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Can a Teacher's Contract Be a Matter of Disrespect?

The Geneva teachers agreement is till not settled what is the major issue

I have attended many School Board meetings over the last 15 years, but the last four meetings have been the most interesting. I’m used to people showing up only when a topic on the agenda directly affects them or their children. They state their feelings or concerns and then usually never attend another meeting. That is, not until something else that affects them pops up.

Recent meetings have been quite different. As most know, many teachers have been showing up to voice their concern over the status of the Geneva Education Association’s agreement with the Geneva Board of Education. Actually, the vast majority doesn’t voice their opinion; they stay for a while and then leave in silence. The first night, they stayed for six minutes. It was ironic that the proposed school year budget was presented to the board after the teachers left.  They missed hearing that district expenses will be $4 million more than revenues.  They must have realized how arrogant it was for them to all leave so quickly; many now stay till the conclusion.

So what have the teachers been saying? I can’t do their words justice; it is best if you listen to their comments at https://www.geneva304.org/board_of_education/meetings/meetingvideos.asp.  Make sure you click on the Video Archives to watch the meetings from 8/13 and 8/27, as well.

Bottom line, no one knows exactly what the board of education is offering or what the GEA is requesting. The GEA president has confirmed that a salary freeze and working conditions are the two sticking points. 

How Teacher Compensation Works

The School Board has taken the brunt of the blame from the teachers when, in reality, the real problem lies with the method used to determine a teachers’ salary. Most districts compensate teachers through what is called the “step and lane” program. Basically it is a grid with “steps,” representing years of service, going down the left side. Each year, a teacher automatically goes to the next step. There are a total of 22 steps. The “lanes” go across the top and represent the teacher's level of education. There are nine lanes from a bachelor of arts to a doctorate. There are various course credit hour levels across the lane. Yearly compensation is determined by the step and lane that you fall in.  https://www.geneva304.org/district_information/PDF/GEA_Contract_2009-2012.pdf  see page 44.

The “step and lane” compensation program works against new hires and rewards those with more experience and education. For example, a 4 percent increase for a teacher making $80,000 vs. one making $40,000 is double in terms of dollars ($3,200 vs. $1,600). Many times, this results in a wide salary difference for two teachers who are teaching the same subject, even in the same school. 

To illustrate the wide range of salaries that teachers receive, the chart below recaps the number of teachers and their salary range by the subject or discipline they teach. The last column recaps the difference between the lowest and highest paid teacher in each subject. The difference in salary for teachers responsible for teaching the same information, in this case math, is has high as $83,149 ($39,007 vs. $122,156). While salary can include outside classroom responsibilities, this is still a huge difference. This disparity raises several questions that will be discussed in the conclusions section.

 

               Geneva Certified Staff By Department and Salary Range

School Year

Number in District

Title

Salary Range of Teachers

 Difference 

2011

    43

SPECIAL EDUCATION

39,007 -118,728

    79,719

2011

    26

MATH

39,007 - 122,156

    83,149

2011

    24

LANGUAGE ARTS

39,600 - 110,927

    71,327

2011

    24

SCIENCE

36,057 - 110,927

    74,870

2011

    24

SOCIAL STUDIES

48,089 - 119,770

    71,681

2011

    21

PHYSICAL EDUCATION

47,601 - 117,351

    69,750

2011

    20

GRADE 3

40,041 -105,493 

    65,452

2011

    19

GRADE 4

47,627 - 99,936

    52,309

2011

    19

GRADE 5

44,649 - 108,811

    64,162

2011

    18

GRADE 2

50,672 - 105,493

    54,821

2011

    17

GRADE 1

45,637 - 110,927

    65,290

2011

    16

ENGLISH

46,758 - 91,990

    45,232

2011

    12

FRENCH

46,027 - 83,241

    37,214

2011

    11

MUSIC INSTRUMENTAL

48,289 - 91,576

    43,287

2011

    10

ART

40,979 - 105,493

    64,514

2011

    10

KINDERGARTEN

50,672 -104,993 

    54,321

2011

     9

LIBRARIAN

49,363 - 110,927

    61,564

2011

     9

SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST

46,847 - 79,055

    32,208

2011

     8

GUIDANCE COUNSELOR

43,659 -95,805

    52,146

2011

     8

MUSIC VOCAL

56,394 - 104,993

    48,599

2011

     8

PSYCHOLOGIST

52,015 - 94,944

    42,929

2011

     8

SOCIAL WORKER

45,355 - 67,570

    22,215

2011

     6

ACCELERATION ENRICHMENT

79,055 - 93,662

    14,607

2011

     4

FAMILY & CONSUMER SCIENCE

56,262 - 79,055

    22,793

2011

     4

TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION

85,510 - 106,421

    20,911

2011

     3

BUSINESS EDUCATION

74,405 - 110,927

    36,522

2011

     3

NURSE

56,262 - 77,013

    20,751

2011

     3

READING SPECIALIST

56,262 - 62,469

      6,207

2011

2

INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY

61,050 - 123,330

    62,280

2011

2

ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

69,361 - 76,975

      7,614

2011

2

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING

53,394 - 56,262

      2,868

2011

2

HEALTH

70,236 - 72,872

      2,636

2011

2

STUDY SKILLS

55,604 - 90,117

    34,513

2011

1

DRIVER EDUCATION

            123,954

          n/a

2011

1

PHYSICS

            110,927

          n/a

2011

1

READING INTERVENTION

              75,025

          n/a

2011

1

STUDENT ASSISTANCE COORDINATOR

            105,493

          n/a

2011

1

TV PRODUCTION

              58,866

          n/a

 

