November 2017, Vol. 1

Getting the most out of stipends

by Ann Patton

Mention the topic of stipends in public schools and you may hear sighs of frustration from HR administrators, as well as lots of questions. Which employees are eligible for stipends? How much money should be dedicated to an extracurricular stipend? Can the district give bonuses when the team performs particularly well? Texas public schools that use stipends to pay employees, usually teachers, to compensate for a variety of factors need to consider common and best practices for payment.

Extracurricular duties

Stipends are often used to compensate for duties performed that are not related to their primary job, such as time spent before and after school and for days worked outside of their normal duty schedule. Extracurricular stipends are paid for coaching athletics, including football, baseball, and basketball, and for directing performing arts, (e.g., band, orchestra, drama). Other common stipends include cheerleading, drill team, club sponsors, and UIL coaches.

Stipend pay practices vary among districts. According to the 2016–2017 TASB HR Services Extra-Duty Stipend Survey, more than half (56 percent) of reporting districts pay additional days, either at the employee’s daily rate or a standard daily rate, plus a stipend. The remaining 44 percent pay a stipend exclusively.

Although the length of the sports season is the same, there is no consistency among districts who pay additional days in how many days are paid. Paying additional days causes inequity in how much is paid to each coach. For example, if two assistant coaches are paid five days and a $2,000 stipend and they have been coaching the same number of years, one may be paid considerably more than the other because he has more years of teaching experience. That person already is paid more for his teaching assignment than the less-experienced teacher, but paying additional days creates a disparity in pay for the extra duty assignment.
Paying a single stipend with no days is a more equitable method. This ensures that coaches are compensated equally for the same work.

Certifications and degrees

According to the 2016–2017 TASB Salary Survey, 70 percent of districts pay teachers a stipend for having a master’s degree. Also, the number of districts paying more or paying exclusively for teachers who have a master’s degree in the subject or content area in which they teach is increasing. Research shows that teachers who have completed graduate degrees are not significantly more effective than those with bachelor’s degrees. However, some studies have found teachers with advanced degrees in their subject or content area have a greater impact on student growth, particularly in the areas of math and science.

Districts also commonly pay stipends for hard-to-find specialties, including certified math, science, bilingual, and foreign language teachers. This allows districts, who pay using a teacher pay schedule that only recognizes experience, to provide additional compensation to teachers with specialized certifications.

Leadership

These stipends recognize additional leadership roles such as department chairs, lead counselor, lead diagnostician, and possibly even coordinators. Before awarding these stipends, consider caseloads and number of employees on their team.

A focus on market

Districts that pay counselors, diagnosticians, and other professionals on the teacher pay schedule use stipends to pay additional money to stay competitive. When these positions with higher level certifications and licenses are paid on the teacher scale, additional pay is necessary to attract and keep talent, because the market usually is higher for these positions. Moving these jobs to a competitively priced pay range should eliminate the need for this type of stipend.

School districts typically select a job market for comparison based on a variety of factors. The list should include districts that compete for the same qualified applicants. This would include districts that are geographically close, have similar programs (athletics, academic, or fine arts), and those with whom the district competes in various sports and other activities.

Stipend market value should be calculated using the value of the days (for districts that pay days) plus the value of the stipends to calculate a total value for each extracurricular duty. This calculates a total value for each assignment, which ensures a valid comparison.

Nonexempt employees

Another frequent question involves paying stipends to clerical, paraprofessional, and auxiliary employees. Nonexempt employees are entitled to premium pay (overtime) or compensatory time paid at time-and-a-half for every hour they work more than 40 in a seven-consecutive-day workweek. This includes all hours worked performing extracurricular activities.

Under Department of Labor regulations, districts are not allowed to pay a stipend instead of overtime. If a stipend is paid, it must be included in the regular rate of pay when calculating overtime. Guidance on how to correctly calculate overtime for nonexempt employees is in The Administrators Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act, published by TASB HR Services. 

Also, any stipends paid to nonexempt workers for certifications, additional assignments, lead worker, or other duties must be included in the regular rate of pay. It is much easier to comply with federal law, if extracurricular activities and additional pay for certifications to nonexempt workers are paid on an hourly rate basis.

Other stipends

The use of stipends is highly effective for compensating for extracurricular duties, additional certifications, and leadership roles. However, districts are known to pay stipends for a variety of reasons that should be considered part of the employee’s primary job. This includes stipends for responsibilities such as:
  • Walking the police dog
  • Operating the press box elevator
  • Completing paperwork
  • Attending board meetings
  • Putting letters on the school marquee
These stipends should be eliminated or included in annual pay.

Conducting a comprehensive audit of all stipends paid will reveal which are appropriate and which should be eliminated. Maintaining a simple and market-based stipend schedule can help districts keep competitive and pay in fair and compliant ways for extracurricular duty assignments.