SANDY — Canyons School District would pay teachers a $50,000 starting salary under a tentative agreement with its teachers association, making it the highest starting pay for teachers in Salt Lake County, second only to the Park City School District statewide.
All licensed teachers in Canyons would receive a $7,665 annual raise under the proposed agreement, according to a statement read by Nancy Tingey, president of the school board, at the district's annual celebration of top educators Tuesday night.
“Nothing in the public education system has a greater effect on a student’s learning than the teacher in the classroom. To the end of furthering the vision and mission of Canyons District through elevating the role of a teacher in our district’s success, we, the Canyons Board of Education, are looking to make a significant investment in teacher salaries,” Tingey said.
But will that significant hike trigger another salary war among Utah school districts that are attempting to attract more trained and licensed teachers to classrooms and retain them?
The significant increase proposed by Canyons will unquestionably pique attention of other local school boards as they negotiate with teacher associations in their school districts, education officials say.
It may mean other districts offer competitive packages to teachers, which could help attract people to the professions or retain teachers. But for districts with less capacity or political will to raise taxes, it may be harder to attract new teachers, let alone retain the teachers they have.
"I applaud them for wanting to pay educators more. We'll have to see. I can't imagine there won't be second- and third-level effects. I do imagine they will be both positive and negative. We'll have to address both as we proceed forward," said State Deputy Superintendent of Operations Scott Jones.
But until other school boards complete contract negotiations with their teacher associations, it's premature to know what the full impacts will be, he said.
The $98 million appropriation that accompanied the Teacher and Student Success Act allows all school districts to use 25 percent of their funding for salaries and benefits.
Others can use 40 percent to increase teacher compensation if their average salaries are below the state weighted average or they are in the state's smallest school districts.
In Canyons' case, the pay raise for licensed teachers will also require a local property tax increase — around $12 monthly on the average home in the district. The school district will conduct a truth-in-taxation hearing in August to present the proposed tax increase to district patrons.
The proposed pay raise represents "a double-digit percentage boost for every teacher," Tingey said.
The agreement will be considered at the board’s next meeting and requires ratification by the Canyons Education Association.
Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney said the proposed agreement also demonstrates the district's commitment to students.
"We're investing not just in our teachers but in our children when we pay teachers in line with other professionals," Haney said.
Terry Shoemaker, who represents the state's school boards and superintendent professional associations, said he hopes the proposed pay raise will encourage more college students to consider teaching as a career.
"We're still in the midst of a teacher shortage. We're finding teachers but we're not necessarily finding fully-qualified teachers like we used to be able to do. I think this helps to encourage people to go into the profession," said Shoemaker, a former superintendent.
But will it start another round of salary wars?
"We'll have to see what the response is but I would not be surprised," Shoemaker said.
"Frankly, I can see other school districts wanting to move in that direction if they have the funds to do so."
Contract negotiations with teacher associations are still underway so it remains to be seen how other districts respond. Still, the announcement by the Canyons board "sends a very powerful message about the importance of teaching in their school district," Shoemaker said.
Tingey said the proposed increase elevates "the teaching profession by bringing salaries in line with those of other professionals in Utah, and making it possible for teachers to pursue their passion, and do what they’re good at while also earning a living wage."
All tax revenue from the proposed property tax hike "would go exclusively to teacher salaries. We see this investment as a positive step toward inspiring college students to regard teaching as a viable career and reinforce the belief that teaching is a destination profession," she said.
Coupled with the commitment to constructing new schools and renovating existing schools and robust educator training opportunities, "this proposed new compensation plan will make Canyons stand out as a district of choice, not just in Utah but around the country," Tingey said.
Beyond public schools' educational mission, "what happens in public schools helps to lay the foundation of our culture and communities," Shoemaker said.
So it is imperative to have "our very best people teaching these things with the help of parents, obviously, who are guiding their kids on those things. But all the time they're in school, we want them to have those important cultural and community experiences to help our state grow and be the best it can be," Shoemaker said.
Contributing: Mary Richards