Teacher Salary Schedule Vs. No Schedule

As we explained last time, a key conflict in contract negotiations between the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association (HHSTA) and the Hinsdale #86 school board is the board’s intractability on its proposal to eliminate the teachers’ salary schedule. In order to understand why this is such a huge roadblock, one needs to understand how salary schedules work (which we went over in the previous article) and then to look at the impact eliminating the schedule has on teacher pay, especially in comparison to other school districts. It won’t come as a shock to most of you, but salary is always the most important aspect of a new contract to the majority of teachers. I know this having been a teacher in District #86 for twenty-five years (having retired in 2012) and having been parts of HHSTA teams (including twice as chief spokesperson) for eight different contract negotiations.

The board’s most recent proposal, as posted on the District #86 website and advocated by board negotiators Rick Skoda and Ed Corcoran, provides a pretty complicated methodology for determining teacher pay from year-to-year. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase each year forms the basis for their offer, with teachers getting either 75% or 50% (depending on the size of the teacher’s current salary) of CPI as their yearly raise. Instead of the five lanes of the previous contract, the board has proposed $3,000 (or is it now $4,000?) be granted when a teacher earns a Master’s degree. An additional $500-$1,250 would be provided if the teacher in question had achieved one of the top two ratings (Excellent or Proficient) on her end-of-year evaluation. No merit raise would be given if a teacher were rated one of the bottom two ratings (Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory). Yeah, that isn’t an easy system to use in making comparisons.

So rather than trying to discern whether a teacher is earning enough to get 75% or 50% of CPI, gets $3,000 or $4,000 for her Master’s, or deserves $500 or $1250 based on his evaluations, let’s just use the top numbers, those which will make the salary for this hypothetical teacher the largest using the proposed non-schedule rate of pay. Then, we can compare this offer (which is, to use the vocalized pause Rick Skoda uses at least fifty times per board meeting, “once again” actually higher than the board’s current proposal) to other local high school districts. For our example, I chose Lyons Township #204, Glenbard #87, and Hinsdale #86 (using the salary schedule and index numbers from the 2013-2014 contracts), but just about any suburban high school district could be used to illustrate the point.

Assumptions: 1. Teachers with salary schedules get a step as well as Consumer Price Index increase each year and switch lanes with
qualifying amounts of education;
2. Teachers in Hinsdale #86 w/o Schedule get 75% of CPI + $1,250 merit raise each year;
3. CPI (Inflation) for this example is 2% each year, 75% of which would be 1.5%;
4. Master’s Degree Stipend in #86 w/o Schedule is $4,000 per year
5. Starting salary (BA, Step 1) is $50,000 for all schools (for comparison purposes only; actual base
salaries vary by district)

Yearly Salary for a Teacher Hired in 2014 over the Next Twenty Years
(click on picture to enlarge)

Salary Comp Pic

These numbers pretty much speak for themselves, so you can see how the adoption of the board’s proposal would eliminate District #86’s competitiveness with other districts. Corcoran’s contention that the prestige of working in District #86 justifies lower salaries is absurd in the abstract, but downright frightening when laid out. I’d be willing to wager that very few people would agree that prestige is worth from $931 (the smallest difference shown here) to a whopping $77,043 in a single year.  Another way to look at it:  A teacher with twenty years’ experience last year in District #86 who also had a Master’s +60 hours would made over $27,000 than our hypothetical teacher would make 20 years from now ($126,247 vs. $98,520)! You might be able to find teachers willing to work in the schedule-less District #86, but only a fool would argue that those candidates would be of equal quality to the ones being hired in Lyons #204 or Glenbard #87. And most teachers that Hinsdale could hire with this pay scale would be trying to leave for another district (one with a schedule) as soon as they could.

The lack of a schedule would hurt every teacher in the District to some degree. The damage would be less costly the further you had already advanced on the old schedule as that (reasonable) salary would then be the basis for your three-quarters CPI raise plus $1,250 or so merit bump. Veteran teachers who have been in the district longer than nineteen years and thus no longer had any steps or lanes on the schedule to which they might move would see the least damage to their salaries (they would still see some). But the younger teachers would take a huge hit on career earnings. For example, a sixth-year teacher who had a Master’s would have made $71,181 in his fifth year (the 2013-14 school year) in District #86, and would have earned $90,133 four years later with those assumed 2% increases in the base, four steps, and without changing lanes. That same teacher would earn $80,663 after four years of the new non-scheduled approach. The step increases and raises based on lane changes teachers had anticipated when they agreed to work in District #86 would suddenly be gone. And given the number of teachers old enough to retire in various suburban districts these days, younger teachers would flee as soon as they could find a better district—“better district” now being defined as “any district other than District #86.”

Then too, the relocation of several administrators to other districts would make it that much easier for District #86 teachers to find a new district. Kevin Pobst, Jeff Howard, Moses Chen, and Brian Waterman (all now principals of other schools) worked in District #86 with many of the teachers who are still there. Might they covet some of the excellent educators with whom they had first-hand experience as vacancies in their schools appear? The exodus which has begun this year will only accelerate should this new approach to pay rates be put in place.

And teachers just beginning their careers would be foolish even to apply to District #86.

HHSTA leaders, of course, know all this, which is why it is unlikely negotiators would ever bring the board’s extreme proposal back to the teachers for a vote. In my opinion, a teachers’ strike is significantly more likely than the teachers ever agreeing to anything remotely like the board’s radical proposal. If Corcoran and Skoda are intent on pushing this to the ultimate degree—which they certainly seemed to be at the August 4 board meeting—this is going to be a difficult school year for all involved.

Assuming that compromise is still possible, there are some ways that both the board and the teachers could get some of what they want without completely caving to the other side (which is how negotiations are supposed to work, by the way). In the last installment of the Schedule Diaries, I’ll suggest some of those.

Teacher union/school board relations are analyzed in greater detail in my eBook, Snowflake Schools. If you would like more information about this book or to read some sample chapters, check out http://www.snowflake-schools.com/.

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