Tosa teachers get a 2.08% raise, but it's not evenly split

Those with least experience benefit the most

Sept. 26, 2012

The Wauwatosa School Board approved a 2.08 percent increase in base pay for teachers Monday night, settling a contract that runs from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013.

The contract, amounting to a total pay hike of $571,971, was imposed by the board on a unanimous vote after negotiations with the teachers union and a mediation process failed to produce an agreement.

Critical of divide

"We have no disagreement about the amount. Our disagreement is about the distribution," said Jeffrey Hansher, the president of the Wauwatosa Educators Association and a fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School.

The contract approves larger raises for teachers at the bottom of the scale - teachers with less seniority - and much smaller raises for veterans. Hansher, for example, in his 26th year of teaching and holding a masters degree, will receive a raise of 0.874 percent, or $587 a year. Those who are relatively new to the district will receive raises of 3.75 percent, or $1,369 for the year.

"People at the top have been frozen for two years," Hansher said. "We asked for less than what we could have. … This is out of step with other districts that have been talked about, that are comparable to Wauwatosa in giving compensation to their teachers."

He added, "Whether you believe it or not, you're sending a message, 'I'm not valued as much.' Whether you want to convey that to me and over a hundred other staff members, that is what you're saying."

Hansher said he would have preferred a contract where the district and the teachers union worked more closely together, and where everybody moves up a more even amount. The low increase has caused the district to lose at least one award-winning teacher, he said.

Superintendent Phil Ertl acknowledged that the WEA was interested in a more "across-the-board" increase, but said the administration felt it was important to "compact the scale," to bring top and bottom wages closer together. Previous contracts had rewarded those with more experience with higher raises, creating wide disparity.

Competitive comparisons

The school district's Human Resources director, Daniel Chanen, said that staying competitive with other districts was part of the motivation behind the distribution plan.

"When we (were) bargaining raises for the 2012-2013 school year, we did look at current salary data for comparable school districts," he said in an email. "Our starting salary was $2,041 below the average of comparable districts. Our top salary was $865 below the average. As a percentage, this put our starting teacher salary approximately 5.5 percent below the average, and our top salary 1.1 percent below the average compensation. We believe that our salary distribution helped to address this issue, while providing a raise for all of our employees."

Chanen said that not all teachers who leave the district share their reasons for departing. But he knew of two who left who were in the range of starting salaries who said that pay was a factor in their decisions.

Board member Mary Jo Randall said she was frustrated with the limitation of the negotiations to base wages. This restriction, a state law, prevented a broader discussion of teacher compensation that might have included other enhancements.

"We're looking forward. We're also looking backward, to where those at top levels received more percentage-wise and created a greater difference between the lower and the higher," she said.

"Given what we have," she added, "given the fact that our state aid is cut and is probably going to be cut more going forward, we do have to compress. We do have to, or we're not going to have the money."

The raises will not apply to teachers hired just this year, and to six teachers who are on "plans of improvement," Chanen said. The increases will begin in checks coming out next month, and they will include retroactive pay back to July 1.

Some extra pay

In related action, the board approved supplemental pay of $1,500 for those earning a relevant master's degree, and the same amount for those earning a doctorate, and stipends of $1,000 to those maintaining certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

The board also approved a 0.43 percent raise for teachers employed in the 2008-2009 school year who did not receive increases meeting certain criteria.

This year the school district has hired many new teachers - those with no teaching experience - at $36,500 a year. At the other end of the spectrum, it hired a part-time teacher with 23 years of experience at what would be $54,030 if the teacher worked full time.


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