Teachers in the Tooele County School District will get a slightly larger paycheck when they head back to school this fall.
The district’s Board of Education ratified a contract agreement for the 2014-15 school year with the Tooele Education Association at a May 13 meeting.
The agreement calls for fully funding normal salary schedule increases, called steps and lanes, on TCSD’s current salary schedule.
“This was the first full step increase for teachers since the 2011-12 school year,” said Rick Harrison, TEA negotiations team chairman.
The salary schedule chart is composed of an array of salaries in columns and rows.
Move down the rows, and salary increases with each step down. The steps are awarded for each year of experience.
A teacher’s salary also increases as they move across the columns, or lanes, on the chart.
There are five lanes on the chart, each one is for a designated amount of education, starting with a bachelor’s degree, then a bachelor’s degree plus 30 credits, a bachelor’s degree plus 55 credits, a master’s degree, and a master’s degree plus 45 credits.
A first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree is in lane one and on step one, and makes a salary of $32,813 per year.
With the steps fully funded, a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree in their second year of teaching, will receive $33,237 per year, a $434 annual raise or 1.3 percent.
However, the school board also approved changes in the district’s health benefit plan that will require teachers pay an additional $420 per year for health insurance.
The new teacher in his or her second year of teaching, who receives two paychecks per month, will only see $0.58 more on each pay check due to the increased cost of benefits.
At the top end of the salary scale, a teacher with a master’s degree, and at least 15 years of experience, makes $58,569 per year.
Teachers with over 15 years experience will receive a .25 percent increase in 2014, on top of a previously negotiated .25 percent increase, for a total of 0.5 percent over the $58,569 salary cap at step 15.
The average salary for a classroom teacher in the district in 2013 was $44,297, according to the Utah State Office of Education. The state average for that same year was $46,232.
TCSD ranked 32 out of 41 among Utah school districts for average classroom teacher salary. Classroom teacher salaries in Utah ranged from $40,617 in Wayne County School District to $59,728 in Park City School District.
The district needs to do more in terms of pay to attract and hold good teachers, according to Scott Rogers, TCSD superintendent
“Funding steps and lanes is a good step, but that alone is not enough,” he said. “We have got to find a way to be more competitive with regard to salaries. We didn’t get in this position overnight or in one year, we won’t likely dig ourselves out in one year either.”
Last year negotiations between the district and TEA continued through the summer and were not completed until a short time before the new school year started.
Harrison attributed this year’s quick settlement to a focused and mutual effort.
Rogers said fully funding steps and lanes was a promise he made before negotiations started.
“I promised we would prioritize employee compensation and said I would work to fund steps and lanes fully,” he said. “Promise kept! Negotiation is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process.”