Yes, the rumors are true. Starting salaries in the school systems are not the best. The upside is that you are working only until about 2:30 in the afternoon, so you're free to do home care or work a second job per diem in the afternoons. You can definitely make up the difference in pay if you work another job. Also the benefits and pension plan in the school systems really can't be beat. Not to mention - summers off - or 8 week opportunity to work over the summer and make more $$.
I'm a school based OT in the NYC Dept of Ed. I started with 2 years work experience, so started as a senior OT with a little better than starting salary. Something else to consider.....if you are working in the public sector for 10 years and are consistently paying your loans each month (never miss a payment) - then the rest of your loan will be forgiven after 10 years.