Pay raise prompts questions about Missoula teachers' salary scale

2013-06-23T06:15:00Z 2013-06-23T06:33:55Z Pay raise prompts questions about Missoula teachers' salary scale missoulian.com

The highest-paid teacher in Missoula County Public Schools earned more than $92,000 for the 2012-13 academic year, while the lowest-paid first-year teacher earned slightly more than $32,000.

Veteran school board trustee Shelly Wills was stunned to learn about the discrepancy in pay and tried to stop the MCPS board from approving a 3 percent raise for teachers at the June 11 board meeting.

Her reasoning, she said, was that she wanted teachers’ contracts “cracked open a little bit more” before awarding teachers more money.

Wills said she wanted to know more about the pay range, who earned the lowest and highest salaries, and was under the impression that despite negotiated base salaries, some teachers could earn upward of a 16 percent raise.

Her comments and lack of understanding of the process prompted a quick tutorial on the subject from other, more-seasoned trustees, startled some of the newly elected trustees and elicited a promise from district administrators that they would explain in detail whatever salary and budget questions she needed answers to at a June 25 budget session.

Urged to have faith in the district’s negotiating team by the teachers union representatives, Wills’ move to table the pay raise failed and the negotiated increase was approved.

Despite the lack of support, Wills’ questions have prompted MCPS administrators to prepare a thorough explanation of teachers’ salaries and how they can move up the pay scale at this week’s budget meeting.

That a longtime school teacher earns more than $92,000 is the exception, not the rule, Steve McHugh, MCPS director of human resources, said last week while preparing for the meeting.

Salaries for Missoula teachers vary greatly depending on years of experience, the amount of ongoing educational credits a teacher has accumulated, extra teaching duties, and if a teacher has a bachelor’s or master’s degree, he said.

In the case of the $92,000-a-year teacher, that teacher has taught in the district since 1987, has achieved a master’s degree and the highest amount of credits possible to earn the highest salary possible.

The teacher also instructs drivers education after school and during the summer.

This teacher, McHugh explained, essentially works two jobs, and the driver’s education instruction, which students pay to participate in, is a self-supporting program that pays the teacher.

***

Aside from this unusual situation, teachers do have an opportunity to earn above and beyond their salaries if they take on extra duties.

An example, McHugh explained, is if a teacher becomes the head coach of a sports team, or directs a band or chorus, or leads other afterschool activities such as DECA or drama club.

In the case of a head coaching position or band director, teachers can earn around $4,975 for taking on those duties, he said.

McHugh further explained why Wills was wrongly informed that teachers could earn upward of a 16 percent raise.

Raises to a teacher’s base salary can only come from annual negotiations with the teachers union.

Salary increases, which are not tied to pay raises, are possible if a teacher is motivated to earn more college-level teaching credits or get a master’s degree, he said. Teachers also earn a higher salary for each year they stay and work in the district.

For example, a brand new teacher starting out in Missoula County Public Schools with a bachelor’s degree during the 2012-13 academic year earned $32,517.

If that teacher acquired an additional 10 credits or more before the start of the next school year, because of MCPS’ “steps and lanes” salary matrix, that person’s salary would increase to $34,615 to reflect the person’s additional education and the experience of being a second-year teacher.

That person, he said, has chosen to climb the district’s pay ladder by taking it upon themselves to get more college-level educational credits.

If the district negotiated a pay raise, as it did this year, and agreed to a 3 percent raise to the base salary for the 2013-14 academic year, all salaries will increase by that amount.

So in this same scenario, the base salary for an entry level teacher with a bachelor’s degree will be $33,492 for the coming school year. If that teacher earns an additional 10 credits, the base salary for that teacher’s second year will be $35,653.

***

With the 3 percent raise, teachers’ salaries for the 2013-14 year will range from $33,492 earned by entry-level teachers in their first year of teaching to the top salary, which is capped at $69,866 for veteran teachers who have worked in the district for 23 years or more and who hold a master’s degree plus 30 additional educational credits.

Salaries for mid-career teachers who have 12 years of experience, hold a bachelor’s degree and received 30 additional educational credits will be $50,094. Someone with 12 years of experience and a master’s degree will earn $55,536.

“We have a pay scale that encourages more education for teachers, because there are pay freezes at certain levels,” McHugh said.

For example, if a teacher decides to not pursue more education beyond a bachelor’s degree, after seven years of teaching, that person’s salary would be capped at $42,329 should there be no negotiated pay raise to the base salaries.

A person with a master’s degree but no additional learning would, after 11 years on the job, have a salary capped at $55,536.

