State funding may complicate teacher pay | VailDaily.com
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State funding may complicate teacher pay

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE – State budget cuts may affect local teachers’ pay for the next school year.The final figures are subject to results punched out by number-crunchers in Denver and the nitty-gritty of negotiations between teachers and district administrators. But it’s possible that teachers’ raises for the 2005-06 school year may be less than expected.The problem, administrators say, is the state’s budget and how its inflation rate is calculated. The result may be a collision between funding sources, and what local school officials have said they’d like to do, and what they actually can do.When the Eagle County School District began its controversial Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, at the start of the 2002-03 school year, teachers’ pay for the 2003-04 school year was based on performance bonuses earned the year before.For instance, if a teacher earned $2,000 in bonuses for 2002-03, that teacher’s pay was increased by $2,000 for 2003-04. The same formula applied to the 2004-05 school year.The bonuses are paid out of money raised by a 2001 ballot issue. The pay raises come from a different account that depends on money from the state. When the system was first used, the district estimated its state money would increase at a rate of about 4 percent per year.The annual increases in state funding come from Amendment 23, which voters passed in 2000. That amendment requires the Colorado Legislature to boost funding for K-12 education by the rate of inflation plus one percent every year.The problem with the district’s assumption is that the inflation-plus-one formula has yet to hit 4 percent, due mostly to almost non-existent inflation.But the district has paid the full amount the past two years, and Todd Huck wants the practice to continue at least one more year.Huck is president of the Eagle County Education Association, which negotiates pay and benefits for the district’s teachers. The association and the district negotiated fully-funded raises in the last two teacher contracts. But TAP has only included about half the district’s teachers over the last two years. Huck said the rest of the district’s teachers should have the same opportunity.”That would be the fair thing,” Huck said.The question, though, is whether the district can continue to afford fully funding raises without more money from the state.During a recent school board discussion, board member Louise Funk asked if the district could fully fund raises on its own.”It’s not a one-year obligation,” district finance director Karen Strakbein said. “If you do that, then you’re obligated to pay those salaries in the future, too.”The bigger pictureThe pay raise issue is one part of a bigger picture regarding pay in the district. The school board and administrators are in the middle of a series of meetings about how employees will be paid. Another item sure to spark argument is how the district will adjust its pay schedules to reflect the higher cost of living in Eagle County. The district already puts a cost of living adjustment into employee paychecks, and is now debating how to do it in coming years.Strakbein’s office has come up with a couple of possible methods. One takes the difference between the county’s cost of living for one person and the average of about a dozen similar-sized school districts. The other calculates that difference as a percentage.With the flat rate, every employee would get a boost of about $3,500. Using the percentage, all salaries would be boosted by about 13 percent, meaning people who earn more money would get a bigger cost of living adjustment.But, like teacher pay, the new system remains up for more debate.”This is still all under discussion,” Strakbein said. “It’s all still subject to board action and negotiations.”Listening to Huck, the education association’s position seems clear, at least for now.”We’re still in the early stages (of TAP), and you don’t have 100 percent buy-in from the teachers,” he told the board. Not funding raises “just gives more ammunition people. That’s what you’re dealing with.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.===================How it works now:Say a teacher earned $40,000 during the 2003-04 school year, then earned a $2,000 performance pay bonus. That teacher would be paid the bonus in a lump sum. The teacher would then earn a salary of $42,000 for the 2004-05 school year.How it might work:If state funding for the 2005-06 increases by less than 4 percent over this year, teachers may not get their full performance bonus added to their salary. For instance, if state funding increases 2 percent next year, a teacher who earns $40,000 and gets a $2,000 bonus will earn a salary of $41,000 for the 2005-06 school year.====================Vail Daily, Vail Colorado


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