WAUWATOSA, Wis. — The Wauwatosa School District just made an expensive move to keep their teachers.
They are promising teachers a 3-percent raise every year up until they reach about $95,000. In our Two Americas report, we share why these measures are being taken to keep our beloved teachers.
The board's decision comes with a hefty price tag. To fund the salary increases, the superintendent says the district's annual budget to afford raises alone will go up from about $425,000 a year to $1.2 million. That is a nearly $800,000 increase.
We asked Superintendent Demond Means how they plan to make up for that difference. He replied, "We're hoping that we'll continue to find efficiencies in our budget."
Superintendent Means says this had to happen because he is losing teachers to other districts or other industries altogether. "There are people who are just deciding to go work for Amazon because their hourly rate is significantly higher," said Means.
Teachers shared their feelings during the board meeting Monday night. The president of the Wauwatosa Education Association said the district can afford it, adding, "We have an aggregate surplus of over $10 million, so we can afford this."
One resident brought up the roughly $124 million referendum passed about four years ago. "I appreciate the idea of increased wages. Here's the problem guys. There was a $700 increase to my property tax. That's a huge hit. I like your vision and passion - I've got passion for siding to be changed on my house."
Before this was passed, teachers were given a raise primarily on a merit-based system. They would have to submit proof or 'artifacts' to show why they were worthy of a substantial raise. There would also be a review by the teacher's principal.
Now that is all to the wayside. But the board did cap the 3 percent increases annually at a salary of $95,619. After that, the increase would be determined by the current financial climate.
We asked the superintendent how the district would be able to afford it. "It's going to be difficult. It's not easy, but it's about values and our teachers are valuable to us," said Means.
With salaries making up about 75 percent of Wauwatosa's school budget already, Superintendent Means points his finger to our state legislature to help pay for it. He says the alternate will be losing talented teachers. "When students see their teachers leave consistently, that creates instability in the system," said Means.
The district isn't done there. The superintendent hopes to start looking at the salary system for educational assistants and ground staff to hopefully stop the ongoing turnover.
The board also passed a base pay increase for teachers Monday. It went up from $43,000 to $45,668.