Simplified: Sioux Falls school board members approved a plan to spend an additional $1.3 million on salaries next year. Meanwhile, the local union leader says some teachers are dissatisfied that they're set to go a decade without full salary schedule negotiations.
Why it matters:
- Sioux Falls has among the lowest first-year teacher pay in the area, nearly $10,000 less than Brandon Valley School District's starting salary.
- The vote Monday night bumps the starting salary to $41,000 and adjusts the salary schedule across the board.
- It's an effort to recruit teachers – and speech language pathologists, who will also see a higher base pay to help fill the seven open full-time positions that have as of Monday seen zero applicants, Business Manager Todd Vik said.
- But though the raise is important, teachers are still set to go a decade without re-negotiating salaries, union president Tim Eckart said.
"I would say the majority of our membership are not OK with it," Eckart said of the years without salary negotiations. "That's just a feeling."
Tell me more
While many school districts in the state look at one-year contracts for teachers, Sioux Falls works on a five-year contract.
In 2017 – one year after historic state legislation aimed at raising the average teacher salary – the district and the Sioux Falls Education Association, which represents teachers, entered a five-year agreement.
If the school district agreed to give teachers a certain amount extra each year for five years, they could extend the contract up to an additional five years.
So far, that commitment has been met, and the district will go until 2027 without another salary negotiation process.
So teachers are still getting raises? Then what's the problem?
It's not a problem, per se. But there are teachers who feel slighted that they're going that long without a seat at the table when it comes to their salaries.
To fully understand, we have to dig into some numbers. Stick with me here.
- Let's say the state gave a 2.4 percent funding increase to education (ok, not a hypothetical, that's literally what happened this year).
- In Sioux Falls, take that number and add another 0.75 percent increase, per the contractual agreement. That means a 3.15 percent raise for teachers, right?
But, of course, it's not that simple.
- It takes about a 2 percent funding increase just to keep up with regular movement along the salary schedule (i.e. when a teacher gains another year experience, they're eligible for higher pay).
- That leaves about a 1.15 percent funding increase for teachers at the top of the salary schedule, Eckart said, which makes it tough to keep up with the rate of inflation.
- To put it in even more context, Eckart said more than half of the school district's teachers are at the top of the salary schedule.
"It's not as clean as saying all teachers at the top of the (salary) schedule get that 1.15 percent increase," Eckart said. It's more complicated than that, he added, but, "it's fair to say there's discontent."
In a joint statement, the district and SFEA also sent the following in response to a Sioux Falls Simplified request for comment from the district following an interview with Eckart:
"The District and SFEA have honored, and will continue to honor, all contractual obligations through FY28 as outlined in the signed agreement," the statement read. "SFSD and SFEA value teachers and together we celebrate them for their dedication and hard work."