Schools redo salary schedule

A new pay scale for public school teachers and other educators is designed to push them to seek advanced degrees, says a top administrator in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

“(Superintendent Bernard Taylor) feels that if you have been teaching for 10 years and have not improved in your profession by getting an advanced degree, you do not get as high a salary,” said Millie Williams, interim executive director of human resources for the district.

The new salary schedule was approved by the School Board on March 21 and goes into effect July 1. It was required by Act 1 of the 2012 Louisiana Legislature.

The new schedule grandfathers existing employees, so that no one will have a pay cut, Williams said. But over time, some teachers will make less and others will make more than they would have under the current salary schedule.

The school system’s nearly 6,000 employees have gone three years without a pay raise.

Starting teachers in particular will earn more pay, ranging from almost $1,000 to $1,500, depending on their education level. But after seven years on the job, teachers with just a bachelor’s degree will make less than if the current salary schedule were preserved. That gap grows as large $3,900 by year 20 on the job for such teachers. A 20-year teacher with just a master’s degree, though, will make slightly more than they do now.

The new pay scale applies only to about half of the school system’s nearly 6,000 employees, the educators with professional certificates.

Support workers, such as bus drivers, food service workers and school clerks, will stay under the old schedule. To compensate those support workers, Taylor also persuaded the board on March 21 to pay them a $300 “one-time salary supplement.”

“I can’t in good conscience say to a bus driver that we shouldn’t give this $300, that we’re giving you nothing after giving people more who are already making more money than them,” Taylor told the board.

These changes will cost money. The $300 one-time payout to support workers, costing about $800,000, is coming first, during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

In 2013-14 school year, the school system will have to spend roughly $1.5 million more overall to shift teachers and educators to their new base salaries. On top of that, there’s an estimated $1.2 million needed to fund stipends for teachers considered effective under Louisiana’s new teacher evaluation system and for teachers filling high-needs areas.

Going forward, the recurring cost of paying step increases under the new system is estimated at almost $2.2 million annually.

Taylor also told the board he is unlikely to call for a layoff this year, an unpopular move, but a common way of making budget cuts.

Board member Jill Dyason told Taylor she is uncomfortable with all this new spending at a time when the school system is already bracing for an estimated $30 million cut in 2013-14, a fifth consecutive year of budget-cutting.

Taylor said he’s a very “fiscally frugal” person but said the school system has accumulated a financial reserve of about $25 million.

“We have a fund balance. To keep saving money for a rainy day when it’s already raining, and there’s a monsoon ...” Taylor said. “This is the right thing to do. We will look for savings in other areas.”

Act 1 requires all school districts in Louisiana to revamp how they pay educators, with traditional measures such as experience and education level being superseded by measurements of effectiveness and the demand for the position.

As with the current system, teachers under the new system will receive higher starting salaries if they have more education, ranging from $44,500 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree to $48,400 for a teacher with Ph.D.

As with the current system, teachers will earn more money, or step increases, with each added year of experience. However, the new system, in compliance with new state law, freezes the salary of employees who earn “ineffective” employee evaluations.

East Baton Rouge Parish’s new schedule is a hybrid of the new and the old. Besides their base pay, teachers can receive extra stipends ranging from as little as $13 to as much as $900 a year.

One new perk not mentioned on the salary tables is that educators who are rated “highly effective” for three consecutive years can leapfrog two steps up the salary scale. Teachers who earn the lesser “proficient” label jump just one salary step, Williams said.

A state district judge earlier this month ruled Act 1 unconstitutional but the ruling is being appealed. School leaders continue to comply with the law until it’s finally adjudicated.

Williams said school leaders are being cautious about putting out too much information about the parish school system’s new salary schedule lest Act 1 is thrown out and they have to come up with a new one.

The new salary schedule goes into effect July 1. It is available at http://www.ebrschools.net/eduweb1/1000144/docs/
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