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Teachers in Jordan School District are about to see more green for their time at the blackboard.
Representatives of the district's school board and education association are nearing agreement on a package of salary reforms that would pump roughly $10 million into teacher compensation.
Both groups support the broad contours of the plan and are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss final details. If those revisions are accepted by the union, school board president Janice Voorhies said, the board may vote as soon as Tuesday's meeting. "We're trying to get it in before spring break," she said.
Jordan School District is Utah's fourth largest statewide, with 52,394 students and 2,679 teachers and other certified employees.
The proposed changes include across-the-board teacher pay raises, Voorhies said, and an increase in the district's starting teacher salary from roughly $34,500 to $40,000.
And while covered for now with district budget reserves, officials say the pay raises could require a future property tax hike.
Under the plan, a variety of scheduled raises commonly known as "steps and lanes" would be consolidated into a uniform pay schedule. And the salary cap on veteran educators would be lifted, allowing for annual bumps in take-home pay for the duration of a teacher's career.
Jordan's annual raises, or "steps", are currently capped after 15 years, union president Vicki Olsen said. That means veteran educators Olsen has taught for 27 years can go more than a decade with only inflationary salary adjustments.
"You get to the highest level and basically the only pay raise you get is a [cost of living adjustment]," she said.
Instead of multiple "lanes" accelerated salary schedules based on professional credentials like advanced degrees the new system would use a single pay ladder and promote teachers by multiple "steps" for completing additional academic training.
The shift to a single lane would make salary costs more predictable year to year, Olsen said, and protect salary steps from being "frozen" during lean budgets.
"The benefit that we have been told by the district is that it's a more sustainable system," Olsen said.
Voorhies said the changes are intended to attract, retain and reward educators, who are abandoning the profession in large numbers statewide.
She said the $10 million is drawn from a pool of emergency funding set aside in a rainy-day fund, and the district will likely require additional property tax revenue to support the changes after four or five years.
"We recognize that a commitment like this means, somewhere down the road, we're going to have to ask our taxpayers for a property tax increase," Voorhies said.
While the teacher's union has not yet signed off on the salary package, the changes stem from the recommendations of a compensation task force that included both district and education association representatives.
Among the last points of negotiation is the number of steps a teacher will advance in pay for different education levels, Olsen said, and the size of annual raises beyond the current salary cap.
"We've been working together all year on this," Olsen said, "and we're excited to be able to finalize it."
The $40,000 starting salary would also put the district in a more competitive position against neighboring districts such as Salt Lake City School District ($39,954), Granite School District ($36,714) and Canyons School District ($34,334). But those figures represent the current academic year and will likely be increased after budget negotiations in those districts.
But Olsen said an increase of more than $5,000 in a single year is significant. If she was a recent graduate, she said, "I think I'd be looking for a job in the Jordan School District."