Just before Aurora teachers finished the school year last week, their union reached an agreement with the school district for a pay raise — 2.05% across the board, plus more for some educators.
Union members have through Monday to vote on the agreement, which if approved, will then also need the Aurora school board’s final approval.
For months, teachers have been lobbying for a raise, telling the school board about struggles to afford to live in the district as housing prices rise.
Aurora voters overwhelmingly passed a local tax increase in November, in part to support a raise for teachers. Part of that money was used to give teachers a 3% raise in January. The rest was meant to help develop a new pay system for teachers, but that work will come later.
The tentative agreement includes a general 2.05% salary increase for all teachers as well as the recovery of a missed raise when the district froze movement in the salary schedule during the 2016-17 school year.
The deal represents a tradeoff. An alternative offer from the district would have given all teachers a 3.9% salary increase, but would not have allowed the recovery of the missed raise. Under the tentative agreement, starting salaries in the district will be $43,371, up from $42,500. The alternative deal could have moved the starting salaries higher, to $44,158.
Like most districts, Aurora pays teachers based on a salary schedule of “steps” and “lanes,” where teachers’ base pay automatically increases based on years of experience and earning degrees or education credits.
Teachers who lost out on their raise in 2016-17 based on completing another year in the classroom will get to move ahead two steps this fall, instead of one, as a way to recover that missed raise.
When the district asked voters to increase their property taxes, it agreed to set aside $10 million from those new tax revenues to develop a new salary schedule for teacher pay.
Union officials say they ran out of time to work on that this year, in a way that would get them a new model in time for hiring season.
As part of latest agreement, the district asked that the union drop its attempts to also recover a freeze from previous years, and agree not to ask for a raise next year apart from what will result from the remodeling of their pay system.
Bruce Wilcox, the teachers union president, said that while teachers could agree to wait to redesign that pay system with more time, he couldn’t ask teachers who need a raise to wait until next year, not knowing how or if that new model will actually produce raises for some or all.
One potential way the district could look at changing teacher pay could be through stipends or bonuses to attract teachers to difficult-to-staff jobs.
The district conducted a pilot program of just that recently and reported some positive results. The union protested that the terms of the pilot and the bonuses should have been negotiated, and an independent arbitrator later agreed.
After a delay, the school board voted to accept the arbitrator’s report, and asked the superintendent to negotiate any such programs in the future.