Teacher pay raise to hinge on vote

Unexpected state funding could lead to a 9 percent increase in teachers’ salary.
Wednesday, June 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:06 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Next year, teachers in the Columbia Public School District could receive their largest pay raise in more than a decade.

With the help of unanticipated funding from the state, the teachers can expect the first salary increase of more than $1,000 since 1991 if the 2004-05 school year budget is approved. In addition to the estimated

9 percent salary increase, fewer positions will be eliminated.

Though funding from the state for 2004-2005 is less than the previous year, it is more than early estimates predicted. Before the final state budget came through in April, the school district determined the amount of reserve money they would use for the upcoming year, said Karla DeSpain, vice president of the school board.

The board decided several months ago that any unexpected money from the state would go toward increasing teachers’ salaries while eliminating fewer positions, DeSpain said.

“We’re pleasantly surprised that they were able to come through with this great of an increase in salaries,” said Ed Hanson, new president of Columbia Community Teachers Association. “This tells me that they really value their teachers. They’re not only trying to retain (current teachers) but also attract the best and brightest.”

The eliminated positions, equivalent to 16 full-time jobs — down from 34 — will come from schools where class sizes were small enough to be combined, said deputy superintendent Jacque Cowherd. Many of the cuts will be achieved through retirement and teachers leaving the district.

Fluctuating and decreasing enrollment has caused schools to form mixed-grade-level classes, DeSpain said. This becomes a particular problem during state testing. Students might not have had the curriculum covered by the test.

The next step for the budget will be at the regular board meeting Monday night, during which the board could take its final vote.

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