Dist. 200 eliminating 'step schedule' for teacher pay

 
 
Posted6/5/2015 5:30 AM
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Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 approved a three-year contract Thursday that gives teachers at least about 8 percent in raises over several years but also promises to do away with the so-called "step schedule" for salary increases at the end of the agreement.

The contract applies to 1,100 teachers and other members in the Wheaton Warrenville Education Association. It takes effect July 1.

"It acknowledges that the most important ingredient of a quality education is a high-quality teacher," board Vice President Brad Paulsen said.

Teachers will get a 1.15 percent raise the first year, a 3.88 percent raise the second year and a raise between 2.92 percent and 3.5 percent the third year, to be determined based on the consumer price index.

Board members approved the contract by a 5-1 vote with Jim Mathieson absent. Jim Gambaiani voted against the deal because he said the nearly $6 million that will fund teacher raises could be put toward building improvements, technology or "unexpected expenses."

Those who supported the agreement said it allows the district to increase base salaries to improve teacher retention while still saving an estimated $2.8 million on health insurance by increasing out-of-pocket costs, copays and deductibles for teachers and adding a spousal surcharge.

"I do like the opportunity that we have to increase that incoming salary of new teachers to hopefully become more of a destination district and not lose them to other surrounding districts," board Secretary Chris Crabtree said.

"The salary step system, which has been standard practice in education, getting rid of that, I think, requires a lot of trust on our staff's part."

Instead of removing the step schedule during negotiations, the union and the board agreed to form a committee that will meet beginning in January to decide on a new compensation plan to take effect after the 2017-18 year.

"Retooling that compensation structure is something that I think should be done with a great deal of time, care and attention to ensure that what we develop is a model that certainly is sustainable," Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. "(This contract) establishes a work group that is going to work on that so that it's not a decision just made within the context of an individual bargain that perhaps may be shortsighted and not serve us well."

Another change allows individual schools to adjust start times to allow for teacher professional development.

Retirement benefits also are affected. Teachers no longer will be able to participate in a state-run early retirement program, and that, Schuler said, could save the district up to $400,000 a year in fees.

However, teachers will be given an increase in post-retirement compensation so that they can receive $750 for each year they worked in the district, up to 18 years, as a lump sum.

The benefit increases from $500 a year in the expiring contract.

The sides can reopen the contract for negotiations if the state "implements any law, regulation, provision or mandate that significantly impacts revenue, funding ability or capacity of the district," officials said in a news release.

Before the board voted, two public speakers criticized members for not being more transparent because some details of the new contract were not included in documents posted online.

Salaries: Dissenting board member said money could be put toward other expenses

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