Aug 05 2013

Steps and Lanes

Today I signed my agreement to officially return for a third year at my school. As a small center, we’ve had a pretty tight budget every year, but we were fortunate enough to see a slight pay increase going into next year. But my agreement also led me to some questions.

Now that I’m in my third year, I’m also a fully certified educator. Over the past two years I was paid lower than my colleagues because I wasn’t credentialed like them. Yet, my pay increase is the same percentage as their increase. I don’t fault my school for not having the money to provide me a larger increase, but I do wonder if this is a more widespread problem for Teach For America teachers who do stay in the classroom. I imagine if I wanted to stay longer than a year and waited out some of my colleagues I could get a large increase, but that creates a waiting game. I wouldn’t be interested in playing it.

Further, as I approach the end of my Masters program, veteran teachers continue to advise me against completing it until I secure a good position. I think this makes sense if I’m to pursue a career in a public school. They generally have steps and lanes (specific pay scales) that make it less desirable for schools to hire more qualified individuals. The more educated a candidate, the more they cost the school. I wonder if there are cases of individuals omitting their graduate degrees from their résumés or foregoing higher education altogether as a result of these hiring practices. In a charter school I imagine that’s not the case, as educators aren’t guaranteed higher pay for higher education — which is another debate.

My former principal told me to go out there and market myself in the coming year and advocate for the best deal possible. I think I have to brush up on my negotiation skills!

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8 Responses

  1. The master’s thing is one of those popular folk wisdom ideas that I haven’t seen much evidence of in actual practice. I think it’s POSSIBLY true of brand new teachers coming out of the gate with a master’s – does the district really want to pay a premium price for someone who has no proven track record? – but unless a district is incredibly cash-strapped the few thousand dollar difference between lanes is a drop in the bucket when you’re looking at the overall operating budget.

    • Right and in my case I’m looking to leave Milwaukee after this year. Thus, I would be a new teacher! I have no idea how I ended up here and it’s really time for me to either go back home or start a new adventure with my partner. I love my students, my school, my co-workers, and even the city, but Milwaukee doesn’t feel permanent for me.

  2. Meghank

    In my district a lot of teachers with experience and Master’s (and 3s, 4s, and 5s on the district evaluation) were laid off and hundreds of first year teachers, many without certification, hired in their place. I don’t know what the reason for that is, but I imagine it had something to do with payroll costs.

    • Is it possible to obtain tenure in your district? I know that one of my high school teachers in Michigan waited until she had tenure to pursue more classes because she was afraid that she would be laid off.

      Teachers unions have to be in a tough place here, too, because you don’t want to lose highly educated individuals, but you probably don’t want to advocate changes in the structure and pay scale, either, because that would bring down those already in the system.

  3. Meghank

    The teachers I was speaking of with a Masters, on average ten years or more of experience, and high evaluation scores, were tenured.

    Now that unions have lost collective bargaining rights in my state, tenure apparently means nothing.

    • Sadly I think the loss of collective bargaining rights also devalues continuing ed. Why pay people more when they don’t have to, right?

  4. Where I live in the Delta, where schools and budgets tend to be smaller and hiring locally vs more qualified happens a lot, a master’s does play into hiring.
    I think it really depends on where you go and what kind of students you want to teach. I agree that a strong track record and great interview shoooould outweigh you being an “expensive” investment. If you go to a “good” district I don’t see pay being an issue, but if you aim to continue serving low-performing and thus often fiscally irresponsible districts, it might be an obstacle (super sadly).

    All this coming from a girl who is working on her own maters. ;)

    • Thank you, Caroline! :)

      I am going to complete my program and I think I am going to accept the degree on time as well. We’ll see what the future holds!

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I'm an educator, Kalamazoo College alumnus, Democrat, and proud Detroiter! Views here are my own.

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