Are Teachers Being Paid, Correctly?

In a state that continues to rank in the lower 1/3 for teacher salaries, it is sometimes comical to me to see the extent to which disdain is displayed when legislation is introduced related to the compensation of teachers. In the 2016 Regular Session, a bill was introduced by House Education Committee Chair, Nancy Landry, on behalf of a school board member in her district. The bill was intended to address a special situation where some teachers were employed on 9 month contracts, and accepted positions in a unique school that operated year around. They were compensated for the addition days worked. When the school later closed, they moved back to 9 month positions, and the district reduced their pay. The teachers sued, and I think at the time of the hearing, two of the teachers won their suits and others were pending. It’s silly. I know. Of course, you would logically expect a pay reduction if you go back to the original position, but the law protected the teachers because they were involuntarily displaced, and there was no equivalent position available. The bill eventually morphed into a substitute bill that prevents a salary from being reduced in the middle of a school year, but beginning the next school year, a reduction would occur. Bottom line, nobody wants to pay teachers for days they didn’t work.

The very next day, the very same committee heard a bill submitted by Rep. Dustin Miller addressing a situation where teachers on 182 day contracts were being required to work additional days and/or hours. The bill simply asked that if a 182 day teacher is required to work 185 days, or more, they would receive additional compensation. The committee killed the bill. Bottom line, everybody expects teachers to work extra days without pay.

When Act 1 was passed in 2012, it also encompassed a framework for compensating teachers. The idea was that the traditional practice of setting salaries with incremental increases for each year of service, and additional pay for higher degrees earned, was antiquated. Working under the false notion that school systems should follow a business model and reward teachers for results, the following structure was set up.

§418. Salaries; teachers and other school employees

A.(1) The governing authority of each local public elementary and secondary school, the state special schools, and the schools and programs administered through the special school district shall establish salary schedules by which to determine the salaries to be paid to teachers and all other school employees. The salaries as provided therein shall be considered as full compensation for all work required and performed within each employee’s prescribed scope of duties and responsibilities.

(2) Such salary schedules shall be established and published not later than January 1, 2013, and shall become effective for all employees not later than the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

B.(1) Salary schedules established for teachers, administrators, and other certified school personnel shall be based upon the following criteria, with no one criterion accounting for more than fifty percent of the formula used to compute such employees’ salaries:

(a) Effectiveness, as determined by the performance evaluation program as provided in R.S. 17:3881 through 3905.

(b) Demand inclusive of area of certification, particular school need, geographic area, and subject area, which may include advanced degree levels.

(c) Experience.

(2) No teacher or administrator who is rated “ineffective” pursuant to the performance evaluation program as provided in R.S. 17:3881 through 3905 shall receive a higher salary in the year following the evaluation than he received in the year of the evaluation.

So essentially, a base salary schedule is established with steps for experience. In addition to the base salary, a stipend, or bonus, is paid when a teacher earns “effective,” or higher on their annual evaluation as established by Act 1. In addition, the statute implements a “demand” stipend which gives districts the ability to reward teachers for meeting the particular staffing demands of their schools. For example, a very rural school that is isolated might be difficult to staff, a school that has a high rate of violence, or a long record of failing performance, might be difficult to staff. Certain subject areas have shortages in certified teachers. Those shortages may be unique from district to district. All of these are examples of what a local board can approve as a “demand” and offer a stipend to teachers who want to take the assignment. The statute also states that demand stipends can be for higher degrees earned.

In reality, none of the districts needed to change their “traditional” salary schedule. They simply needed to establish a stipend, or bonus, for effectiveness, and if needed, a demand stipend. The problem with that is effectiveness and demand would be above the cost of salaries already in place. How to do this was completely left up to the districts. In surveying the 10 districts mentioned in the evaluation blog, I can tell you, the districts are all over the map with this. Here are some of the things I found.

  • All districts surveyed have steps for experience. The increase in pay to the next step ranges from as little as $200 to as much as $600.
  • Four of the districts still structure their salaries based on degree earned.
  • All districts have some form of “demand” stipend ranging from as little as $150 to as much as $2500.
  • Eight of the ten districts established effectiveness stipends. They range $150 to $3000.

As you can see, there is a wide variety of approaches. Districts that are financially sound can be creative about the way they implement effectiveness and demand stipends, but rural districts with less revenue don’t have that option. In order to implement effectiveness stipends, they would have to lower their salary schedule. I suspect this is why two of the districts haven’t even bothered.

In my own district, the salary schedule isn’t complicated, but if you were employed before the schedule was changed, you have to refer to a 2013 schedule, add x number of steps for degree, stand on your head to determine what step you are on. The increase to the next step is $200, and there are no increases for higher degrees. The effectiveness and demand stipends are in tandem related to effectiveness, which in effect, doesn’t adhere to the statute. A teacher earning emerging effective, effective, or highly effective receives $100, $125 and $150, respectively for both effectiveness and demand. A total of $300 possible, except that what constitutes “demand” was never defined. I assume I have always received a demand stipend either because I have a master’s degree, or because I am certified in special education. Maybe I should get two demand stipends? Well, not quite. Two years ago, my district implemented a third component, outside of the components established by Act 1, and took my demand stipend and tied it to the third component. This third component, by law, can’t be used as part of my final evaluation that is reported to the state, but to get the demand stipend that I’ve always gotten, I have to meet the requirements of the third component AND meeting the requirements doesn’t guarantee the full amount because it appears to still be tied to effectiveness.

In addition to these annual effectiveness and demand stipends, any teacher who earns a highly-effective rating for 4 years in a row, receives a $1500 effectiveness stipend. A teacher earning “effective” for 4 out of five years also gets a $1500 stipend. Last year, the 4 year stipends were paid. This year, the 5 year stipends will be paid. However, after this year, the stipends won’t be paid, anymore.

 

Teachers, are you being paid, correctly?

One thought on “Are Teachers Being Paid, Correctly?”

  1. I have never been able to understand these new pay schedule systems, including your explanation. Granted, I am retired and not highly motivated to do so, but one thing is clear to me. They are NOT appropriate compensation methods. And one thing you didn’t mention is the difference between a stipend and a salary increase. This is yet another way to reduce retirement benefits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *