Compensation a challenge in educators' new worldAmong all the changes made in the financial operations of Wisconsin schools over the past year, one of the most complicated for each school district is determining how the teachers’ compensation will be handled.
By: By Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Among all the changes made in the financial operations of Wisconsin schools over the past year, one of the most complicated for each school district is determining how the teachers’ compensation will be handled.
With negotiated staff contracts a thing of the past, each school district is wrestling with how it will pay its staff in the future.
The Somerset Board of Education held a special meeting on March 5 to get a better understanding of the compensation process and possible approaches the board can take. District Administrator Randy Rosburg and veteran teacher Lorri Baillargeon were co-presenters. Approximately 30 teachers and support staff members attended the meeting.
The presentation was intended to be informative, with Rosburg and Baillargeon presenting factual data, along with different possibilities on compensation scenarios.
With employee handbooks replacing collective bargaining under Act 10, the only negotiable point in the employee handbook is base wage. The maximum increase in the base wage is capped at the Consumer Price Index, which Rosburg is estimating at 2 percent for the upcoming school year.
The school determines how the base wage is distributed. That was the crux of the conversation. Employee compensation will also be the main topic of next Monday’s monthly board meeting, which has been moved up to 5:30 p.m. to accommodate the lengthy discussion expected on the topic.
Rosburg began the presentation with some history on how the teacher compensation grid worked in the past. The previous grid was based on a cross-pattern of steps and lanes, based upon the years a staff member has worked in the district and their educational level. Educational increments of 12 credits were used, to set up the lanes for the salary grid. The base salary for a beginning teacher in 2011-12 with no additional credits was $37,127. The top salary a teacher could make, with at least 14 years of service to the district and a master’s degree plus 24 credits, was $66,386. The 2011-12 salary adjustment included a 1.7 percent raise to all employees with no step movement.
Rosburg’s 2012-13 draft includes a base wage increase of 2 percent and a step and lane increase of 2 percent.
The discussion then branched into other ways these wage increases could be distributed to the staff. Board members Marie Colbeth and Catherine Cranston both said there has been significant interest from the public on performance, merit and incentive-based increases for the staff.
Baillargeon stated that this is a complicated issue. She proposed that the board continue the steps and lanes system for the 2012-13 school year. The board could then create a committee to consider how any merit-based structure might be planned, hoping for a trial run the following year. She expressed concerns that performance-based pay could become highly subjective and could pit staff members against other staff members. Her concerns also included difficulty in making performance scales applicable to all staff members.
Rosburg said one idea was that performance-based pay be based upon the performance of staff members who meet criteria documented by the board and administration. He said this was a more equitable form of performance-based judgment, rather than trying to base any incentives on student performance.
Rosburg said he expects the employee handbook to come to the school board for a first reading in either March or April. The compensation element doesn’t need to be completed at the same time. The board was looking to get the handbook approved by June, before the state’s July 1 deadline.