Sunday, November 11, 2012

SPASD Offers Contract Proposal to Teachers (SPEA)

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While the teacher's union negotiation team did not put very much effort or thought into their "counter" offer, the school board/ district clear put a lot of time and effort into working out an arrangement that addresses what has previously been discussed as a primary goal of SPEA.

Dispelling myths & legends
We've heard from a number of sources that the district spent $300,000 to help build the SPYHA's new ice rink, yet is giving the teachers a giant goose egg.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  From the get go,  at least $552,392 (2% of total 2011-12 SPEA member salaries) has been earmarked for 2012-13 SPEA wage increases.  This amount was included within the 2012-13 budget as presented at the annual elector's meeting and approved by the electors.

Raises the floor
SPEA, and across the state other teachers' unions, have long spoken out about the low wage paid to entry level teachers.  In the past, the "grid" has impeded the district's ability to single out one group of SPEA members for above average pay increases.  In addition, SPEA, like many teachers unions, establishes a "negotiations committee" which is heavily (if not totally) comprised of teachers earning wages either at the far end of the salary grid, or even "off" the grid.   It can be argued that these "negotiators" are looking out more for their own interests than those of their lesser paid brethren.

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Act 10, however, changed all that.  And SPASD administration and members of the school board worked diligently to develop an offer that would earmark roughly one-third of the budgeted $552,392 towards raising the base wage for all entry level teachers. The new starting salary would be raised from $32,505 to $35,000 for a Bachelor's Degree and $38,000 for a Master's Degree.  96 SPEA members (roughly 17% of all SPEA members) would see their base wages increased to $35,000.

How could SPEA's negotiation team argue against such a plan?  It's a no-brainer, right? Raising the floor would allow SPASD to be more competitive and attract the best and brightest teachers to work in the district.  And that's consistent with SPEA's desires...right?

Maintains step and lane increases (at least for 2012-13)
The package offered by the board/district also provides for step/lane movements, at least for the 2012-13 year.  Frankly, we believe that step/lane changes need to go away.  Instead, teachers should be held to what the rest of the world is:  an annual offer for wage adjustment to the extent that the fiscal climate can support one.

This is not peanuts here, either.  The district projects shelling out about $155,000 for step/lane increases.  That's not chump change, folks.  Recall that a step increase (annual while "on the grid") represents a 3% salary increase.   Lane movements, for which members are eligible after 6 credits earned beyond their current degree/credits, represents a 2% increase.

For reference, state employees are getting ZERO for this year and likely ZERO for the next two years.  Seniors, living in Social Security, will only see a 1.7% increase in January.

Provides a little something for other teachers
The board/district proposal also offers a little something for the more tenured staff.  Yes, they can thumb their noses at receiving only $461 each, and yes, (as proposed) it is not a base building (added to their permanent salary).   Indeed, it is proposed as a lump sum "stipend".  But it is better than nothing, and it still costs $220,000 to fund.

Suddenly that $300,000 agreement with youth hockey doesn't look so terrible, does it?

We need to keep very firmly in our minds that:

  • 128 SPEA members had total compensation of $60,000 or more in 2011-12.
  • At 190 contract days, that's for working LESS than 9 months per year.
  • Another 129 SPEA members earned total compensation between $50-$60,000.128+129
  • That means that nearly 50% of teachers earn at least $50K.
  • The average compensation earned by this top half is a little over $63,000!!
  • For the average Joe working 260 days per year, that translates to compensation of $86,000. 

That's not too shabby.  For comparison, the SPEA members with less than 6 years (total) experience earned an average total compensation of about $38,500 last year.

Keeps SPASD competitive
Sun Prairie has fallen behind other districts, particularly the larger districts in Dane County.  For the 2011-12 school year, Sun Prairie ranked 8th out of the 11 largest Dance Co. school districts in terms of base wage for an entry level teacher with a Bachelor's degree.

This package will increase the base bay of teachers with a Bachelor's degree to $35,000  and $38,000 for a Master's Degree.  I have attached the comparable data that we used.

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Still not keeping up with the Jones
Unfortunately, we're not really breaking new ground here; other districts are trying to do the same things.
Upon request, the district office also provided the information they have obtained from other Dane Co, districts as they work towards contracts for 2012-13.  Looking at districts for which data has been obtained, Sun Prairie remains slightly below the average for 2012-2013 of $35,040 for starting pay.

Timing is everything, and this has dragged on so long that other districts have again leapfrogged us.  So it seems that the board needs to continue working on this plan.  We need to control the ceiling and raise the floor till all teachers earn a respectable wage.  We don not need to be creating one percenters here, but we need to remain competitive and compress the salary ranges.  Certainly a ceiling could be raised over time, but let's not get crazy here.

It's simply not sustainable
We cannot...repeat...cannot sustain a system in which a 5th grade teacher has a Ph.D. and earns total compensation of $91,000 (excluding benefits!).  

What on earth does a 5th grade teacher need a Ph.D. for?   And, while they are entitled to earn whatever degree/credits they choose, it does not make sense for us to have to compensate teachers for degrees and credits earned which really do not improve the quality of their teaching.

Let's get real, people, teachers know it, and they should know that we know it.  Additional education has largely been undertaken merely to boost salaries.

The bottom line
This was...IS...a VERY fair offer that supports raising the base wage for starting teachers.  That is something that SPEA has been vocal about.  So why would they not like this offer?  Is it perhaps that the members doing the negotiating are more tenured and look out for themselves first?

An across the board 2% wage increase would put exactly $650 in the pockets of our teachers on the first run of the salary grid.  They would jump from $32,505 to a whopping $33,155.

Meanwhile, our grossly over-educated 5th grade teacher would see a nice $1,723 added to their fat salary of $86,161, for a new salary of $87,884.
Is that fair?  Equitable?'d almost think that our 5th grade teacher is a member of the SPEA negotiation team. 

Ladies and gents, we would submit to you that this is precisely how the rich get richer.  On paper, everyone gets the same PERCENT increase.  But the folks on top receive 265% of the increase that those on the bottom receive.