The Indianapolis Public School board signed off on $5.2 million in raises for teachers Thursday, a significant pay bump that comes a month after voters approved a tax increase to boost funding for education.
The new contract includes raises ranging from 3 to 9 percent, with most eligible teachers’ salaries going up by at least $2,586 per year. The contract covers 2018-19, and teachers will get retroactive pay increases going back to July.
All six board members present voted for the contract, which was ratified by union members last week. Board member Venita Moore was not present.
The agreement offers wage increases for 95 percent of the district’s 1,889 educators, and it rewards both early-career and experienced teachers. The base pay rose to $42,587, about $2,600 above the previous floor.
The deal significantly increased the top pay a teacher can receive — $74,920, or about $15,500 more than the last contract — by adding several new levels of pay near the top of the scale.
“Teachers a week ago could not look at the salary schedule and feel comfortable and confident that they had a future in this district,” said teacher Tina Ahlgren, bargaining chair for the Indianapolis Education Association, the teachers union. With the increased ceiling of almost $75,000, “we hope that that will truly allow teachers who want to serve IPS students for the entirety of their careers to see that future as a possibility.”
Teachers who received evaluations of “ineffective” or “needs improvement” in 2017-18 are not eligible for raises.
When campaigning for additional tax funding, district leaders committed to use the money to raise pay for educators, and that argument helped win the support of a large swath of voters.
This raise is not funded by the new tax revenue, since the district will not receive proceeds from the referendum until next year. But the promise of additional money is on the horizon.
It’s the second significant raise Indianapolis Public Schools teachers have won under outgoing superintendent Lewis Ferebee. Teachers also received a large increase in 2015 after years of painful pay freezes.
School board member Kelly Bentley said that she is proud the district has been able to continue increasing teacher pay despite declining revenue.
“It’s never enough. We know it’s not enough,” she said. “We can’t do what we are doing in IPS without the teachers, and we need to reward them.”
Some parents also spoke in favor of the raises. Parent Shawanda Tyson said they’re necessary to keep teachers.
“No one should have an academic year of nothing but substitute teachers because teachers are leaving the profession,” she said. “We need to make sure that the teachers are paid as the professionals that they are.”
One reason the district was under pressure to raise teacher pay is because it must compete with several surrounding communities to staff schools. The increase in pay makes the district “very competitive” with other communities, said Ferebee.
Ferebee said whether teachers get another big raise next year — once referendum funds begin flowing — will hinge on how much the district gets from the state.
“There’s just so much that needs to be done to get teachers where they were decades ago,” he said during a press briefing earlier this week.
The deal was negotiated in under two days, an unusually short bargaining period. It is a much-needed win for the teachers union, which was rocked by the news last month that long-time president Rhondalyn Cornett allegedly stole $100,000 over several years. Cornett resigned from her position and was replaced by the vice president, Ronald Swann.
Health care costs are going up for teachers this year if they keep the same plans, though the district also made lower-cost options available. The Indy Chamber advocated for the district to reduce health insurance spending as part of a plan to shift more money to teacher salaries.
The contract does include provisions that teachers unions have typically opposed. It allows the administration to pay some teachers more than others. Newly hired teachers can be placed anywhere on the salary schedule, a move that’s designed to allow the district to pay more for especially hard-to-fill positions. And the district has the discretion to pay teachers at some troubled schools — in the district’s transformation zone — additional stipends.