Where next for local teacher pay, after it hits new state $40K minimum?

TEACHER PAY UP, BUT HOW DO LSC, TSC AND WEST SIDE TEACHER CONTRACTS STACK UP?: Against a backdrop of a new state push to get starting teacher salaries to at least $40,000 by the 2022-23 school year and eventually to an average of $60,000, the three public districts in Tippecanoe County hit that mark with teacher contracts ratified in the past five weeks.

Lafayette School Corp. was the last of the three, finalizing a one-year contract Monday night.

The districts reached deals without some of the rancor in Anderson and a handful of other school corporations across the state. Here’s a look at where they stack up.

Tippecanoe School Corp.: The TSC school board ratified a two-year agreement with the Tippecanoe Education Association in October. Scott Hanback, TSC superintendent, told the board that the state budget put almost $4 million of new money on the table for teacher salaries in year one, and just over $2 million in the second year.

Starting teacher salaries moved from $40,250 in 2020-21 to $43,950 this year and $45,606 in 2022-23. The top end pay will move $72,250 in 2020-21 to $75,950 this year and $77,606 in 2022-23, according to figures from Doug Allison, TSC’s assistant superintendent for personnel. Teachers will move up one step on the compensation schedule – which equates to a $1,000 increase – plus Hanback said the district was able to rebuild the salary tables to add $3,700 to each step in the first year and $1,650 in the second year.

Average teacher salaries were not immediately available.

Mary Eisert, TEA president, said it all amounted to about a 9% raise this year for teachers. She said the contract would allow TSC to retain its status as one of the highest-paying districts in the area.

“We are ahead of the $40,000 minimum starting salary by a comfortable margin,” Eisert said. “The raises were very nice, and our insurance increase was minimal, so people will definitely see more money in their paychecks. I know the state has a goal of an average salary of $60,000, and we're not quite there yet.   If that is the goal, the legislature will need to continue to improve funding, and TSC and TEA will continue to work to achieve that.”

Lafayette School Corp: The LSC board ratified a contract that will bump starting teacher salaries from $38,000 to $40,000 in 2021-22, with teachers rated as effective or highly effective in line to get a $2,500 increase this year.

John Layton, LSC associate superintendent, said LSC understood that it had another year to get to the $40,000 threshold but thought it was important to get there this year. The contract was deliberately done for one year to give the district a chance to take a look at offering similar raises. This year’s contract didn’t include increases in health premiums.

It also will give LSC another year to see whether it can reverse enrollment trends that had LSC down by 270 students since pre-pandemic numbers two years ago. The district receives roughly $7,700 per student from the state, so LSC has felt that lost enrollment, Layton said.

“I think there’s a variety of reasons,” Layton said. “Certainly, some people may have left the area in search of work during the pandemic. Maybe some who are choosing to home school to avoid being in large groups. There are people who reach a certain financial point in their life when they’re ready for another house, and quite honestly, the places to build a house may not be in this school district. So, there’s a lot of pressures we’re facing there, but we’re doing our very best to provide an outstanding, quality education.”

Lane Hooker, who helped negotiate the contract with the Lafayette Education Association, said negotiations went pretty well.

“It’s a start,” Hooker said. “We’re happy we were able to make some progress, but Indiana is still lagging behind our neighboring states when it comes to teacher salary. Until teachers are paid what we are worth, we’ll continue to have shortages of qualified educators, great teachers will continue to leave the profession, and potential educators will choose more lucrative career paths and that has an impact on the entire community.  If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how fundamental schools are to our society.”

Layton said LSC’s average teacher salary was in the $55,000 range, a number he said was skewed a bit by a teacher force that has two-thirds in their first 15 years in teaching.

West Lafayette Community School Corp.: The West Lafayette school board approved a one-year contract that set starting teacher salaries at $43,363.


(Photo: Dave Bangert)

David Joest, part of the West Lafayette Education Association, said teachers and the district agreed for the 2016-17 school year to take starting teacher salaries from $38,000 to $40,000.

“We're happy to see some distance between that and the teacher pay commission recommendation,” Joest said about the new starting salary. “But we're having trouble keeping up with a number of the districts in and around Indianapolis.”

He said West Lafayette has been able to climb above the state goal of $60,000 average teacher salaries. According to school board figures last week, West Side’s average is more than $63,000.

“It seems that many districts have managed to hit the $40,000 starting salary, but I doubt there will be a ton outside of Indianapolis that exceed the recommended $60,000 average salary this year,” Joest said. “At $92,856, our top end is competitive with just about anyone in the state, but we still have some work if we're going to be equally competitive through early and mid-career teachers. One of the benefits of a one-year contract is that we'll have the opportunity to further address that next year with more concrete enrollment numbers and funding.”

By Dave Bangert