When contacted last week to further discuss her concerns about teachers’ salaries and how the district funds those salaries, Wills declined to comment and referred all questions to board chairman Joe Knapp.

While Knapp did not know all of Wills’ concerns about the matter, he believed her questions have provided a good learning opportunity for the board, which has five new members.

“Teachers’ pay is complicated and there are many moving parts and multiple pieces to the steps and lanes and how negotiated salary increases affect those,” Knapp said.

“There is an awful lot of confusion in this area and it makes sense to take a good look at it, understand it and clarify things.”

Given that almost 90 percent of the district’s budget goes to employee salaries and benefits, it is critical that the board has a good handle on the inflow and outflow of funding, he said.

“Are we doing as good a job in the pay and compensation of our teachers, given budget constraints? Are there other ways to look at it? Those are the questions on the table and with so many new board members it is a good time to look at this,” he said. “I do know that we will be revisiting a lot of different things and policies because of the new board.”

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. Notinmissoula
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    Notinmissoula - September 05, 2013 8:03 pm
    Geez, yes teachers pay their own tuition and if they have a good conscience they take classes that pertain to their discipline. Union dues can run up to 500 plus a year. And yes there are instances where people quit the MCPS, I did :)
  2. Farm Girl
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    Farm Girl - June 25, 2013 8:06 am
    Ms. Wills needs to educate herself about the job that she was elected to perform for the community of Missoula. If I were Ms. Wills, frankly I would be embarrassed to see my name plastered over the Missoulian because I was unknowing of the job I was elected to perform. The sad part is that she is not alone as a school board member. Just a thought...maybe school board members should take a course their first year in school board 101, and then be required to continue educating themselves yearly as a requirement for being elected to equally and fairly represent teachers, students, and parents. Remember teachers are educating the future! Sorry Walter, you need to get an education. Also, Walter, I am wondering what you do for a living? Funny thing Walter, teachers pay taxes too and incase you don't know this, most of them are parents of a student(s) attending your schools. Remade in Montana, start living up to your user name. Teachers in Montana do more than teach they are TEACHERS, coaches, janitors, counselors, psychologists, mentors, bus drivers, parents, administrators, secretaries, and etc. I think many people categorize teachers as glorified baby sitters...and if they were, they would make more money at an hourly wage per child than a teacher. So instead putting your teachers on a chopping block...SUPPORT your teachers and the future of your children!
  3. Leadfoot
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    Leadfoot - June 24, 2013 2:35 pm
    Again, who can tell from this article exactly where teachers are paid the huge jump in salary? Only the teachers know. It is closer to 10 years that it is to two years of work. One has to work for many years before it occurs and it dwarfs any increase in income from additional education. Show up in the teachers' lounge every AM, and receive your "hard earned" rewards. The salary of the beginning teachers is always quoted in the newspaper articles, but the AVERAGE teacher's salary is far more. $70,000 per year is much more than a living wage anywhere, much less in Montana. Now, ask the Teachers Union about sabbaticals. Paid a year's salary for essentially a vacation...Ireland, France, Greece anyone? Lastly, one can not call Teaching a Profession until there is accountability. Every other REAL Profession has it. Ask any school board member exactly "what class that Gym Teacher took for the last of his Master's credits." Not divulged to them...they aren't ALLOWED to know. Like most, that additional education can be in ANY field of study & is not required to be in ANY ONE Discipline, much less in the field that he/she teaches. No true profession is allowed that. A Gym teacher, whom I know, took a Wood Burning Stove course toward his Master's. When the school board met to evaluate the teachers for that year, the members were not allowed to be informed exactly what courses each teacher took to earn those credits for which they were paid. Teachers' Union, clean up your act before you point fingers at Apostle for being paid exactly what he was promised, when he was hired, if he PERFORMED to his maximum. He did, and he was paid what was owed him. BTW, he punches the clock EVERY day of the year, not just the 9 months of school. He has done more for education that has affected more children in Missoula Schools in the last year than any single teacher in the State. Most parents know this. The more teachers cry poverty, foul, & unfair, the more resentment parents will have for them...even those parents who are, themselves, teachers. Let parents know the REAL income, and the totality of all of the perks, of the majority of teachers; then stand back and watch their reaction. Was this grammatically correct enough for that effete corps of impudent snobs out there?
  4. Everyday person
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    Everyday person - June 23, 2013 10:22 pm
    The author's omission of any reference to the Alex Apostle's obscene salary raise is interesting in itself. Talking about an elephant in the living room. Scoff.
  5. GaryTinkSanders
    Report Abuse
    GaryTinkSanders - June 23, 2013 7:00 pm
    Thanks Re-Made, I appreciate the info.
  6. Re-Made in Montana
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    Re-Made in Montana - June 23, 2013 2:47 pm
    Union dues are not very much.. A few hundred dollars a year. No unemployment. I think there are options for how teachers can be paid over the summer.. Most I know, take a lump sum the last day of the school year which represents their distribution over the summer. Generally, the recapture on investment in advanced degrees is a couple of years.. It depends on what kind of advanced degree and how much it costs but U of M offers some fairly cost effective ways to earn a Masters degree. That pay increase is significant. Recapture in two to three years.
  7. GaryTinkSanders
    Report Abuse
    GaryTinkSanders - June 23, 2013 11:17 am
    I have a couple of questions if anyone could answer them. 1) How much do the teachers pay in Union dues over the course of the year? 2) Do the teachers receive any compensation over the summer like unemployment? Offered by the State or the Teachers Union? 3) Does the extra wages earned for continued education offset the cost to the teachers in tuition? I believe teachers should receive livable wages as I believe everyone else living in Montana should have the opportunity to receive livable wages too. Where education sticks in my craw is the seemingly way overpaid administrators including the likes of Alex Apostle.
  8. misha
    Report Abuse
    misha - June 23, 2013 11:10 am
    @walter12: Go back to school. Your semi-literate rant is filled with misspellings, horrible grammar and is dripping with resentment.

