Although you can look up the contracts for city employees like police officers and firefighters at this site, my focus is on data about the teachers' contacts of the same 19 central Ohio school districts the Hilliard Northwest News chose for its comparison of administrative costs.
One of the things I found was that the teachers' contracts are all constructed with much the same provisions and language. This is not surprising as all the local teachers' associations are also members of the Ohio Education Association, and the OEA no doubt advises the local associations on these matters. In fact, it is the primary function of the OEA to do so.
They are also maddeningly different when you're trying to do comparisons, especially in regard to salaries. As described in earlier articles, the basic pay grid for the teachers has two dimensions: educational level (columns); and years of service(rows). But in that basic structure, there can be all kinds of variability. In fact, no two school districts do it exactly alike.
All of the pay grids have a column for teachers with a Bachelor's degree and zero years of service, so that's a good place to start. The average salary of such a teacher is $34,916 (all data for 2007-2008 school year). Hilliard teachers start out for a little more - $35,107. The highest starting salary of these 19 schools is $39,322 at Upper Arlington, and the lowest is $31,072 at Big Walnut. The median is $34,868 at Westerville, meaning nine start for more and nine start for less.
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All of the districts also have a column for a teacher with a Master's degree. I picked 10 years as the length of service to make the comparison. A Hilliard teacher would make $59,050, again a little above the average of $58,828, but this is the median (half pay more, half less). Max is again Upper Arlington at $68,810 and the min is $50,026 at Big Walnut. But notice that the range is widening. At the Bachelors level, the gap between the highest and lowest pay is $2,133. At the Masters level it has widened to $4,374.
I picked Masters + 15 additional hours and 15 years of service for the next comparison point: Hilliard = $76,238; average = $70,063; median = $70,616; max = $81,200 (UA again); min = $59,503 (Big Walnut again); range = $5,473. Hilliard has the second highest salary at this data point.
For the last data point, I picked PhD and 25 years of service. But I need to note that only two districts, Upper Arlington and Bexley, recognize a PhD on the pay grid. Seven of the districts top out at Masters+30, and another seven top out at Masters+45. One tops at Masters+20. Interestingly, Hilliard tops out at the lowest level: Masters+15.
There is also a lot of variability in the ways years of service are handled: the so-called step increases. The Hilliard grid has steps for years 0-15, then 20 and finally 23 years. Other districts have different years 'filled in' and so give step increases more frequently in some cases, and less so in others. While the effect of these differences can be analyzed - and the effects are significant - I've not attempted to do that for this article.
So when I say I've picked PhD/25 yrs for the last anchor point, it means the number I'm using for Hilliard is actually the salary for Masters+15/23yrs, because that's as high as the grid goes for Hilliard. Here are the numbers:
Hilliard: $82,695 (MA+15/23yrs); average = $79,557 (so we're still more than average); median = $80,005; max = $91,283 (UA, PhD/30yrs); min=$64,257 (Hamilton Local, MA+30/15yrs). Hilliard falls to 8th place in this category - one above the median. This is primarily because of the the Hilliard pay grid stops at MA+15 and 23 years of service. Every district that pays more at this point has a grid that recognizes educational levels of MA+45 or PhD and service steps past the 23 years where Hilliard stops.
The other significant number in the contract is the contribution the teacher makes to the cost of health insurance - one of the key sticking points in the current negotiations with our teachers.
In most cases, the teachers' contribution is expressed as a percentage of the premium that will be paid. The problem with comparing percentages is that not every district pays the same dollar amount for their premiums. So 90% of one district's premium can be less than 80% of another's if the latter district has a very high premium. This might be the case in Hilliard by the way, as the games our leaders - in both the Administration and the Union - have played with the insurance companies by changing carriers every year in search of the lowest rates has come back to bite them: No other carrier would bid on our business and our current carrier has, not surprisingly, raised their rates 30%.
