Laurie Spate-Smith says a proposed salary increase for Columbia teachers gives veteran teachers like her a clear message — they should retire to help pay the salaries of teachers who are just starting out.
Spate-Smith, who teaches English at Jefferson Junior High School and is the Columbia president of the Missouri National Education Association, said many of the 355 teachers in her organization feel let down by a school district proposal that would raise the minimum salary for new teachers from $28,202 to $33,000. The base pay for all the district’s teachers would be raised by $700.
While Spate-Smith said she appreciates the administration’s attempts to communicate the proposal to teachers, she said some existing teachers think the plan is geared too much toward recruiting teachers at the expense of loyal veteran employees.
“I hate to say this, but we don’t like it,” Spate-Smith said. “My members are not happy with it.”
Ed Hanson, president of the Columbia Community Teachers Association, said the proposal has merit and directly addresses problems with recruiting new teachers. Hanson said recruiting battles with other Missouri schools that pay more means the highest quality teachers aren’t making their way into the district. He said he wants teachers to look at the proposal and see for themselves the difference in salary between this year and the next.
“People think veteran teachers are getting a $700 raise and that’s it,” Hanson said. “It allows healthy raises for everyone, while still being competitive.”
Hanson said part of being competitive means having teachers that make enough money to live on.
Todd Fuller, a spokesman for the Missouri State Teachers Association, said Columbia has less of a problem bringing new teachers into the district than surrounding school districts in the region.
“Students are still very interested in teaching in the Columbia area,” Fuller said.
Competitive salaries are important to a school district, but Columbia runs the risk of losing tenured teachers over the issue, Fuller said.
“I would caution against increasing starting salaries over salaries of veteran teachers and make sure things are equitable across the board,” Fuller said.
John Felts, a guidance counselor at Russell Boulevard Elementary School and a member of the CCTA’s salary committee, said a $700 increase in base salary isn’t going to be received as well as a proposal where “all share in the spoils.”
The CCTA plans to send out an electronic survey in February so teachers can voice their opinions on issues like salary and class sizes.