    It is also filled with poor logic, and anger with those who have done well in school. Your rant is the best advertisement for better schools, and better salaries.

    Of course, you are continuing the great American tradition of William Jennings Bryan. I suppose you don't believe in evolution - and that's for starters.
  9. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - June 23, 2013 7:18 am
    Don't worry about the MCPS teachers, they are well taken care of. No one quites a MCPS certified position, ever. They retire at 65 or they die at their desk. A hundred qualified applicants for any opening and there is almost never an opening. The MCPS is a closed shop. With all the vacations, part of the summer's off, the great benefits, and good salary by Montana standards, and living in the best city in Montana, no Ghetto kids to deal with, no danger or risk at school, it is a very good job.
  10. BR
    Report Abuse
    BR - June 23, 2013 6:32 am
    I strongly suspect that this article, and the way it is written, will bring out extensive complaints from the sizeable contingent of anti-learning, anti-public school, and anti-teacher pundits. To these advocates for Americans ‘going into the world’ unprepared, I would suggest first that you go back to earlier articles on administrators (who keep the lights on and busses running) and their high comparative salaries with those who actually teach youth something, and then decode the text on the top earner among teachers as a two salary anomaly. By reading carefully you will find Missoula Public Schools pay very modestly for services of Montana’s most highly trained employees.

    Teachers were highly respected in frontier America, probably because they were paid by small struggling communities trying to advantage their children in a society that had the highest upward mobility in the Western World. Education was the way to do that. America is now way down the list on upward mobility in the Western World and a populism of the common man (read poorly-educated) has overtaken the culture in the last decade, even as the public mind has turned inward except for attacks on the outside world. Hopefully, this will change soon, and Montanans who graduate here will fill up the world with competence and mental energy over their lifetimes.
  11. BR
    Report Abuse
    BR - June 23, 2013 6:20 am
    I strongly suspect that this article, and the way it is written, will bring out extensive complaints from the sizeable contingent of anti-learning, anti-public school, and anti-teacher pundits. To these advocates for Americans ‘going into the world’ unprepared, I would suggest first that you go back to earlier articles on administrators (who keep the lights on and busses running) and their high comparative salaries with those who actually teach youth something, and then decode the text on the top earner among teachers as a two salary anomaly. By reading carefully you will find Missoula Public Schools pay very modestly for services of Montana’s most highly trained employees.

    Teachers were highly respected in frontier America, probably because they were paid by small struggling communities trying to advantage their children in a society that had the highest upward mobility in the Western World. Education was the way to do that. America is now way down the list on upward mobility in the Western World and a populism of the common man (read poorly-educated) has overtaken the culture in the last decade, even as the public mind has turned inward except for attacks on the outside world. Hopefully, this will change soon, and Montanans who graduate here will fill up the world with competence and mental energy over their lifetimes.
  12. Gustave
    Report Abuse
    Gustave - June 22, 2013 11:11 pm
    Wills didn't seem so concerned about pay raises when she voted to give Apostle a raise far higher than any teacher. I say its a good thing her term expires in 2014. Hopefully Missoula votes her out of office like they did the incumbents in the last election.
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