It’s been 27 days since the Sioux Falls Education Association voted in favor of a new five-year employment agreement with the school district.
The school district and teachers held a joint press conference, and the school board voted to approve the agreement.
You’d think by now that the document, which explains how the public school district is going to spend roughly $640 million in salaries and benefits over the next five years, would be public.
Alas, it is not. The district’s web site continues to link to the old agreement.
What makes that particularly troubling is that what we were told at the press conference was not entirely true. I asked board president Doug Morrison then whether there were any changes to the salary schedule, whether there were winners or losers among new or veteran teachers. He answered:
“The schedule won’t change except the base of all those numbers on there will go up by 8.54 percent, and teachers will continue to move across those.”
“Every point on the salary schedule goes up 8.54 percent, and then it’s a matter of where they’re at on their steps.”
“The basic salary schedule stays the same, it’s just that all the numbers on it go up by 8.54 percent.”
I don’t think Morrison was lying, but what he said clearly was not accurate.
Someone, presumably a teacher, mailed me the new salary schedule with a note that read: “If you look at this you can easily see all teachers did not receive an 8.5 percent increase. Maybe you should do an in-depth story about this and see why the teachers are not all happy. Interview some!”
Without that letter, I couldn’t have written my Sunday story, which revealed that some types of teachers would receive far more than 8.54 percent, and some less than 2 percent.
In fact, the salary schedule was expanded, by two rows. Twelve positions on the new schedule are up 8.54 percent. But 14 positions are up 14 percent and 16 positions 19.7 percent.
The expanded schedule will benefit only new hires, who will make significantly more money than if they had been hired last spring.
“I was using the 8.54 percent in a general sense,” Morrison told me after I sent him a spreadsheet I put together comparing the two pay schedules. “We did change the structure of it.”
It struck me as a pretty big deal that starting pay for new hires with experience was going up 14.7 to 19 percent. You’d think the school board and administrators would be happy to talk about it, right?
So why didn’t they talk about it during their press conference? And why did Pam Homan and Sue Simons refuse to meet with me or take a phone call about it, insisting I submit questions by email?
I have to wonder too whether the teachers knew what they were voting on. Would an experienced teacher hired last year have voted for the agreement if she knew a new hire with the same experience would be making as much as $7,333 more in year one?
The agreement puts a lot more money into teacher salaries. Maybe that’s enough to overcome the inequities that come along with it.
But it would have been nice if the administration and school board would have been upfront about what they were doing, and at least a little transparent after the fact.