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Teachers in Jordan School District got their first look this week at a proposed overhaul of educator pay, and not everyone is pleased.
The Jordan teachers' union is currently shopping the salary reform package to its members, in anticipation of a vote by the district school board later this month. The plan would pump nearly $10 million of new cash into teacher compensation.
But informational meetings have reportedly generated pushback from rank-and-file educators, who worry that the focus on entry-level and veteran faculty comes at the expense of midcareer employees.
"Those of us who already have a master's degree and multiple years of experience are taking a hit," said Steve Haslam, an English teacher at Copper Hills High School. "It benefits us all in the short-term; but long-term, not so much."
Jordan School District is Utah's fourth largest statewide, with 52,394 students and 2,679 teachers and other certified employees.
Haslam is not a member of the Jordan Education Association (JEA), but he attended a union-sponsored meeting at his school on Thursday where association representatives attempted to explain the proposed changes.
He said most of the attendees were teachers with a decade of experience, and the meeting started to unravel after 30 minutes.
"It was just a bunch of teachers yelling at the JEA reps," Haslam said. "They were concerned. They felt misled."
Union and school district representatives have been working for a year on a salary package that would include across-the-board raises, a boost in entry-level pay from $34,500 to $40,000, and an end to the salary cap that sees veteran educator salaries stagnate after roughly 15 years in the classroom.
The infusion of $10 million into annual personnel costs is to be paid for initially through budget reserves but likely requiring a tax increase after four or five years, according to board President Janice Voorhies.
But even with the additional spending, paying new teachers more and offering raises in perpetuity translates to smaller scheduled increases known as "steps" that teachers receive year-to-year.
The reform proposal would offer teachers an annual step of $875, JEA President Vicki Olsen said, compared to the current salary schedule that sees educator pay increase by between $1,000 and $2,500.
"In the long run, it is going to be a good system," Olsen said. "But there are some quirks to it to begin with."
Annual salary growth is smaller, Olsen said, but teachers will start and end their careers at a higher level of pay than they otherwise would under the current schedule.
Olsen attributed the frustration to the difficulty in describing how the system will be applied to individual teachers, each of whom have different levels of professional training and experience.
And concerned educators may be looking at the wrong salary step for comparison, she said, since the reform package also does away with salary "lanes", or accelerated schedules for teachers with advanced degrees.
The Jordan Board of Education is scheduled to meet on April 25, and ratifying votes by Jordan Education Association members are due before April 20, Olsen said.