At the Community Conversation session held On July 23, Superintendent Dale McVey said something that I hadn't heard before. When asked about the salary increases received by teachers in their new contract, he gave the customary partial and misleading answer: 3%. Readers of this blog know that 70% of the teachers (those at 0-15, 20 and 23 years of service) also receive 'step increases,' which in both the prior and the current contract are set at 4.15%. Compounded, this works out to 7.27% annual raises.
Mr. McVey went on to say that this step increase approach is mandated by state law. That surprised me. While there is a step increase schedule in every single teachers' contract I've examined, I surmised that this structure is something championed by the Ohio Education Association (the state teachers' union, of our teachers' union, the Hilliard Education Association, is affiliated), and not a requirement set by law.
So I did a little research, and found Section 3317.13 of the Ohio Revised Code. This section contains the minimum salary structure for Ohio public school teachers. In paragraph (B), this section says: "No teacher shall be paid a salary less than that provided in the schedule set forth in division (C) of this section." That schedule looks very much like the salary grid used in the HEA contract.
But it says nothing about step increases – at least not the way I read it.
The way I would interpret the chart in the O.R.C. is that there is a minimum salary level for every combination of length of service and level of education, and that minimum for that service/degree has to be met. In other words, the minimum salary for a teacher with a Bachelors degree and 5 years of service is $23,800. Do we pay at least that for 5 years and a Bachelors degree? Yes, in fact we pay $47,009, or nearly double the state minimum.
How about a Bachelor's degree and 6 years of service? The state minimum is $24,560. We again pay double that: $48,961.
Here's the technicality I'm questioning: While the state schedule incorporates a 3.19% increase between Step 5 and Step 6 in column for teachers with a Bachelor's degree, I don't think the law says we have to meet or beat the percentage increase – we just have to meet or beat the dollar level for each service/education combination. In other words, I believe the size of the step increases in our salary structure isn't relevant in obeying the law; the question is whether we pay at least the minimum for each service/education combination. We pass that test with flying colors, paying about double the state minimum in every case.
Here's another interesting observation about the state-mandated salary minimums: the highest service/education combination on the state's minimum pay schedule is 11 years and a Masters degree. For that combination, the minimum salary is $32,460. Under the new HEA contract, the lowest service/education combination is zero years and no degree. We pay $33,371 for that combination, more than the highest minimum salary on the state grid.
If my understanding of these mechanics is correct, then it is not true that step schedules are state mandated. You just have to pay the minimums for each service/education combination. If true, it seems like we have room for a lot more creativity in our salary structure, including things like giving larger increases to young teachers and flattening out the salary growth curve a little. Or we could make the steps for teachers with Masters degrees larger than those with lesser educational credentials.
If any readers have expertise on this, please either comment on this post, or send me an email.
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