Tuesday, Jun 27, 2017
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Education

TPS approves teachers contract

Deal includes $12 million in raises over 3 years

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    TPS superintendent Romules Durant speaks during Bowsher High School graduation last June. Durant lauded a new contract approved Thursday between the school district and its teachers.

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The Toledo Board of Education approved a teachers union contract that will cost the district roughly $12 million in additional compensation over the pact’s three-year life — raises aimed at recruiting and retaining “rock stars.”

Board members on Thursday unanimously approved the agreement, which officials said will make Toledo Public Schools’ wages competitive with higher-paying area districts.

“We’re getting our message out about how we go about getting rock-star educators, and compensation is a big factor on that,” Superintendent Romules Durant said.

The roughly 2,600-member Toledo Federation of Teachers, which includes teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitutes, approved the terms last week.

The new contract starts with a 3 percent increase in the 2017-2018 year, which will cost the district slightly more than $3 million that year. A 2 percent raise, costing the district another $2 million, will follow in 2018-2019.

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In the third year of the contract, the district will further boost salaries by providing about $4.8 million in additional pay spread across salary “steps,” which correspond with years of experience.

In October of 2019, teachers also will receive a one-time payment of $250. Paraprofessionals will receive $175. That will cost the district about $425,000.

Treasurer Ryan Stechschulte estimated the pay increases will cost the district about $12 million over the contract’s three-year length.

The district can afford to give raises, officials said, in part because voters approved a new-money levy in 2014 — the first such success in more than a decade.

“We are very fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars and that goes first and foremost in our mind,” school board president Chris Varwig said. “But at the same time it is very important to us to maintain our work force, and, you know, they work very, very hard; and they are educating our future.”

Mr. Stechschulte said the district looks to be “financially stable” throughout the length of the new contract, so long as voters approve a trio of levy renewal requests scheduled to come before voters in the next year and a half. The first renewal request — a five-year, 6.5-mill levy generating nearly $13.8 million — will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The union has wanted to restore wages lost about seven years ago when TPS was making major cuts and closing schools. A one-year deal expiring this summer launched that effort, as it included raises totalling 5 percent for the 2016-17 school year.

TFT President Kevin Dalton said the new contract continues the momentum and allows TPS “to be more competitive than we currently are.” He said it will help the district keep teachers who might have left the district after a few years for bigger paychecks elsewhere.

A just-hired teacher with a bachelor’s degree currently starts out making $37,447 a year. A similarly qualified teacher will start at $39,739 by the end of the contract.

At the top end of the new salary scale, teachers with doctorate degrees and 30 years of experience will make $84,545 by the contract’s end, up from the $75,041 that such teachers make now.

The district concentrated on boosting wages early in teachers’ careers. Teachers currently don’t receive salary-step raises for several years, but the new salary plan begins to provide annual raises in 2020 during each of the teachers’ early years on the job.

From the beginning of negotiations, district officials said they wanted the new pact to make TPS wages competitive with other area districts.

It’s impossible to calculate exactly how TPS wages will compare three years from now, since surrounding school systems are in various stages of their own contracts and could negotiate new terms during that period.

But officials said the deal finalized Thursday should put TPS in the same ballpark.

“We believe that in 2020 we will be right below the average or average. We don’t anticipate exceeding the average,” Mr. Stechschulte said.

The district compared its 2016-2017 teacher salaries to wages paid by 11 area districts and found TPS pays less than those districts’ average pay.

TPS currently pays teachers with a bachelor’s degree and one year of experience $1,739 less a year, while TPS teachers with bachelor’s degrees and five years of experience make $7,205 less a year than the area average.

“The issue is there is a shortage of teachers locally, in the state of Ohio, throughout the country,” deputy superintendent Brian Murphy said. “We know that the shortage is just beginning. It’s going to get worse. That makes it that much more competitive with school districts.”

Ms. Varwig said the concluded contract talks also will lead to improvements for students and parents — including progress on a district plan to expand recess and an effort to limit the number of school days that begin with a two- hour delay. She also expects more fine arts and athletic programming will be another result of the new contract.

The district is still negotiating new contracts with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel. Officials hope to have those deals done by June 30.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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