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Geneva's New 3-Year Teachers Contract Could 'Sunset' Step Increases, Salary Spiking

The contract established with Tuesday night's vote offers across-the-board "step" raises in the second and third years as well as generous retirement incentives, but it also signals a sea change in compensation practices of the past.

At last, it's over.

Geneva School District 304 put an end to eight months of contract negotiations Tuesday, when it voted 6-0 to ratify a new three-year agreement with the Geneva Education Association.

In a brief opening statement, School Board President Mark Grosso called for the community to come together and "begin mending any strained relationships that may have occurred during this process."

The contract summary released Tuesday by the Geneva Board of Education signals fundamental changes in the ways District 304 rewards employees for quality work.

Under past contracts, teachers received yearly across-the-board "step" increases, plus cost-of-living increases, plus up to nine "lane" salary increases for completing coursework toward advanced degrees. They also received higher percentage increases near the end of their careers, boosting salaries prior to retirement and padding pensions, a practice sometimes called "salary spiking."

As part of the new contract, the GEA and School Board agreed to establish a joint Salary Schedule Study Group, which will "address the issue of future compensation for teachers," and could include performance-based evaluations.

"A number of other districts have moved away from a salary schedule, and we wanted an opportunity to explore other options," Grosso said.

The new contract is retroactive to the end of the previous contract, which expired in August. Two of the previous "sticking points" during the negotiations were salary and pre-retirement pay increases.

Under the three-year agreement, teachers will have an early retirement option as well as an option to give standard notice of retirement prior to 2015. The contract offers significant retirement incentives, including salary increases and a tax-seltered annuity.

School Board members said the window for those benefits will be closed at the conclusion of the contract, on Aug. 15, 2015.

"In effect, the salary spiking sunsets at the end of the contract," School Board member Bill Wilson said.

Salary

2012-13 — A freeze for all teachers except those who qualify for lane advancement based on completed graduate coursework and teachers who have submitted retirement notice. 

2013-14 — A 2.65 percent "step" increase for all teachers, except:

  • Teachers at the bottom of the salary schedule—with 22 or more years of service—will receive a $1,000 salary increase rather than an automatic 1.5 percent over the previous year's salary.
  • Teachers may move one lane advancement.
  • Teachers who have submitted retirement notice will receive increases based on the retirement agreement.

2014-15 — A 2.85 percent salary increase, made up of a 2.65 percent step and a .2 percent increase to the salary schedule for all teachers, with the same exceptions as 2013-14.

The entry-level salary—for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and no previous teaching experience—remains at $39,651 for 2012-13 and 2013-14, then increases to $39,730 in 2014-15.

Retirement

An eligible teacher submitting a retirement notice by Jan. 15, 2013, and who intends to retire at the end of 2014-15 will receive the following increases:

  • 2012-13: 6 percent
  • 2013-14: 3 percent
  • 2014-15: 2.48 percent

An eligible teacher submitting a retirement notice by Aug. 15, 2013, and who intends to retire at the end of 2014-15 will receive the following increases:

  • 2013-14: 6 percent
  • 2014-15: 3 percent

An eligible teacher submitting a retirement notice by Aug. 15, 2014, and who intends to retire at the end of 2014-15 will receive the following increases:

  • 2014-15: 6 percent

An eligible teacher submitting retirement notice in any of the three years will receive a post-retirment benefit of 20 percent for 25-plus years of service, 15 percent for 20-24 years of service and 10 percent for 15-19 years of service.

Other Issues

  • Tuition reimbursement will be phased out over three years.
  • Premiums for health insurance will be reduced from 100 percent to 95 percent for the final two years of the contract.
  • The release time for the GEA president will be reduced to .5 full-time equivalent.
  • Teacher planning time has been clarified.
  • Teachers will have more input on filling committee vacancies, building leadership teams and professional development.
  • A teacher-administration communication team will be established.
  • Non-union members will not be forced to pay a "fair share" of union dues.
  • Language has been changed regarding involuntary transfer.
  • There will be no change in the teacher work day.
  • Language has been added regarding security cameras in the workplace, such that cameras are not used to observe or evaluate performance.
  • The number of release days for special education teachers will be increased.

 

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Beth Ward November 22, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Jim, you missed the point completely. The job market is over saturated. Period. Marketing 101. Supply and demand. Free market system. I didn't say that Geneva is any different that surrounding suburbs...just that it is a great place to teach. And I don't understand your comment about teachers looking elsewhere in the district...why would they do that? And you seem to know another reason why qualified candidates don't have jobs, other than the fact that THERE ARE NO JOBS.
Thomas November 22, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Beth Ward, The point you make about teachers who are farther along in the salary schedule having less of an incentive to leave is quite true. During these economic times many districts, Geneva included, are reluctant to hire teachers at anything higher than the base salary unless it is a position that is more difficult to fill like special education. Studies have shown that during recessions teaching becomes more of an attractive profession to people who might choose other careers because of its relative job security, benefits, and pension. That being said your arguments will only hold true if the economy stays forever in recession. The solutions that are being made because of the current recession will be in place long after the recession is over. If teaching becomes less attractive as a profession, those who still choose to teach will become more selective of where they choose to be employed. Then the laws of "supply and demand" won't be working in Geneva's favor. The effects of this contract and any future contracts that follow its trend will not be felt immediately but will have a cumulative effect over time. I also agree w/you that many people choose teaching because they love the job and the kids they work with but one group they love even more would be their own children. Teaching should continue to be a career choice that can support a family. Once it fails to do that, everyone as a society will suffer.
craig November 22, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Oh my gosh! Can we really be talking about Geneva not being able to attract the best teachers? A couple weeks ago, it was all about how a lower salary will saddle us with the worst teachers. Now it's the elimination of tuition reimbursement. We better start offering free lifetime ice cream benefits or the only teacher Geneva will be able to attract will be the drop outs from South Eastern North Texas A&M Tech.
Billy Pilgrim November 23, 2012 at 01:08 PM
The district is still over $300 million in debt. Good luck getting out of the hole.
DJP November 26, 2012 at 01:56 AM
@TommyFortune: This school district has well over 10,000+ teacher resumes on file. Teachers who are disgruntled over no tuition reimbursement and want to "walk" they will be replaced by someone who is more than happy & eager to take their place.

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