Four-year teacher contracts: worth $5,000 or $2,000?

Last week, I wrote a story about the new teacher contract system that will ultimately replace teacher tenure, otherwise known as “career status,” which guarantees teachers due process in the event they are fired or demoted.

Twenty-five percent of top-performing teachers will be offered four-year contracts in exchange for giving up tenure beginning in 2014. Lawmakers have also tagged onto the contracts what some have characterized as a $5,000 pay raise.

Several befuddled readers reached out to me to point out that between the beginning and end of the four year contract, a teacher would only be making $2,000 more than what he or she started with — so where’s the $5,000?

Here’s how it is supposed to work according to the draft Power Point presentation by Durham Public Schools:

•$500 annual pay raise for each year of the contract (based on starting base salary each year)
•$500 annual (cumulative) pay raise=$5,000 over the next 4 years
$5000??
Example: 2013-14 teacher’s base pay for 10 years= $35,800
Teacher is offered and accepts four-year contract
•2014-15- base pay + $500     $35,800 + $500 =   $36,300
•2015-16- base pay + $1000   $35,800 + $1000 = $36,800
•2016-17- base pay + $1500   $35,800 + $1500 = $37,300
•2017-18- base pay + $2000   $35,800 + $2000 = $37,800
                               Total $5000
Actual raise to salary at the end of 4 years is $2000; $500 each year ($500 X 4=$2000)

It seems to me that this contract offers total increased earnings of $5,000 over a four year period — not a $5,000 pay raise, as even the Power Point indicates. I think most would characterize this as a $2,000 pay raise over four years — and it is unclear if it is even permanent.

An email seeking clarification sent to Senator Berger’s spokesperson, Amy Auth, went unreturned. She recently characterized this pay increase as a permanent pay raise in a written statement.

“Only in the warped world of education bureaucrats and union leaders could a permanent $5,000 pay raise for top-performing teachers be branded as a bad thing,” Auth said.

But where’s the evidence to indicate this is a permanent $5,000 pay raise?

Dr. Ed Wesep, formerly of UNC who is now an Associate Professor of Management at Vanderbilt and specializes in labor contracts, reviewed the Power Point demonstration and offered some insight.

“I wouldn’t call this a $5,000 pay raise,” said Wesep, upon reviewing the Power Point presentation, “but a one-time bonus of $5,000 paid in increasing increments over four years.”

“If it were a permanent deal, I would characterize it as a $2,000 pay raise over four years,” said Wesep, who added, “but I’m concerned — because there’s no information to indicate whether or not the increase is permanent, would teachers who accepted the four-year contracts revert back to their original base pay after the four-year contract ends?”

A good question to raise. Also not clear is what happens if lawmakers pass a biennial budget in 2015 that strikes these contracts from the law. Does this mean teachers will not receive those $500 pay bumps in years 2, 3 and 4?

How will a potential salary increase passed during the next legislative session affect those who are receiving these one-time bonuses — will they be able to get the salary increases as well? Will lawmakers strike the pay bumps in exchange for salary increases for all?

Finally, keep in mind that if teachers decide to keep their tenure and forego the four-year contracts, they have set themselves up for four more years of no salary increases — unless lawmakers decide to institute pay raises for all teachers next May.

“It appears as though [these contracts are] a temporary inducement to get people to give up tenure rather than fight,” concluded Wesep.

One Comment

  1. LayintheSmakDown

    November 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Well, it is a $5,000 pay raise, just not on a yearly basis. Not too hard to understand once you get the facts.