Aleesia Johnson, Michael O'Connor, IPS

IPS school board president Michael O'Connor and superintendent Aleesia Johnson listen to comments during a work session where teacher raises and contract negotiations were approved. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

The Indianapolis Public Schools board approved two new union contracts that will give district teachers and service workers a substantial raise, making the district more competitive with surrounding school corporations.

The board ratified two-year contracts with the Indianapolis Education Association (IEA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at its Nov. 12 work session. The IEA covers teachers, and the AFSCME covers service workers such as custodians and transportation employees.

The combined raises from both contracts will total about $31.2 million.

The IEA contract raises the range of starting salary and maximum salary to $45,200 and $82,800, respectively, in the first year. They will move again to $47,800 and $90,000 in the second year. The maximum raise for teachers will be $9,400 to account for recession-era freezes in pay.

The AFSCME contract makes a market adjustment in pay for all groups of employees. Those groups include custodial, food service, paraprofessional and transportation. The largest raises will go to custodial employees, with an average increase of $2,350. Food service employees are on the low end at $450.

All pay raises will be retroactive to July, and the district expects raises to go in effect before the end of the year. Teacher raises will be dependent on variables such as evaluations, if they teach in a “high needs” subject and how long they’ve been with the district.

IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson and board President Michael O’Connor credited the 2018 operations referendum for being able to provide these pay increases.

“We can’t solve the lack of trust in government in any other place than maybe our own little corner,” O’Connor said, “but we’re doing exactly what we promised we would do with these referendum dollars.”

The raise for teachers represents the largest in district history and makes IPS competitive with surrounding districts across the board, but IEA bargaining chair Tina Ahlgren noted teacher salaries around the state have been suppressed since the 2008 recession.

IPS has done a decent job of keeping pace with surrounding school districts when it comes to starting salary, she said, but veteran teachers haven’t been compensated competitively.

Ahlgren said she was losing some of her “best colleagues” to other districts because of pay.

“I used to be able to convince them to stay when it was a $1,000, $2,000 difference,” she said, but by the time she started bargaining for IEA in 2015, “it was $14,000, $15,000 people were making by leaving, and you can’t even begin to convince someone to stay when they have families that they have to support.”

Indiana lawmakers increased school funding by 2.5% over the next two years as part of the state’s budget earlier this year, but those increases won’t go to teacher salaries. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show Indiana ranks last among Midwest states in average teacher salary.

Superintendent Johnson said she wants the state legislature to get more aggressive in how it funds education.

“We’re pulling the levers that we have at our disposal,” Johnson said, “but … at some point we have to consider funding equity and not equal funding.”

School districts across the state — including IPS and other local districts — have canceled classes Nov. 19 so teachers can attend the Red for Ed Action Day at the Indiana Statehouse, where educators will advocate for issues including school funding and teacher pay.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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