs. Allentown

The cost of living in Allentown, PA is 20.8% lower than in Philadelphia, PA .

In addition to the statistics above, roughly 35% of our students live in the southeast region and approximately 25% of our staff lives in the Philadelphia area.

In order to correct this geographic disparity, we need to increase the school’s competitiveness in attracting the best and the brightest candidates.  Compensation is an important factor for prospective candidates, and too many are turned off by Agora’s starting salaries which are simply not commensurate with similar opportunities in Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

Lastly, one cannot deny that teachers and Family Teacher Coaches face unique challenges with our students in Philadelphia. The achievement gap in Philadelphia Schools is significant and often a topic of conversation not just at the local level, but even at the national level as President Obama mentioned it in his speech on education reform.  The North Carolina LEA Case Study on Teacher Recruitment and Retention states, “State and local leaders are developing new teacher recruitment and retention initiatives aimed at attracting highly qualified teachers to their urban districts. Differential pay and teacher bonuses are methods that have been widely used by school districts to recruit teachers into low performing urban schools.

In light of the above information which lays out the higher cost of living, the lower salaries, and the higher achievement gap that Philadelphia teachers and family teacher coaches have to contend with, please consider adding to next year’s budget a geographical stipend as an incentive for those who choose to invest in the city where a third of our students live.

Thank you for your consideration,

Southeast Region Teachers and FTCs


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