Cleveland Plain Dealer
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Ellen Jan Kleinerman and Angela Townsend
Plain Dealer Reporters
[To view 2005-2006 pay scales for Cleveland area teachers, click here
Look at the averages and Ohio's teachers seem to be doing pretty well:
The state is ranked 14th in average teacher pay by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average salary of $47,791 is 2.6 percent higher than the U.S. figure.
Over the past five years, salaries rose 19.3 percent, according to the Ohio Public Expenditure Council, outpacing the 13 percent inflation rate.
But not every teacher reaped big benefits. In Northeast Ohio, pay varies widely along with the money brought in by property taxes. For example, teachers in suburban Beachwood are paid considerably more than teachers in rural Newbury. Yet, students in both districts perform well on the state's standardized tests.
Rookie teachers in the tax-wealthy suburb of Beachwood get the highest starting pay in the state. Pamela Ogilvy, 24, landed a job as a social studies teacher in August. Ogilvy – who graduated in May from Columbia University with a master's degree in education – is making nearly $47,000 a year. Without the master's, she would earn about $40,500.
Just 14 miles away in rural Geauga County, Rebekah Miller, 22, is earning $30,666 teaching middle school language arts and math. The Newbury district signed Miller in April as she completed her bachelor’s degree at Ursuline College.
Miller already is feeling the squeeze with daily living expenses and college loans coming due.
“I love where I am,” she said. “The only reason I could see myself leaving here in a few years is if I could make more money somewhere else.”
The gap persists as teachers climb the steps of the salary scales their unions have negotiated for them. More years on the job and additional degrees automatically bring bigger paychecks, aside from any systemwide raises approved by school boards.
Teachers with 11 years on the job and a master’s degree — the typical experienced teacher — make more than $68,000 in Beachwood compared to $49,000 in Newbury. About half the teachers in most districts are in this category.
Teachers with doctorates and even more years on the job can earn more than $90,000 in Shaker and Aurora.
The disparity between districts is common in Ohio, said Tom Mooney of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
The widest gap is found between suburban and rural districts because of the difference in property values, which determine how much money a district can reap beyond what it gets from the state. Urban districts generally are somewhere in the middle.
The candidate pool is full for most subject areas
But wherever they fall, districts in Northeast Ohio have little trouble finding candidates for the few open positions that pop up. The usual exceptions are in math, science and special-education, where a limited supply of candidates are in high demand.
That’s a huge contrast with other parts of the country, such as South Carolina and Nevada where signing bonuses are used to help fill scores of openings. Mooney said Ohio today has 8,000 fewer public school teachers than in 2001 due to falling population, job cuts in financially ailing districts and competition from charter and voucher schools.
Teachers in private schools and charter schools without union representation typically have lower salaries.
Beachwood called Ogilvy on Aug. 9 about an opening in a 10th-grade social studies class at Beachwood High School. Two weeks later, she made her classroom debut, winning the job over 11 other applicants.
Ogilvy said she considers herself lucky. She probably is, given the fact that wealthy districts like Beachwood rarely hire entry-level teachers.
Miller said the Newbury district offered her the job the day of her interview. Though she knew other districts like Hudson and Solon paid more, she feared Newbury could quickly find another candidate if she decided to look around.
“I have friends who had to move out of state to find [teaching] jobs,” she said. “One of them applied to 30 different school districts here.”
Ohio graduates are commonly courted for teaching jobs elsewhere. About half the recruiters at last spring’s Northeast Ohio Teacher Education Day were from outside of Ohio, said Katherine Krejci, who handled registration for the event.
Beachwood Human Resources Director Phillip Wagner said he received more than 200 unsolicited applications last school year for possible openings in Beachwood. He hired 10 new teachers for this school year, seven of whom replaced teachers who had left.
The high salaries and good benefits are likely reasons why there’s not much movement in the teaching ranks, he added. Thanks to a new contract ratified in June, Beachwood teachers will get 3 percent raises in each of the next three years — aside from step raises.
You might assume the Elyria school district would have a much harder time attracting candidates, considering it had one of the lowest starting salaries in Northeast Ohio last year. But Human Resources Director Gary Taylor said that a typical year will bring more than 150 unsolicited résumés. The lower salaries are still competitive and haven’t affected the district’s recruiting efforts, he said.
Like every Ohio school district, Elyria relies heavily on local property taxes. Because its community wealth lags behind places such as Beachwood, Solon and Orange, the salaries it can pay lag, too.
Elyria residents passed a tax increase last year, but district employees agreed to a pay freeze to keep expenses in line. The freeze is still in effect.
“People don’t generally get into education for the motivation of ‘I’m going to make a killing financially,’ ” Taylor said.
Mooney estimates it takes 16 years on the job for a teacher in Ohio to reach a “livable middle-class salary.” He thinks pay scales should be adjusted to compress that timeline and keep teachers in the profession.
Mooney is quick to point out that teachers had to fight for higher pay over the past several decades.
Now, they’re increasingly being asked to give up some of the generous fringe benefits they negotiated in lieu of big paychecks.
But others note that teachers’ pay is competitive with other professions requiring similar education. A government study puts Cleveland-area teachers’ hourly wages ahead of registered nurses, reporters, engineers, social workers, and librarians. Accountants and computer analysts earn slightly more.
James Guthrie, a professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, said teachers have job security and are not paid badly, especially when benefits are factored in. Nationwide, they often get 80 to 90 percent of their pay once they start collecting a full pension after 30 years of service — “very luxurious” in his estimation.
Jay McLoughlin, dean of Cleveland State University’s College of Education and Human Services, agrees teacher salaries in Northeast Ohio are “decent.”
“This is a nine-month salary with health benefits, stability, tenure,” he said, adding that many people are willing to trade a higher salary for the work environment and summers off.
Nevertheless, McLoughlin said teachers are “definitely underpaid” considering what is expected of them.
“They have the added pressure to make the community look good. The real estate industry watches the [state school report card] ratings like crazy,” he said.
Cleveland Teachers Union President Joanne DeMarco said pay doesn’t always reflect the rigors of the job in a high-poverty urban area, where students are often ill-prepared for school.
“We should be the top pay in the state because of the challenges in our schools,” she said.
Educators point out that money is key to attracting and retaining the best and brightest to the field.
“We have not established education as a high priority when you look at the dollars we have allocated as a state,” said Rebecca McElfresh, an education instructor at Ursuline College.
Ogilvy, the Beachwood teacher, said her salary says a lot about how much the district and the community value her work.
Newbury’s Miller said she never considered another profession, despite the financial strain.
“I was a struggling math student until the ninth grade when I had a fabulous teacher who made me love math. I’m teaching today because of her.”
From John Curry, December 03, 2006
Subject: Re: A better copy of the Cleveland area teacher pay scales
Those nice salaries along with many of their school districts picking up all or part of their 10% STRS contribution ALONG with picking up much of their single and family health care plans gives them a false sense of retirement security. Most of those teachers don't have the slightest idea what STRS retirees have to pay for healthcare insurance - out of sight, out of mind. They will only find out when they retire. In short, ignorance is bliss! John
From: June Hughes To: John Curry
Sent: Sunday, December 03, 2006
Subject: Re: A better copy of the Cleveland area teacher pay scales
I started teaching at the Willoughby-Eastlake school at $4800. My my how salaries have changed! :-))) I'd like their retirement checks, what a difference that would make in my living economics.