Although the District 65 School Board unanimously approved a five-year collective bargaining agreement with the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union) on June 10, the contract was not signed by Suni Kartha, President of the School Board President, and Meg Krulee, President of the DEC, until Oct. 23.  The contract, with salary schedules, was first made public after that.

Under the contract, an individual teacher’s salary may increase in three ways: 1) an increase in base salary, which is in the nature of a cost of living increase; 2) a “Step” increase, which is an increase based on years of experience or service; and 3) and an increase due to a “Track” movement. There are five Tracks, and a teacher may apply to move up a Track every three years if the teacher meets certain criteria, such as obtaining a master’s degree, continuing education, participation on school or District committees or leadership projects during the contract term.

There is a separate salary schedule for each year in the contract. Each schedule has five columns, one for each Track. In addition, the schedules contain 22 rows, one for each Step for which a Step increase applies. The schedules show the compensation for teachers at each Step and Track.  

Starting and Top Teacher Salaries in FY’20

The total compensation for a teacher in Step 1 and Track I, including the Teacher Retirement System (pension) payments made by the District on behalf of the employee, is $49,238 in fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 (FY’20). If the teacher has a Master’s degree, the compensation is $53,670.

At the top end, a teacher in Step 22, Track V is $111,279 in FY’20. If a teacher has more than 22 years of experience, they may receive a lump-sum payment equal to 0.9% of their base salary.

In addition, the portion of health insurance costs paid by the District for teachers is 80% of the overall cost. The value of health insurance is not included in the compensation figures.

Base Salary Increases

First, the contract ties the increase in a teacher’s base salary to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). One rationale for doing this is that approximately 80% of the District’s operating revenues are from property taxes, which are subject to tax caps. The tax caps limit the District’s ability to increase property taxes to the lessor of 5% or the CPI. In order to more closely align the increase in base salary expenses with the increase in the District’s primary source of revenues, the contract connects the increase in base salary to the CPI – with a minimum and maximum increase in three of the years, FY’22, FY’23 and FY’24.

 The base salary increases under the contract are:

• FY’20 base increase of 2.1% (the applicable CPI)

• FY’21 base increase of 1.9% (the applicable CPI)

• FY’22 100% of CPI, with a minimum of 1.75% and a maximum of 2.5%

• FY’23 100% of CPI, with a minimum of 1.5% and a maximum of 2.5%

• FY’24 100% of CPI, with a minimum of 1.5% and a maximum of 2.65%

The base salaries listed in the schedules attached to the contract reflect increases in the base salary using the minimum increases provided for in FY’22, FY’23, and FY’24. The base salary and total compensation amounts referred to below may thus increase more than the amounts reflected in the salary schedules.

Step Increases

Each year, DEC members who are eligible move up one “Step” on the salary schedule. The schedules include increases for 22 Steps. In general terms, there is an increase for each year of experience, but the increases max out at 22 years of experience.

Under the contract’s salary schedules, the dollar increase in total compensation due to a Step movement varies depending on where a teacher is in terms of Steps and Tracks. For example, for FY’20, the table below compares the difference in compensation at various Steps, within the same Track.

After Step 22, there is no increase in compensation due to a Step increase, but teachers may receive a lump sum payment.        

The table reflects that the Step increases for individual teachers are set at a higher rate in the early years, and they decline as a teacher’s years of service increases.

Raphael Obafemi, the District’s Chief Financial and Operations Officer, told the RoundTable that 77% of teachers qualify for Step increases this year, FY’20; and that the average increase in compensation due to Step increases is about 1.5% across all teachers.

Track Increases

Teachers who move up a Track also obtain an increase in compensation. The criteria to move up a track are contained in “An Overview of the Rating Based System,” revised in October 2019. The overview says a Track movements recognizes a teacher’s “continuous outstanding professional performance in connection with the education of District 65 students. Such recognition will be based primarily on the staff member’s meritorious service as evidenced by the fulfillment of the stated criteria.  High track attainment mandates continuous outstanding professional performance in District 65 and to education in general.”

The amount that compensation increases due to a Track movement varies depending on where a teacher is in terms of Steps and Tracks. For example, the table below compares the difference in compensation for FY’20 at various Tracks for teachers who are at the same Step.

A teacher with a master’s degree is automatically placed in Track II. Other factors or criteria for a track movement include other college coursework, continuing education, building or district level participation, and demonstrated leadership.

Under the criteria, a teacher may apply for a Track movement in three years, with the exception of a teacher who receives a summative rating of “Needs Improvement” or “Unsatisfactory.” These teachers are not eligible to apply for a Track movement until they receive a summative rating of at least “Proficient.” Before 2016, a teacher needed to receive two or three summative ratings of “Excellent” in the last three of four evaluation periods to be eligible for a Track movement.

Mr. Obafemi told the RoundTable that approximately 113 teachers submitted applications this year to move up a Track, and the applications must still be reviewed and approved. For the period FY’16 through FY’19, he said an average of 91 teachers filed applications to move up a Track.

The Total Increases

The RoundTable determined the increases in total compensation (including TRS payments, but not including a value for health care benefits) of teachers who started out at six different Step and Track levels over the life of the five-year contract.  

The table below shows the increase in the total compensation for teachers starting out at six different Step (S) and Track (T) levels between FY’19 and FY’24.  The RoundTable assumed that teachers would increase one step each year (until they maxed out at 22 steps) and move up one Track in the five-year period. Some teachers, though, will not move up a Track; some may move up two Tracks. As an example, “S2,TI” in the table below, means a teacher at Step 2 in Track I in FY’19; “S7,TII” means a teacher at Step 7 in Track II in FY’24. 

The teacher salary schedule is based on the minimum amount of the base salary increase for FY’22, FY’23, and FY’24. In FY’22, the maximum increase could be 0.75% higher, in FY’23, the maximum could be 1.0% higher, and in FY’24, the maximum could be 1.35% higher.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...