 

 

 

 

Source:  Illinois State Board of Education Fiscal Year 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results of 2009 – 2012 (three year) GEA Contract

 

2011 to 2012

2010 to 2012

Increase

 

 

More than 20%

21 teachers

55 teachers

Between 10% and 19.99%

27 teachers

81 teachers

Between 5% and 9.99%

90 teachers

168 teachers

Between 4% and 4.99%

128 teachers

 

Between 3% and 3.99%

34 teachers

 

Between 2% and 2.99%

13 teachers

 

Between 2% and 4.99%

 

18 teachers

Detailed information is available at  http://www.genevataxfacts.org/

 

When the last contract was announced to the public, it was presented as being an average increase of about 9 percent over three years. The chart above recaps increases from 2010-2012 (two years) and 2011-2012 (one year). Though there was one, the salary increase from 2009 to 2010 is not included. The recap includes only teachers that were employed during the years tracked. Adding the 2009-2010 school year salaries, which is the first year of the contract, would cause the percentages to increase. How did a contract, that was supposed to provide a 9 percent increase over three years, have 21 teachers receive more than a 20 percent increase in just one year? How did 136 teachers received more than a 10 percent increase in just two years? Another 168 received at least a 5 percent increase in just two years. The answer lies in how the step and lane program is structured. Teachers are rewarded for years of service and additional education, not their effectiveness in the classroom.

If you received the same increases that the Geneva teachers have since 2009, would you feel disrespected and treated unfairly? Would you consider a one-year salary freeze “a slap in the face?” Many teachers do.

Conclusions

There has been much talk about the need for educational reform throughout the United States, but whenever reform is attempted the teachers union refuses to implement any serious change. In Illinois, because local districts are funded primarily by property taxes, the recent real estate recession has compounded the issue. If the state pushes pension funding down to the local level, things are only going to get worse.

Teachers need to understand that local taxpayers can no longer carry the burden of increased funding for local districts. The automatic yearly salary increase, payment for masters programs, salary increases based on level of education, local funding of pensions and 100 percent coverage of medical premiums are no longer sustainable. This is not a reflection of the value placed on teachers; it is based on the economic reality of the times.

Unless teachers and their unions reform the method by which teachers are compensated, the local districts are doomed for failure. This is not just a Geneva problem; this is a problem throughout Illinois. The problem is Geneva is worse because we are also facing a $309 million debt service repayment payable within the next 15 years. 

The union must realize that their demands are part of the problem. 

  • Base salary is something that the unions have agreed to, they can’t complain about the base vs. another district because contracts are different from district to district. If teachers have an issue with base salary, the blame is on the union for agreeing to the salary level.
  • Is base salary really a smoke screen for a salary increase for all teachers?  When base salary is increased, all teachers receive that same percent increase. If the base is increased .5% then a teacher making $100,000 receives that same .5% increase. 
  • Automatic yearly increases, based solely on time of service, are no longer viable. These increases create too wide a spread between teachers responsible for teaching the same material. Another year of service does not guarantee a teacher has become more effective in the classroom. Just look at the comparison of salaries of teachers in Grades 1 through 5 from 2011.  The range is more than $65,000. Does that mean if a teacher making $100,000 vs. one making $50,000 teaches my child, they are getting a better education? Is the child taught by a “$50,000 teacher” getting shortchanged? If that is true, we are not providing the same education to all children. If one teacher is not twice as good as another, why are they making double the salary? I can understand that experienced teachers should make more but not 100 percent more.
  • It is unrealistic to expect taxpayers to pay for additional education and then provide a yearly salary increase because of that education. Is it really necessary that someone with a Masters Degree teach every discipline?

 

Based on the recent comments of some Geneva teachers and the information provided above, maybe the taxpayers are the ones being disrespected and treated unfairly.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Angela Kane October 03, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Thank you Bob for this information. Like many others, I have serious concerns about the financial condition of our school district. Yes, we spend more than we receive as revenue and we owe over $300 million for projects that, in hindsight, we're extravagant or unnecessary. We all need to take a long look at the situation we have put ourselves in and make hard decisions.
Fun with Numbers October 04, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Good — Better — Best Let’s test the market for well compensated, highly experienced, and advanced degree holding teachers at three of the elementary schools in CUSD 304. The Good School would be comprised of teachers at the lowest 1/3 of the compensation/experience level. There is no premium to attend this school. The Better School would be comprised of teachers in the middle 1/3 of the compensation/experience level. For this higher level of educational expertise, CUSD charges $500 per student per year. The Best School would be comprised of teachers at the top 1/3 of the compensation/experience level. For this premium level of education expertise, CUSD 304 charges $1000 per student. When presented with a tradeoff between direct out of pocket cost and educational experience/degree, what do Geneva families value? Are they willing to pay for a premium experience or are younger, less experienced teachers satisfactorily filling the educational need of your student?

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