Pay Plans Set by Law

I have always admired great athletics coaches whose commitment and integrity produce both success in athletics and successful men and women in life. We all know at least one. Their work ethic, values and instructional systems are often models for teaching and learning on a broader scale.

This is particularly true at the elementary, junior high and high school levels. Since only a small fraction of their charges ever go on to compete at the collegiate level and very few of those move on to the professional ranks, they reach, influence and acculturate a great many more people than their more visible and highly paid college and pro colleagues.

As in any endeavor, their commitment cannot be wholly or adequately measured in dollars and cents. In fact, the best coaches I have known at the prep level earn only a few cents per hour when I divide their modest coaching supplements by a year- round preparation schedule that runs well beyond the intensity of their season.

They are not in it for the money. They can’t be. High school head coaches of “major” sports seldom are paid more than $5,000 or $6,000 per year. Coaches of other sports are paid much less.

Questioning how much they are paid is always fair game for public discourse; how they are paid is much less open to opinion. Since they are compensated, though, boards of education pay them based on a supplemental contract, within the tenets of the local bargaining unit agreement, and adherence to applicable state and federal laws. Here is generally how it works:

If the coach is a teacher, as is often the case, and exempt from wage and hour laws, he or she can put unlimited time into carrying out coaching duties, but is paid only the amount specified in the coaching contract. This is how most coaches end up earning less than third-world wages per hour. They are paid by the job, not the hour, and it is a very big job.

A caveat: Those coaches cannot perform supplemental contract duties – i.e., coaching duties – within the times they are scheduled to perform teaching duties. If my teaching contract specifies that I will report at 8 a.m. and perform teaching duties until 3 p.m., then I cannot perform coaching duties until after 3 p.m. or prior to 8 a.m. Period. The coaches that I know are early risers and burn plenty of midnight oil.

This applies to other supplemental contracts for other duties involving teachers beyond the teaching day, such as clubs, activities, etc.

“Double dipping” in not permitted. This preclusion also applies to planning periods, often erroneously referred to as “free” periods. Planning periods are part of the teaching day.

If the coach is covered by wage and hour laws, the supplemental contract for coaching must compensate at the rate of time-and-a-half for all hours beyond 40 within the work week. One way to do this is to pay the person minimum wage at time-and-a-half and stop when the contract amount is reached. The same “double dipping” preclusion applies. Coaching cannot overlap with the work duties of that person during the 40-hour work week.

In some instances, volunteer coaches are employed by the school board. They are, in fact, employees of the board of education except for the matter of salary. Some local bargaining agreements address employment of volunteers, others do not. Either way, the board of education and the volunteer employed work under most of the same requirements as they would if the person were paid. A few of these include: responsibility for criminal background checks, proper certification, required training, coverage under workers’ compensation, liability coverage, child abuse reporting and many more.

So, riddle me this, Batman: Should I obey the posted speed limit?

The answer to this and the question of how we pay employees for coaching is not a matter of opinion, but one of law and contract. Until there is a statutory change, boards of education will continue to obey the speed limit and operate by the laws of the land that they have sworn to uphold.

Wallace is a senior fellow at the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia and a senior fellow at the Institute for Innovation and Excellence at West Liberty University. He is a native of Bellaire.