First-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree:
Teachers with Ph.D and more than 5 years experience:
Starting teachers’ salaries in Meriden are higher than those in surrounding school districts, but pay for city teachers falls behind suburban districts when educators become more experienced, according to a contract comparison released by an education reform non-profit.
ConnCAN, based in New Haven, released a website that allows visitors to easily compare teacher and administrator pay in state school districts with each other and state averages. Administrators’ contracts were added this year while the teacher contract database was started last year and updated this month to reflect the latest agreements.
Jennifer Alexander, ConnCAN CEO, said she hopes the data will result in demands for education reform. The group advocates for charter schools and supports linking teachers’ performance with rewards.
“We hope by providing access to this data in a user-friendly way, everyone in the system will have a better understanding of how the system works,” Alexander said.
Teachers’ contracts drive a good portion of schools’ policies and expenditures, Alexander said.
The American Federation of Teachers, a union representing Meriden teachers, criticized ConnCAN which they said was “scapegoating teachers.”
“With the largest achievement gap in the nation, what Connecticut really needs is a meaningful discussion about how we build a system of great neighborhood public schools. One where educators have the tools and resources to meet the needs of each and every child,” said AFT President Melodie Peters. “What we don’t need is more emphasis on sanctions instead of support for teachers in the classroom.”
For first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire contracts were all within a few thousand dollars of the $43,524 state average. Meriden pays new teachers $47,379.
The highest-end teachers, those with a Ph.D. and more than five years of experience, are paid $84,404 by the city. Surrounding suburbs all pay higher. Cheshire pays $95,637 to teachers with similar education and experience, while Wallingford pays $94,963.
Meriden School Superintendent Mark Benigni said retaining veteran teachers is a common problem for city schools although for the most part Meriden has been able to retain its employees.
Pay is higher at the starting levels to compensate for city schools that often have higher class sizes than suburban counterparts along with other challenges. Benigni said for some teachers, urban districts are attractive for reasons other than pay.
“Some of the issues or challenges are what make working in an urban district rewarding,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate we’ve been able to recruit high-quality teachers.”
The city doesn’t have the money to pay more than surrounding suburbs the whole way up the pay scale, however. That’s led to the loss of some older teachers to districts that can pay more.
“We’ve definitely lost a handful of teachers but we’re fortunate that our teachers enjoy working in Meriden and embrace the challenges of working in a suburban district,” Benigni said. “Meriden has done a good job of retaining teachers.”
The state should provide money or other incentives for teachers to remain in urban districts, according to Benigni.
In addition to pay, the database compares contractual benefits, professional development days and whether the district allows for performance pay. Up to $1,089 per year is allowed for performance pay in Southington schools.
Wallingford is one of the districts which pays close to the state averages. School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said it’s a result of the school board and the teachers working together.
At all experience and educational levels, Cheshire teachers earn more than the state average. Cheshire Board of Education Gerald Brittingham said that’s in part due to the longer days town teachers work. According to their contract, teachers work 7 hours and 20 minutes while the state average is 7 hours and 13 minutes.
That extra time is used in part for collaboration between teachers and administrators, Brittingham said.
While pay is part of what keeps teachers with a district, Brittingham said it’s not the only factor.
“The way you retain quality teachers is the overall spirit and experience in the community,” he said. “There’s more to retaining teachers than just pay.”