Ohio’s House Education Committee Chair, Gerald Stebelton, had pushed for the minimum teacher salary schedule to be rendered moot when he quickly amended House Bill 343 recently. While the committee rapidly passed that amended bill along partisan lines, support for the change apparently didn’t carry forward to the larger General Assembly.
In a flurry of events yesterday, Representative Andy Brenner backtracked on his support (after voting affirmatively as the Education Committee Vice Chair) for the bill and referred it from the full House to the House Rules and Reference Committee where the bill was “un”-amended and sent back to the full House where it then passed overwhelmingly. Thus, the grossly-outdated minimum teacher salary schedule remains unchanged in state law.
While this should be considered a victory for educators statewide to retain a schedule that recognizes experience and education, the salary schedule remains sorely outdated and well below what most would call a livable wage.
Here’s the existing schedule:
During testimony to retain this minimum schedule, OEA’s Matt Dotson pointed out how low the amounts were and made a case for keeping a schedule while revising the amounts to be more in line with present day costs.
Unfortunately, state minimum teacher salaries were last updated in 2001. For example, the minimum base salary for a teacher with zero years of service and a Bachelor’s degree is $20,000. The minimum top salary, at eleven years of service with a Bachelor’s degree is $28,360; this is bumped to $32,460 if the teacher has earned a Master’s Degree.
It may be said that these low-end salary minimums are outdated and therefore the minimum teacher salary schedule is an anachronism. A quick review of the teacher salary picture in Ohio demonstrates that the teacher minimum salary schedule is still relevant, probably more than ever.
For example, the minimum base salary established in 2001 for a teacher with zero years of service and a Bachelor’s degree is $20,000, which had an inflation adjusted value of $25,928 in 2012 (based on U.S. Dept. of Labor inflation calculator). In 2012, six Ohio school districts had starting base salaries below $25,928. In effect, the starting teacher salaries in these districts in 2012 were less than the $20,000 value of the state minimum salary established in 2001. Other districts were not far above. The lowest starting teacher salary in Ohio in 2012 was $23,660. Of course, one alternative approach to dealing with the minimum teacher salary schedule would be to update the minimum salaries to reflect the inflation indexed value in today’s dollars. Ensuring that Ohio’s starting teachers are paid at least the value of what $20,000 was in 2001 should be something we can all agree on. Another approach would be to explore the question of whether minimum teacher salaries should be increased beyond an inflation update.
In conclusion, the Ohio Education Association recommends that Ohio focus on ways to pay our committed educators more, not make it easier to pay them less.
Of course, the House had no such goal in mind, despite the fact that Stebelton was also leading the charge to mandate increased salaries for other state workers, including his peers in the General Assembly and the Governor in separate legislation he introduced right around the same time. That bill, House Bill 661, seems to have hit a snag as leaders in both the House and the Senate can’t come to an agreement on how that should be handled.