Teachers Pass on Bonuses
Texas More than two dozen Texas schools have rejected state grants to set up a merit pay program for teachers. Although the vast majority of the 1,161 schools awarded grants are expected to accept bonus funds this year, teacher resistance to the idea remains strong. “The premise that teachers are not working as hard as they can and bonuses will make them work harder is just false,” says Donna New Haschke, president of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA). “The pay-for-performance program will not result in improved student achievement.” The state’s $100 million pay-for-performance (PFP) program rewards teachers at lower-income schools that have received high performance ratings with bonuses ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Though Texas has the nation’s best-funded PFP plan, it ranks 33rd in average teacher salaries ($42,000). The national average is $47,808.
Co-pay Offsets Pay Hike
Pennsylvania The 100-plus secretaries and health aides belonging to the Dubois Area ESP Association (DAESPA) have not had a wage increase in four years. The district is now offering a starting wage of $9.50 per hour for secretaries and $10.50 for health aides, but only if they accept a $4,000 health insurance co-pay. “The insurance payment completely eliminates any improvement,” says UniServ representative Terra Begolly. “In fact, people would actually earn less than they do right now.” Currently, starting pay is $5.70 in three education support professional categories and $7 for secretaries. The group has no salary schedule or structured route to a top pay rate. DAESPA has recently organized a living wage campaign with the help of the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) conducted its first “work life” survey in the state’s largest school district, officials uncovered a startling degree of discontent. When asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “In general, the school district is headed in the right direction,” nearly half of the 1,780 respondents disagreed. Almost 84 percent also disagreed with the statement: “The increase in my workload has had a positive impact on student learning.” The revelations in the 5,000-teacher, 90,000-student district produced another surprise. Following the survey, Association membership shot up from 3,800 to 4,100. “As we visit buildings, our members thank us for reading their minds and for taking action,” says JCEA President Nancy Henderson. “This is a wake-up call, and we urge the district to work with us to find solutions.” JCEA is now developing a campaign called “It’s OK to be an Advocate!”
Illinois Graduate Assistants United Illinois Education Association, based at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), wound up an 18-month-long organizing campaign last fall with a strong vote to unionize. Organizers learned that graduate assistants were concerned about onerous fee increases, as well as stipends and basic benefits that lagged behind peer institutions. The effort follows the growing national trend to organize “contingent academic labor,” which includes graduate teaching assistants, part-time faculty, adjuncts, and full-time faculty hired on a temporary basis. The Illinois Education Association-NEA has represented nearly 700 SIUC tenure-line faculty since 1996 and more than 450 civil service professionals dating back to the 1970s.
Salary Campaign Underway
West Virginia With the Mountain State ranked 47th in the nation for salaries and wages, the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) launched a salary campaign seeking a 6 percent salary increase for each of the next two years for teachers, education support professionals, and higher education employees. “Many of our school systems have vacancies that can’t be filled by fully certified people,” says WVEA President Charlie Delauder. “And our college graduates who have chosen education as a career are leaving the state to find higher-paying jobs.” West Virginia teachers earn $38,360 on average, more than $9,400 below the national average of $47,808.
Automatic Salary Increase
Florida A proposed contract negotiated by the United Teachers of Dade calls for annual step increases combined with increased salary schedules over the next three years. Salaries for beginning teachers increase from $34,200 to $40,000 during the 2008—09 school year. Veteran teachers top out at $68,225. In addition, school employees will maintain 100 percent employer-funded health insurance.