Step Increases Clarified

Post date: Apr 21, 2011 11:38:18 PM

The Examiner-Enterprise mentioned in Thursday's paper that step increases, averaging 1.1 percent, would cost the district $256,000. The article made it sound like that was just for teachers. The figure quoted also includes the cost of the 18 cents/hour step increase for classified personnel and the pro-rated raise for administrators. It would cost $256,000 to provide all district employees with the same sort of step increase we have provided for many years and a little stipend to those topped out on the schedule. Less than half of that amount would be for the step increase and stipend for certified personnel.

Even when the district suffered the unexpected 1995 shortfall and even when our fund balance was below 7 percent in the early 2000s, teachers received a step increase. Our fund balance is now approaching 14 percent because we've held back money to help reduce the impact of funding cuts. As the Chief Negotiator I feel strongly that we must have a step increase to reward teachers for another year of experience so that we both retain and also attract qualified instructors for the students. Teachers know that our jobs are far more stressful today than in years past, particularly with the steady erosion of our rights due to laws enacted by the current governor and legislature.

When you compare our teaching salaries to our peers, funding a step increase becomes even more important:

  • Bartlesville is below our peer group average on teacher salaries for those on the higher steps. Going without a step increase would only make us fall further behind our peers.
  • Our salary schedule, unlike many others, stops at step 25 like the state minimum salary schedule. So our career teachers have a lower cap on their salaries than in many other districts. If we have step increases and keep the money flowing into the existing schedule, that makes sense because as a teacher you are paid better throughout your career rather than waiting until the tail end for higher pay. Our approach keeps our starting and lower-step salaries somewhat higher than in some other districts, helping us attract talented teachers. And whenever we continue to have step increases while peer districts do not, our ranking improves.

Here is a summary of how our salaries compared with our peer districts in 2009-2010.

Oklahoma teacher salaries are already ranked 47th in the nation in the latest available information. Step increases are provided for in the state's minimum salary schedule and our own schedule reflects that set-up. If we did not receive a step increase over time, after only two years we would have teachers at various locations in the schedule begin to fall below the minimum salary schedule and then increases would be mandated by law.