Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indianapolis Teachers Propose Overhaul Of IPS Pay System

Several Indianapolis Public School teachers have proposed modifications for their next contract to change the way they’re paid.

A group of Indianapolis Public School teachers and Teach Plus fellows have outlined their ideas to change they way they get paid.

Dondu.Small (flickr)

A group of Indianapolis Public School teachers and Teach Plus fellows have outlined their ideas to change they way they get paid.

In coordination with Teach Plus, an organization that aims to get teachers involved in education policy, a group of IPS fellows have released a brief suggesting several changes for their next teacher contract. They say their goal is to keep the district on budget while also providing incentives to draw and retain top talent.

“[We] believe that there are opportunities for dramatic policy changes that will elevate the teaching profession in a new way,” the group said in a statement. “Excellent teachers can take on additional roles and responsibilities to earn more compensation, develop as leaders, and be the change-agents in Indianapolis Public Schools.”

Teacher pay statewide has become less competitive over the last decade. Between 2003 and 2013, Indiana public school teachers saw their average salaries fall 12.3 percent, compared to a national average of 3.2 percent, according to a report by the National Education Association.

The NEA estimates the average teacher in Indiana earns a little more than $50,000 annually.

Pay disparity is another issue within the IPS system, as schools with a more veteran teaching force tend to see higher salaries. Among the ten highest-paid schools, teaching staff average around 19 years of experience and $56,000 in annual salary; in the ten lowest-paid schools, the average salary is closer to $45,000, with teaching experience averaging closer to 8 years.

The district’s salary scale typically awards approximately $1,500 for each year up to 20 years of experience.

Teach Plus/IPS Teaching Policy Fellows say offering a tuition reimbursement rather than pay for additional degrees will help curb these disparities, as well as help with student loan debt. Limiting pay for experience is another option, which could shift money to high performers and incentivize teachers to take on additional responsibilities.

The group has also suggested large-scale policy shifts to drive more money to the best teachers, including moving to a student-based budgeting model and rethinking teacher evaluation.

“[These moves] will build school budgets based on the students they serve, not the adults they employ,” the group said.

This new compensation system follows guidelines established under a state law from 2011 that requires school districts to evaluate teachers and other licensed staff annually. These evaluations must place teachers into four performance categories linked with merit pay: highly effective, effective, needs improvement and ineffective. Only teachers receiving “highly effective” or “effective” ratings are eligible for a raise.

Since the law was enacted, IPS has operated on a frozen contract, meaning district teachers have not received any pay increase.

“The result of a multi-year pay freeze has been very difficult, especially for early career teachers at the bottom of the salary schedule,” said Rachel Quinn, teacher at Harshman Magnet Middle School and one of the Teach Plus fellows. “Our compensation system needs to recognize talented educators, and it needs to be aligned with the district’s priority of attracting and retaining the best teachers.”

IPS plans to begin negotiations for a new contract with the teachers union this summer.




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