Budget battle

CONCERNS RAISED BY TEACHERS UNION OVER TRENDS IN SCHOOL DISTRICT SPENDING

The money spent on administrative salaries is 250 percent more than it was in 2004, according to an analysis by the teachers union. The number of administrator positions has grown from 21 in 2004 to 47 in 2016, their analysis said.

Spending on teacher salaries has paled in comparison.

In the past six years, Center Grove has increased spending on administrator salaries by 42 percent, or more than $1 million, according to an analysis by the Center Grove teachers union.

During that same time, the school district has spent 8 percent more on teachers’ salaries, including both pay increases and added positions, according to budget documents. This year, the school district has 467 teachers, an increase of 8 percent from when Center Grove had 434 teachers in 2012, according to state data.

The concern is one the teachers union has had for some time and is being raised now as the union tries to negotiate teacher salaries and a contract for the 2016-17 school year with the school district.

School officials turned down a request for a raise for teachers that receive positive evaluations that would have cost the school district about $300,000, and the teachers union voted to go to impasse, a process that involves mediation, said Beth Heavin, a Center Grove Middle School North English teacher and co-president of the teachers union. Heavin couldn’t remember the last time Center Grove had gotten to this point in negotiations, she said.

School officials declined to comment since negotiations are underway, Center Grove schools spokeswoman Stacy Conrad said.

This week, the teachers union and school officials made progress in a mediation meeting, and both sides listened to each other, Heavin said.

The union’s goal is to make sure their teachers feel just as important and integral to the school district as other employees, Heavin said.

“Teachers just want to be heard and appreciated,” she said.

She hopes in the future school officials will be thinking of teacher raises when creating the annual budget, she said. When the school district approved the nearly $50 million annual operating budget in recent years, teacher raises had not been included.

Before mediation began, school officials had told the union there wasn’t enough funding to cover the proposed raises, and the school board recently approved a budget that would require money to be spent from savings in order to cover all of the expenses.

One concern from the teachers union is how Center Grove has been choosing to spend its money, including staffing a new STEM lab and adding new administrative positions over the past few years, Heavin said. Those staffing costs, along with operating expenses for buildings and facilities, such as schools being open more during the summer due to the balanced calendar, have all drawn money away from the general fund, which is used to pay teachers, she said.

And school officials have invested in administrative positions, she said. Earlier this month, the school board approved a 1 percent stipend for administrators and other staff, not including teachers. And some administrators have received raises in recent years totaling 20 percent or more, she said.

Twenty-one new positions have been added since 2010, when the school district had to make cuts due to a shortfall in funding and a referendum asking for more funding was turned down by the voters, the analysis said.

Heavin understands the position the school district is in, including increased pressure from the state to perform at a higher level. School officials have to focus on finding ways to improve and meet state standards, she said.

Officials have said that is why they have added administrative positions focused on curriculum and professional development for teachers.

But teachers also want to see parity in the treatment of all staff, she said.

Teachers are a key part of schools and are often the people students remember because they interact with them daily, she said. They want to feel they are also seen as an important and integral part of the school district, Heavin said.

By the numbers

Here is a look at the amount Center Grove has spent in recent years on administrator and teacher salaries:

2010-2011 school year

Administrators: $3 million

Teachers: $23.3 million

2016-2017 school year

Administrators: $4.3 million

Teachers: $25.2 million

Increase

Administrators: 42 percent

Teachers: 8 percent

Here is a look at the growth in administrator positions and spending in recent years:

2004:

21 positions

$1.7 million in salaries

2005

25 positions

$2.3 million in salaries

2010-2011

33 positions

$3 million in salaries

2016

47 positions

$4.3 million in salaries

SOURCE: Teachers union analysis, school district budgets

Author photo
Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.