How the math works for teacher raises

I keep wondering where the Medford School Board has come up with its 12 to 22 percent pay raise offer. I understand that the first 6 percent is the "phantom raise," but I sure can't find an additional 16 percent. Can you explain the "fuzzy" math?

— Patrick, by email

If you want experts in fuzzy math, Patrick, you've come to the right place. All math is fuzzy to us here at the Since You Asked Department of Remedial Multiplication. In fact, we have long held that too much exercise of the left side of the brain can lead only to wonkishness and some bizarre fascination with Sudoku.

First, before anyone pops a belt buckle, let us say that there are many views as to what constitutes a "raise." We'll address this here:.

The 12 to 22 percent figure was based on earlier school district offers that included a 10 percent raise in the first year and 1 percent raises in each of the following two years. In addition, teachers with less than 15 years of experience get step increases of 3.4 percent per year. Add those up. and that equals 22.2 percent.

However — and it's a big however for the teachers — the step increases (which they insist are not raises) are not part of the dispute in the negotiations and would have been in place regardless of the salary proposals. Plus, the teachers are being asked to pick up 6 percent of the contribution to their retirement accounts, so they say far less than 12 percent would show up in their paychecks.

And, we should note, the proposals have changed shape several times in the past couple of weeks and may have even changed between the time we wrote this and you read it.

We're starting to feel a painful throbbing on the left side of our collective SYA heads, so we'll stop now, Patrick. Next thing you know, we'll be solving Sudoku puzzles.

Email questions to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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