COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado Springs School District 11 and the teacher’s union reached an agreement Thursday, raising the starting teacher salary to one of the best in the region.
Anton Schulzki just finished his 40th year teaching in District 11. While he’s happy about his salary increase, he’s more excited for his two daughters, who recently started teaching in D11.
This is because the new salary schedule emphasizes significant increases for early-career educators, who are in their first ten years of teaching. The starting salary for a teacher in their first year will be $50,000 — a 20% increase.
“It's really important for our early career educators because finally now we've broken that cycle of keeping teachers at a pace that really doesn't keep up with inflation,” Schulzki said.
Schulzki said the starting teacher salary hasn’t increased, except for adjusted inflation, since he started with the D11 back in 1983.
“I'd like to think that we're leading the way now, and it's really refreshing to see D11 at the top of the list instead of at the bottom of the list,” said Michael Gaal, the Superintendent for District 11.
While teachers in their first ten years will receive larger increases, ranging from 20% to 7%, all D11 teachers will receive a 5% salary increase.
“This overlay increases the compensation for those very early career educators so that they can almost literally afford to stay in the business,” said Joe Schott, the president of the Colorado Springs Education Association, which represents D11 teachers.
But Schott and Schulzki are quick to point out it’s not only about salary increases though. According to the agreement, the total teacher package, including benefits, experience, bonuses, and service, will increase by nearly 16%.
“It's important that we keep the long-term educators in the district, right? They're the voice of experience. They're the ones who can certainly reach out and mentor some of our early career educators,” Schulzki said.
Education Support Professionals, which includes paraeducators, food service workers, bus drivers, and custodians, will receive more than a 23% total increase. Executive Professionals, like administration and leadership, will see more than a 13% total increase.
“Adults closest to students were our targeted areas for raises,” Gaal said. “We believe that's going to pay off. If students are given access to the highest quality instruction, then they will achieve.”
However, it took D11 and the Colorado Springs Education Association longer than usual to come to an agreement. Schott called the negotiations “contentious.”
“I don't remember going over like this before,” he said. “I've been doing this for, well, 13 years now in the bargaining room. This is definitely the longest it’s ever taken.”
He said they had to add two additional days for bargaining because the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement. He said the District’s first offer was only a 3% increase for all teachers.
“The way it's gone in the past is we've just negotiated around a number,” Gaal said. “Changing the school district, changing outcomes for children requires us to think differently.”
Schott now says D11’s starting salary is “very attractive”, while the District says it is the best in the region, giving them an advantage over other schools in Southern Colorado.
“This is the icing on the cake, or maybe it's the cake itself,” Schott said. “This is what'll keep people here.”