A Jefferson County District Court judge put a temporary hold Tuesday on portions of a compensation plan that would pay some educators new to Jeffco Public Schools more than some district veterans.
Judge Christopher Zenisek’s order prohibits Jeffco Public Schools from paying any new teachers hired after May 1 under a plan that was approved by the school board earlier this spring. However, the roughly 60 teachers hired between the time the plan was approved in March and May 1, the day Zenisek heard the case, may be paid what was offered.
The judge ruled that a trial be set within a year.
It’s unclear at this point how the district will determine how much to pay experienced teachers with advanced degrees hired after that May 1 cutoff date.
“We have not had an opportunity to exam the ruling in full with our attorney and after we do we’ll be prepared to comment,” said Lisa Pinto, spokeswoman for Jeffco.
The salary schedule that was put on hold was created as part of the new system approved by the board majority last fall. The salary system would pay some new hires who have master degrees and multiple years of classroom experience more than current Jeffco teachers with similar credentials. It also includes an additional stipend for teachers who work in schools that serve the county’s most at-risk students.
District officials developed the plan for new hires as part of the larger system the board majority approved in the fall. The new system did away with the traditional salary schedule the district used to determine what teachers would be paid. So, district staff created the plan to do that. When pitching the new system to board this spring, district staff said the increase in salary was needed to make Jeffco competitive with neighboring school districts.
The gap between new hires and Jeffco veterans is caused in part by salary reductions and freezes the teachers union and suburban school district agreed to during the Great Recession.
Lawyers for the Jefferson County Education Association, which asked for the injunction, argued earlier this month that the school board overstepped when it created a new plan to pay teachers based on evaluations, not years of service and level of education. The lawyers also asserted that the district unilaterally changed contract language without the union’s input.
The union did not ask for the entire system to be thrown out, only the portion approved this spring.
But a lawyer representing the school district said the board was well within its rights creating a new compensation system after negotiations failed to produce a compromise. Updating contract language and introducing a new system for paying experienced teachers new to the school district was procedural and not malicious, the district’s lawyer said.
The union and district are currently negotiating a new master contract.
JCEA president John Ford celebrated the decision.
“Today is a victory for hard working Jeffco teachers who have sacrificed our own pay through pay freezes and reductions to help the school district weather the recession,” he said in a statement. “To offer thousands of dollars more to new teachers while neglecting to honor your promises to your current teaching staff is inexcusable.”