Nonetheless, the numbers are interesting. In most cases, the contract language is simple - the Board pays x% of the premium and the teacher pays the rest. Some distinguish between individual and family coverage, so I'm using family coverage for the comparison.
Of course in Hilliard, the Board has in the past paid 100% of the health insurance premiums and the teachers have paid nothing. There is only one other of these 19 districts who do the same, and that's Groveport-Madison. However Groveport-Madison pays their teachers 7% to 13% less than we pay ours, with varying degrees of difference depending on education and service.
On average, the comparison districts pay 83% of the premium, leaving the teacher to pay 17%. Southwestern pays only 65%, the lowest of the group. Reynoldsburg has a structure where the teacher pays $85/mo and the Board pays the rest. Whitehall teachers pay 30% of their premium, but it is capped at $245/mo. Bexley's formula is a little more convoluted, but the general idea is that the more the increase in premiums, the higher percentage the teacher pays.
The most obvious observation is that we have been paying both above average salaries and 100% of the health insurance costs. Our community has said that needs to change - the teachers need to start contributing to health care. And the teachers have said they would. The question is now much, and who's taking the risk if the premiums go up.
So how do we solve this contract impasse with the teachers? It turns out that there are lot of options just in terms of tweaks to the salary grid. For example:
- The Base Salary (BA with no experience) could be raised. The effect of this is to raise all salaries because they are all indexed off this number. This number is usually the one that gets changed in contract negotiations, and is the one often reported as 'the raise' - erroneously of course because you also have to take the step increases into account.
In the just-expired contract, the Base Salary was increased 3.65% each year. The agreement signed by the OAPSE members called for a 3%/yr increase to the Base Salary, which is what I understand has been offered to the teachers as well.
Changes to the Base Salary benefits the highest paid teachers most because their current salaries are greater than the salaries of the newer teachers, making an across-the-board percentage increase mean more in terms of dollars for the highest paid teachers.
- The size of the step increase can also be adjusted. It is 4.15% in the current contract, and to my knowledge, there has been no discussions in regard to changing it. However, with a 3% increase to the Base Salary, maybe a reduction to the step increase is appropriate.
This would affect the younger teacher most, because they receive step increases more often (see next point).
- The gaps in the steps can be filled in. Right now step increases go only to teachers who have 0-15 years of service, or exactly 20 or 23 years of service. In exchange for dropping the size of the steps, we could make years 16-19 eligible. Or maybe 21 and 22. Or maybe extend the step program all the way to 25 years.
The benefit in this case is to the most senior teachers, because they would get steps in years that were formerly skipped.
- Add more educational levels. Why don't we currently recognize educational levels in excess of Masters+15? I suggest we add both Masters+30 and Masters + 45. This encourages the teachers to get additional education, which should benefit our kids. It also transfers some of the burden for gaining raises to the teachers themselves.
However, this should also mean that the current Masters+15 column should be decreased somewhat, as our current Masters+15 scale compares to the Masters+30 and Masters+45 columns of other districts.
This kind of adjustment obviously benefits the teachers with the most education.
It probably depends on the demographics of the teachers (and perhaps to some degree, the demographics of the union leadership, who are also teachers and work under the same contract). If the most influential voices in the union are the union leaders and the most senior teachers (which is often the case), they would favor filling in the step schedule, and might agree to a smaller increase to the Base Salary. Of course, this hurts the young teachers who are getting step increases anyway and need the boost from the Base Salary increase.
I expect that the most targeted increase approach would be adding educational levels, like Masters+30 and Masters+45. It would affect a small fraction of the teacher population, especially since there has been no pay incentive to reach these levels beforehand. But could be made available to a teacher regardless of length of service.
There are lots of options - many more than those discussed here. The only thing we know is that the community expects the rate of salary increases to be trimmed and for the teachers to starting contributing to their healthcare cost. The teachers have agreed to do both in principle, but we're hung up on details.
Maybe looking at some of these other options will help.