School board considers raising salaries for starting teachers

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Beginning teachers in the Cape Girardeau school system could be paid $30,000 next school year, more than $4,700 above the amount the district currently pays starting teachers.

At a study session Monday night, school board members and the district's top administrators said they want to see starting pay increased.

Brenda McCowan, director of finance for the school district, said raising teacher salaries would improve morale, help retain quality teachers and attract new teachers.

"Staff morale, we know, has been rather low," McCowan said.

Beginning teachers with no experience currently are paid a base salary of $25,253.

Superintendent Dr. David Scala said the Cape Girardeau School District doesn't have to pay the highest salary for beginning teachers. But he said the district needs to pay more than it currently does.

"Right now, we're $5,000 below Jackson in starting salary," he told the board.

The district's salary committee, on which McCowan and Scala serve, has already studied a possible pay plan that would raise the starting salary to $28,050. That would amount to an 11 percent increase.

Salaries for teachers in the second, third, fourth and fifth years of employment in the district would also be calculated at that level. Teachers are non-tenured for the first five years of their employment.

Starting in the sixth year, teachers would see increases in the salary steps, mostly in the 3 percent range.

McCowan said the proposal was crafted this way to make such a pay raise affordable.

The school system has 361 classroom teachers. McCowan estimated the pay plan that has been studied would cost the district more than $17.5 million to implement for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, or $1.56 million more in salaries and benefits than in the current school year.

But school board members suggested that the district could afford to raise starting pay for teachers to $30,000.

Scala said school officials will work with the salary committee to develop a pay plan that incorporates the $30,000 starting salary and report back to the board. The salary committee includes teachers from the district's various schools.

Scala cautioned that school officials are still tinkering with the pay plan for teachers and that nothing has been finalized. School officials also have yet to calculate pay raises for the nonteaching staff. The latter includes everyone from district administrators and principals to school secretaries and custodians.

The school board will have the final say on any pay plan.

Board members said that increases in local tax revenue and state aid and money from the district's financial surplus could fund a pay plan with starting teachers' salaries at $30,000. McCowan said the district could have an estimated $2.4 million in additional revenue next school year. Some of that money could go to fund higher salaries, she said.

Board member Charles Bertrand suggested the district needs to calculate the financial savings resulting from the retirement of longtime teachers and the hiring of new teachers at lower salaries. The money saved could help fund pay raises, he said.

Reassessment is expected to increase the assessed valuation in the school district by 7 percent, which will mean more tax revenue for the public schools, McCowan said.

In addition, the district expects to see state funding increase by nearly $900,000.

But on the spending side, the district expects higher costs for utilities, health insurance and salaries, McCowan said.

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