A Comparative Analysis

Lesley Hodge

A Guest Column by Lesley Hodge

Many things about school funding and finance are made to be more complicated than they should be. When 86% of your Public School District’s budget is comprised of employee compensation and benefits (of which the majority is teacher pay) it pays to be informed (no pun intended). We constantly need new levies because the union-negotiated salary schedule is designed to perpetuate substantial and ever-increasing teacher costs. No one is denying that we have good teachers at Loveland. They should be paid decently but they are clearly not underpaid. The Loveland district has been generous in compensating teachers for years. It would be a benefit to the Loveland Community to address this issue openly in terms of ever rising costs and the ability of our community to reasonably afford them. To that end, here is a deeper look at how the teacher pay scale is structured and compares to the top schools in our area.

WHO OR WHAT GOVERNS TEACHER PAY

The LCSD Master Contract (available publicly) governs teacher pay and is typically negotiated every 1-3 years. Teachers are called “certified staff’ but the union who bargains for their contract refers to them as “bargaining unit members”. The current Master Contract is 87 pages long, but bargaining unit members sign a single sheet of paper which designates their individual compensation package. Pay is negotiated by the Loveland Education Association, the local union, which is an affiliate of the Southwestern Ohio Education Association (SWOEA), the Ohio Education Association (OEA) and the National Education Association (NEA).

HOW PAY IS CALCULATED

Appendix I of the Master Contract is a single page dedicated to the Loveland City Schools Teacher Pay Scale for years 2021-2022 & 2022-2023. Think of the Pay Scale as a grid. Across the top of the grid are six column headings designating increasing education levels from a bachelor (Group I) to a Master’s degree plus 30 semester hours (Group VI). Down the side in rows are the numbers 1-35 designating years of teaching (also called “steps”).


Group IGroup IIGroup IIIGroup IVGroup VGroup VI
1-35 – Years of teaching experience (“steps”) ïƒȘBachelor (BA)BA with 150 semester hours
Master’s (MA)MA + 10 semester hoursMA + 20 semester hoursMA + 30 semester hours

A bargaining unit member’s pay is determined by 3 things:

1) the base salary (everything hinges on this),

2) education level (graduate semester hours or degree) a teacher has earned, and

3) years of teaching or number of steps.

Each contract year Bargaining unit members may receive up to three different kinds of increases:

1) a negotiated increase in the base salary, which is not limited and may be different for each year of the contract,

2) an education level increase of a pre-calculated percentage amount based on the new Group (see chart above), and

3) a percentage increase for the number of years of teaching or steps.

There are 20 raises in the current Master Contract up until a teacher has been teaching for 27 years. There are no new increases between 27 and 35 years of teaching, but if the base pay is increased at any time, all years up to year 27 are increased proportionally.

To determine the yearly total pay for a teacher, the equation would be:

Salary = Base Pay + Education Level increase + Number of Years Teaching increase (steps).

The value of teacher pay is determined automatically by years of teaching and education level. Classroom performance, class size, subject matter, grade level, and student needs have no bearing on teacher pay.

DID LOVELAND TEACHERS RECEIVE ZERO PAY RAISES?

The School District’s statement on its website that there has been “0% increase in the pay scale for teachers” should be clarified. This does not mean that teachers are being paid no more this year than they were paid last year, as one might naturally suppose. The current LCSD Pay Scale has remained the same for the two-year contract period of 2021-2023. During this current period there have been no increases in the base salary of $44,167 (what a first-year teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree would receive).

However, the current Master Contract which was negotiated in 2021 modified the years of teaching experience or steps. To align Loveland more closely with other districts, LCSD expanded the steps so that it now takes a teacher 26 years to reach the top salary level, whereas previously only 20 years were required. In the previous contract’s pay scale a teacher could receive 17 raises to reach the top salary for years of teaching. In the current contract’s pay scale a teacher can receive 20 raises to reach the top salary for 27 years of teaching. As a consequence, every teacher with more than 20 years’ teaching experience received one or more of these new raises. Moreover, in transferring teachers from the previous 20-year schedule to the new pay scale according to their salaries at the time of the change (so that no teacher would receive a pay cut), a number of teachers were reassigned to a level higher than their actual years of teaching would indicate. In the first year of the new contract every teacher received a boost to their pay due to these administrative adjustments. Finally, any teacher achieving the next milestone of educational level received the usual related salary increase. So clearly, even in a year when the “pay scale has not increased,” the cost of teacher compensation increased substantially.

Teachers who have reached the top of the pay scale (maxed out both education levels and years’ experience) can receive a raise only when an increase in the base salary is negotiated. When the base salary is raised (as a percentage in the contract), it then raises every other category on the pay scale, amplifying the increase to all salaries. Although some teachers did not see any salary increase in the current or second year of the Master Contract, year-to-year 0% increases in the pay scale still result in pay increases for the majority of teachers who received an increase for another year of teaching.

FAST TRACK TO A MASTER’S DEGREE

Individual school districts vary in the way they compensate teachers for educational level. Whereas Loveland’s top salary group is a Master’s Degree plus 30 semester hours, Indian Hill’s and Forest Hills’ top salary level is a Doctorate. Sycamore tops out at a Master’s Degree plus 45 semester hours. In every top performing district other than Loveland it takes longer for teachers to achieve the highest educational level.

