Members of the Jacksonville Education Association will be seeing a significant increase to their salary this year as a part of an effort to attract and keep young, new teachers in Jacksonville School District 117.
Superintendent Steve Ptacek says he’s had extensive talks with people on the structure of the newest salary increases accepted by the JEA: “It’s challenging to talk about the structural changes [in the contract] in very simple terms. I created a PowerPoint presentation that walks people through the changes step by step because I’ve had discussions with veteran teachers and veteran administrators that are so stuck on building a salary schedule from the lowest cell up. We’ve changed that. We build it from the highest scale, backwards and that allows us to reduce steps backwards from our highest paid people. Therefore, over the last couple of years before this year, our 3% steps that were keeping our staying pays down. We dropped to 2.1% and then to 1.9% but we did by locking the last row and stepping back less.”
Ptacek says he was approached by members of the JEA that criticized the previous contract structure saying that the starting teacher salary for teachers holding a bachelors degree was much lower in District 117 compared to other districts of similar size in the area. Ptacek did statistical comparisons and found that to be true, while Masters Degree holding teachers in District 117 were paid competitively compared to other districts.
Ptacek says that the new contract amends that disparity for starting teachers: “What we did was, we gave a 3% raise to that entire column. Then, there is a 1.9% step, so it comes out to 4.9 almost 5% raise for everybody in the Master’s level +48 credit hours. Then, we stepped back only 2.9%. We stepped back less. It made it that our Bachelor’s column increased. If you were a Bachelor’s +4 last year and you came in Bachelor’s +5 this year, you get a 9.2% raise. It increased our starting pay. We had already agreed for the contract for this year was going to be $39,226 to $41,226. It increased the Bachelor’s at 18 years to $2,700 a year more than they thought they were going to get walking in.”
Ptacek says this really will help attract young people right out of college who want to go right into the classroom, and also meeting current teachers where they are at on the stepped up pay scale with their education level and experience.
Ptacek says this also puts the district out in front of the State of Illinois’ mandated teacher minimum wage law, where districts will be required to pay starting wages for public school teachers at $40,000 per year. Ptacek says this goes beyond that and also could mitigate some future factors: “The big thing about that law is that if the Consumer Price Index stays at 8 or 9%, that $40,000 has to increase by CPI every year afterwards. If it was 9% next year or two years from now as it has been if not higher over these last several months, it would move up to $42,500. This changing the structure model, if we continue to accordion and squeeze those steps in, we are are going to have all the people in our Bachelor’s column making more and then everybody else along the way making more without having the ripple effect that will break the district and have us cut off programs and things like that if we just locked on that front step and made everybody raise at the same rate. It’s a major paradigm shift in how you think about salary schedules, but it’s really been benefiting [us]. Every one of our staff is getting a minimum of 5% raise this year, but it’s then increasing by percentage as you go towards the Bachelor’s and entry levels.”
Representation told the Jacksonville District 117 School Board that the JEA overwhelming accepted the proposal at its most recent meeting 168-9 in its membership vote. The school board unanimously approved the raises, and also approved raises for paraprofessionals, substitute staff, and secretaries in the districts by over a dollar per hour. Ptacek says the increases were all necessary to keep the district competitive on salaries and to attract and retain staff.