Tell Others Why We Should Have Step Increases

Post date: May 24, 2011 1:54:26 AM

All Bartlesville teachers should reach out to their neighbors and other school patrons to explain why they need a step increase. The unpopular budget cuts forced upon us by the state legislature, resulting in the closure of Oak Park, makes it more difficult for school board members to justify our modest step increases. It is up to us to make the case to the public for proper pay. Below is a letter to the editor I have submitted to the Examiner-Enterprise. Please read it and share its arguments with those you know in our community.

And remember, united we stand while divided we fall. Classified and administrative employees have also earned similar experience-based increases for the next school year.

-Granger Meador, Chief Negotiator

Dear Editor:
I certainly understand why members of the public might wonder why we would close one of our elementary schools, due to state funding shortfalls, yet provide step increases for district employees. The Examiner-Enterprise has publicized a $265,000 cost for the increases yet failed to note that they are not just for teachers. Much of the total cost provides a modest increase for hourly workers while a small part provides a pro-rated administrative increase. Teachers work closely with both groups to make our district successful and support them also receiving appropriate experience-based increases.
It is important to bear in mind that the step increases average out to about $33 per month for a teacher and $22 per month for an hourly employee. Funding a step increase simply means to fund the existing salary schedule for teachers and hourly workers for the next school year, not increase the pay scales. For example, those who have 10 years of experience next school year would be paid the same amount which was paid this past school year to employees with 10 years of experience.
If the Board of Education does not budget a step increase, teacher salaries will fall downward toward the state minimum pay schedule. Over 70% of Oklahoma’s teachers are paid above the state minimum, and the latest statewide data showed that Bartlesville teachers were paid $646 below the state average and $1,050 below the average pay of our in-state community group. Yet our teachers, hourly workers, and administrators worked together to help our students reach third in the state on the Academic Performance Index, beaten only by the socioeconomically privileged metropolitan suburbs of Edmond and Jenks, which have much lower poverty rates.
What kind of message would the district send to district workers, who have scaled such heights, if it rewarded them by refusing the fund the existing salary schedule? Would such indifference inspire them to continue to labor incessantly to improve test scores? And bear in mind that when a teacher retires, his or her pension is based on the highest pay over the past three to five years. Salary freezes can thus reduce pension benefits for any teachers retiring in the next three to five years, negatively impacting them for the remainder of their lives.
A primary reason district employees have given long-term support for boosting the fund balance to the highest levels in district history while accepting job cuts through conservative budgeting was so we could properly fund our already inadequate pay scale. We knew tough times were ahead and embraced sacrifices to ensure our pay need not fall further behind our lower-performing peers. Proper pay is crucial to attracting and retaining quality employees.
The school district’s employees have labored long and hard to make our district among the very best in the state; they deserve to have the existing salary schedules properly funded for the next school year.