Moreover, there is a “multiplier” between each of the education levels which determines the increase in pay for that level. On Loveland’s pay scale the cumulative percentage increase in the base salary between the lowest education level attained and the highest education level is equivalent to 27.25%. Of the top performing schools in southwest Ohio only Indian Hill comes close to Loveland with a 22.5% cumulative education level increase. Sycamore Schools hand out a cumulative education level increase of only 11.35% from a bachelor to a doctorate.

By obtaining one’s Master’s Degree a teacher can increase his or her salary and move up the pay scale more quickly. In fact, many Loveland teachers do so. The District assists in this, as the Master Contract attests. It states: The Board will provide 100% tuition reimbursement to bargaining unit members, up to a maximum of three (3) credit hours each and up to a total Board contribution of $60,000 during a contract year. So teachers not only increase their salaries by obtaining a Master’s Degree but also can obtain semester hours at the school’s expense. This also assists a teacher in obtaining a “Continuing Contract” (job for life) which the majority of Loveland’s teachers possess.

The following chart demonstrates the high percentage of Master’s Degrees in the Loveland District compared to the top performing schools in our area even though research cannot conclude that an advanced degree makes one a better teacher or improves classroom performance.

PERCENTAGE OF TEACHERS WITH MASTER’S DEGREES (with local rankings)


LOVELANDSYCAMOREINDIAN HILLWYOMINGFOREST HILLSMADEIRA
202286.9% (2)68.1%(6)93.2% (1)70.5%(5)78.6%(3)74.6%(4)
202190.2%(2)67.7%(6)91.6%(1)71.0%(5)78.5%(3)77.0%(4)
202086.2%(2)70.5%(6)91.7%(1)74.2%(5)76.0%(4)77.7%(3)
201986.5%(2)69.4%(6)91.3%(1)75.0%(4)73.8%(5)76.5%(3)
201884.9%(2)69.8%(6)91.4%(1)75.1%(4)74.6%(5)78.7%(3)

COMPARING AVERAGE PAY AND YEARS EXPERIENCE

In Fiscal Year 2021 Loveland ranked 20 out of all 607 districts in the state of Ohio for highest average teacher pay (96th percentile) and was ranked 4th out of the 49 districts in southwest Ohio. Currently Loveland ranks 39 out of 607 districts for average teacher pay putting us in the 93rd percentile. This ranking is in spite of having both a lower base pay and a lower top salary than these same schools. Here is how Loveland compares to the other top performing districts in our area:

AVERAGE TEACHER SALARY (with local rankings)


LOVELANDSYCAMOREINDIAN HILLWYOMINGFOREST HILLSMADEIRA
2022$81,511(5)$73,726(6)$85,758(1)$82,733(3)$81,946(4)$84,757(2)
2021$82,624(3)$73,804(6)$83,647(1)$81,094(4)$80,039(5)$83,097(2)
2020$82,156(3)$74,359(6)$82,234(2)$80,136(4)$76,742(5)$82,388(1)
2019$78,248(3)$72,714(6)$79,884(2)$78,242(4)$73,582(5)$80,131(1)
2018$74,224(4)$71,577(5)$77,872(2)$76,930(3)$70,299(6)$78,079(1)

The reason Loveland ranks high for average pay is that we have a larger number of teachers at the higher level of the pay scale than other schools, with the majority of our teachers possessing a Master’s Degree (Indian Hill being the only local district higher than Loveland). Interestingly enough, we have on average fewer years teaching experience than most of the other top schools except for Sycamore. Sycamore, however, has far fewer Master’s Degrees and has a much lower average teacher salary. No other district in the State of Ohio has the percentage of teacher’s with Master’s Degrees that Loveland has for the comparably low years of teaching experience.

AVERAGE YEARS TEACHING EXPERIENCE


LOVELANDSYCAMOREINDIAN HILLWYOMINGFOREST HILLSMADEIRA
2022131318171815
2021141418171815
2020141418181715
2019141412181518
2018131212171514

OBSERVATIONS

Loveland compares favorably with other top local districts in our area for base salary. Even when the base salary itself is not increased, most teachers receive a salary increase from either years of teaching (steps) or advanced education levels or both. Loveland is exceptionally generous with its raises related to education level and subsidizes a portion of that advanced education. Loveland ranks in the 93rd percentile in Ohio for average teacher pay, even though its teachers have on average fewer years of teaching experience than is true in other districts.

While it is good that our Board re-negotiated to expand the teaching years (steps) in the pay scale they did not address the short time frame to rise through the educational levels. In the end they just “kicked the can” down the road. Although it will take a bargaining unit member longer to reach the top salary he or she will go through an additional series of increases and if and when the base pay rises all other education level and step increases will go up accordingly.

How long can the Loveland community sustain the expenses of our current educational system? When 86% of the budget is personnel and 60% of that 86% is a pay scale with both negotiated and built-in automatic raises, it can only become more and more difficult for the community to pony up the ever-increasing amounts of money needed to pay the cost.

Resources: All data in this analysis was derived from the Loveland Teacher’s Master Contract, The Ohio Department of Education, the State Employment Relations Board and interviews with local teachers.

Lesley Hodge lives in the northwest corner of the Loveland School District in Symmes Township.

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