Indianapolis Public Schools teachers will get a raise this year, under a contract approved by the board Tuesday.
The contract is retroactive, so teachers will get back pay dating to late July. Raises will range from $400 per year for experienced teachers to nearly $2,400 per year for teachers in their third year. The most experienced educators are not eligible for raises but can receive bonuses.
The contract, which covers the 2017-18 school year, was ratified by the union Monday, and approved by the board at its meeting Tuesday. It is not as generous for experienced teachers as the one it replaces, shrinking the potential raises they can earn. But it also avoids the pain that teachers endured during pay freezes that lasted from 2011 to 2015.
Since the district is operating at a deficit, negotiating raises for teachers at nearly every level of experience was a win for the union, said Indianapolis Education Association President Rhondalyn Cornett.
“We did the best we could with what we had,” she said. “I feel like we got blood from a turnip to be perfectly honest.”
Most teachers will get a raise of a little over 2 percent, said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. Teachers also will not have significant increases in health insurance costs, he said.
“We also wanted teachers not to be frozen … which is difficult to rebound from,” Ferebee said. “We are still working through years of frozen salaries now to try to get our teachers at a better place.”
The raises are based on individual teachers moving up the pay scale because of positive evaluations and their experience in the district. But the amount teachers earn at each rung of the scale changes under the new contract. It gives teachers in their second year a much larger jump in pay than last year.
It also reduces potential pay increases for teachers later in their careers.
Under the contract, teachers who are rated effective or highly effective and who have worked in the district at least 120 days during the prior school year will receive raises. The bottom ($40,000) and the top ($59,400) pay for teachers will hold steady. (Teachers already at the top of the pay range will be eligible for one-time bonuses of $1,188 this year.)
The middle of the salary scale will change, however, with teachers earning about $1,293 more when they move up a step. That’s a change from last year, when teachers got different raises (ranging from $200 to $2,300) depending on where they were on the pay scale. The changes are required so that the contract complies with new state regulations.
Another notable change in the contract is a pilot program that will allow the district to place newly hired teachers anywhere on the pay scale — in consultation with the union—regardless of experience. That opens the door for the district to pay extra to hire teachers for hard-to-fill positions, such as for the new high school career academies, special education or at particularly hard-to-staff schools.
“We just know that there are certain content areas or positions that demand a higher compensation,” Ferebee said. “It is a trend in the market we are in now. Teachers shop employers. They are looking for the best compensation to support their families, and IPS needs to be in the mix.”
The idea of allowing superintendents to pay some teachers in their districts more than others is controversial. State lawmakers have repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, proposed bills that would allow districts to pay some teachers more than the union-negotiated pay scale.
Earlier this year, the district used a little-known provision in state law to remove teachers at John Marshall Middle School from the district union. IPS leaders told Chalkbeat it was so they could pay teachers more. An email the administration sent educators offered math teachers $7,000 and science and English teachers $5,000 to transfer to the troubled school.
The contract also includes bonuses of $2,500 to $5,000 to entice high school teachers to stay with the district as it reconfigures high schools.
The contract continues to offer teachers stipends of up to $18,300 for positions that are part of “opportunity culture,” a leadership program where skilled educators work with multiple classrooms.
The hourly pay for teachers involved in workshops, curriculum-writing and tutoring increased slightly. The minimum rate rose to $20 per hour, and the maximum increased to $40 per hour, depending on the task.
Chalkbeat Indiana is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.