More than two dozen Kern County school districts have issued raises for educators that, for many, mean the first ongoing salary increases since the 2007-08 school year.
The salary bumps, for the 2013-14 school year, range from 1 percent in districts that include the Fruitvale School District and Delano Joint Union High School District and 6 percent in the Taft City School District.
District administrators say they have a new school funding formula and temporary tax increase to thank for the pay raises.
Voters approved that tax increase, Proposition 30, in November 2012, and state legislators passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) on June 14, 2013.
The formula provides base funding for all school districts, and feeds extra dollars to districts that serve the most disadvantaged students.
Districts with those students -- highest populations of English language learners, foster youth or students from low-income households -- can receive up to 22.5 percent of base grant funding, said H.D. Palmer, a deputy director of the California Department of Finance.
He called the formula the most fundamental school reform in decades.
Gerrie Kincaid, an assistant superintendent in the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, said the LCFF has provided additional state dollars to justify the raises. But she added that part of the reason the district is in a position to give raises is because it learned after early years of the recession to be fiscally conservative.
The district restricted facility updates to emergency and safety threats and loaded classes with more students and fewer teachers.
"We just had to operate thinly," Kincaid said.
Lauri Heffernan, president of the Panama-Buena Vista Teachers Association, said the district implemented a mass reduction in work force about seven years ago, which aligned with a trend throughout the state.
Class sizes went from 20 to 30 students per teacher; more than 70 first-, second- and third-year teachers lost their jobs; and teachers lost 9 percent of their purchasing power, Heffernan said.
Morale was low, and the district (like many throughout Kern County) was in a time of transition.
Rebecca Thomas, chief business official of the Greenfield Union School District, said about two years after the district implemented an ongoing raise for teachers (a 7 percent increase) in November 2007, cut after cut trickled down from the state.
"At the time the raise was given, we did not know of the cuts that were coming," Thomas said.
The district had to borrow money in the short-term to meet payroll.
"I think that we lost a lot during the time period and we're having to rebuild it slowly," Thomas said.
This year the district implemented its first raise -- 3.5 percent -- since 2007.
Four Kern County districts in a list of 38 maintained by the California Teachers Association were able to implement ongoing raises in 2012-13. That jumped to 27 in 2013-14.
Districts implemented 2, 4, and 5 percent raises.
The Delano Joint Union High School District implemented a plan that would mean a 3 percent raise by 2015-16.
The Kern High School District plans to consider an agreement to implement a 4 percent salary raise next school year and a 1 percent raise this year.
And the Panama-Buena Vista district settled on a 3.5 percent increase.
"It had been so long, we were all just so excited to be talking about numbers rather than just zeros," Heffernan said.