GEA and GSD have addressed state and national teacher shortages in past negotiations. You may recall three years ago we negotiated an 11.67% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) which started a statewide movement to enhance salary schedules in all Utah school districts to compete for new teachers. As a result, several districts and local associations moved to dismantle their traditional salary schedule by creating a single lane schedule with over 20 years of steps. Some salary schedules go as high as 45 steps before an employee can reach their maximum earning potential. Note: this is the same amount of money spread over 45 years. This resulted in increasing teacher starting salaries to approximately $50,000 and providing some increases for endorsements gained by career educators. However, the negotiated risk in moving to a single lane salary schedule was a reduction of lifetime earnings for mid-to-late career educators.
This year, GEA and GSD discussed varying ideas to improve the beginning salary for educators in order to make GSD competitive with surrounding Districts. GEA worked to protect the integrity of our traditional salary schedule which provides built in step increments and additional compensation for advanced post-secondary education. The resulting agreement was the outcome of these negotiations. The modified salary schedule will have the first five steps collapsed, making Step 6 a beginning salary for educators hired by Granite District. Current employees who have been on Steps 1 – 5 would be placed on Step 6 for the 2020-21 contract year and will move to the next step in subsequent years. This amounts to a higher annual increase for current early career educators in Granite. Any negotiations are a “give and take” and if its to be successful, both parties give something up in exchange. This schedule change has pros and cons:
- Granite District is more competitive with surrounding districts in hiring new educators.
- Early career educators will, hopefully, remain with Granite District for the length of their teaching careers rather than “shop/hop” to another district to gain more money in the short term.
- Being able to fill the 500 anticipated open positions will stem the frustrations of classrooms with no teacher, and not enough substitutes.
- Protects the lifetime earnings for all other educators paid under this salary schedule.
- Fewer steps in the salary schedule ensure that educators reach their maximum earning potential more quickly. This benefits an educator’s lifetime earnings and maximized retirement earnings.
- Salary schedule changes always come with heartburn and the effects of the change are not known immediately.
- Dedicated educators who have been with the GSD for five years or more, may feel “cheated” by the fact that first year educators will be making what took them five years to earn.
We would have liked to soften the pain the salary schedule changes would make for teachers in their fifth years and above with Granite District, but balancing GSD’s goals and ours was a challenge. We believe we negotiated as much of the ongoing funding available to us as we could this year. In addition to the 5% COLA, we were also able to negotiate the District funding the 1.7% increase in insurance this year without reducing the current benefits in the plan. The on-going expense cost $438,000.
Having negotiated as much new money as we possibly could, GEA asked about one-time funding that was still available in the budget and we were able to negotiate for you a 3% Bonus this year at the cost of $7.8 million. These monies would not have been available for any ongoing expenses, like salary, but is a nice touch for all educators to receive mid-year.
In closing, GEA/GSD is the first local/district to finalize negotiations this year. The current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and decrease in the economy has made school districts hesitant to even begin to negotiate. The fact that the Granite School Board and Superintendent moved to close negotiations early was an assurance to educators that they are valued as employees, and to hopefully, ease fears of loss of jobs or salary this year and moving forward. This was a way to show good faith in these most uncertain times. GEA appreciated the willingness of the District to compromise on many issues and we believe this settlement will secure employment for Granite teachers going forward.