Teachers' contract offers two years of raises

Complex schedule includes varied rates based on experience, training

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2001

The proposed contract for Juneau's teachers offers pay increases of at least 4.5 percent in the first year, and 4 percent on average in the second year.

The increases come partly from higher placement on the salary schedule, and partly from changed rates on the schedule. The contract raises the lowest salary from $31,418 to $33,258 this year and $33,591 next year. It increases the top salary from $61,268 to $64,053 this year and $64,694 next year.

Juneau's top-paid teachers will make more than their counterparts in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Kenai Peninsula, Sitka and Ketchikan, said schools Superintendent Gary Bader.

"We think that's pretty significant. And the same will be true for our starting teachers," he said.

Prior to a union informational meeting this morning, some of the district's 350 teachers said they were confused about the contract's terms. They said they were concerned that teachers gain most at the higher and lower ends of the salary schedule, or that the pay increases weren't much more than under the previous contract.

The salary schedule rewards teachers based on years of experience and college credits.

Teachers under the proposed contract "start a little higher and they end a little higher and they move a little more slowly than they used to, but they're still making more money as they move along," Bader said.

The new schedule, which was devised by the union, sets the increases in pay between positions, or steps, on the salary schedule at a uniform 3 percent. The percentages varied in the old schedule, but most were higher. Under the new schedule, some of the salaries are lower, as well, especially in the middle range.

The teachers' union hopes the new schedule will make it easier for the school district to afford movement on the salary schedule in the future, Juneau Education Association negotiator Alan Degener told teachers today.

In some recent years, Juneau's teachers either haven't moved up the steps on the schedule, or have moved up only half-way through the year.

The proposed contract also puts more of the available money into raising rates on the schedule, which benefits those teachers who had reached the highest point on the schedule.

"You have smaller steps but more frequent raises," Degener said.

"The salary scale has been changed so we can afford to give step raises," said School Board member Stan Ridgeway.

The proposed schedule gives teachers who are new to the district a long-term reason to stay, said union spokesman Clay Good, because they can plan their finances based on movement through the schedule.

The proposed contract also increases the school district's payment for teachers' health insurance premiums from $496 a month per person to $550 in the first year. In the contract's second year, the school district also would spend more on teachers' health insurance premiums if the state increases its per-pupil funding to the school district.

Altogether, the proposed agreement would cost the school district an additional $726,000 in salaries and $140,000 in health insurance premiums in the first year, and $600,000 in salaries in the second year, Bader said.

Bader has said the contract can be afforded under the current budget and it wouldn't require layoffs. Under a new state funding formula, Juneau will get about $650,000 more this school year than it would have under the previous formula. The school district's operating budget is about $38 million.

The proposed contract also reduces teachers' required work days from 183 a year to 182, and it removes language that devoted two days to classroom preparation and student assessment. Instead, Bader said he would recommend the School Board increase the number of days teachers spend with students from 180 to 181.

Teachers met today at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School to discuss the contract, but a vote to ratify or reject it isn't expected until a week from now, Good said.

The union has to explain a complicated contract to teachers, one in which many rates on the salary schedule actually are lower than before, but in which all current teachers will get more pay than last year.

That's because every teacher employed last school year would be placed on the salary schedule at a pay of at least 4.5 percent more this year. They also are entitled to move up the schedule for more experience or college credits, which would result in a pay increase higher than 4.5 percent for some teachers. The average pay increase would be about 5.7 percent, Degener told the teachers.

In the contract's second year, the rates on the salary schedule go up by 1 percent. Eligible teachers also advance a step for experience and to a higher pay column if they have earned enough graduate credits.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.

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