Teacher pay rules tie board’s hand

P ublic schools in Ohio are required to pay teachers more for their years in the profession and for advanced college degrees. That takes payroll money many education administrators would love to use to reward – and retain – the truly excellent teachers on their staffs.

Like many states, Ohio has a statewide pay schedule for teachers. It requires that for each year they stay in the job, they receive salary increases. It also rewards them for taking college classes beyond their bachelor’s degrees.

But part of a major education reform bill being considered in the General Assembly would scrap that requirement. School districts would not be required to provide minimum salaries based on college attainment and years of experience.

Teachers unions hate the idea. Many school administrators and board of education members love it.

Few local school districts stick with state minimums. For example, the state schedule calls for first-year teachers with bachelor’s degrees to be paid $17,300. Many districts, recognizing that is unlikely to attract really good teachers, pay more.

But the districts have to set aside enormous amounts of money to comply with state requirements of yearly experience increases and higher pay for teachers who obtain additional credit after bachelor’s degrees. That reduces the amount available to land promising college graduates and to reward teachers who have demonstrated high ability and dedication to students. Not infrequently, really good teachers – frustrated at earning precisely the same pay as colleagues who may not be as good but have been on the job for the same amount of time – go elsewhere.

A similar attempt to eliminate the state salary schedule was made last year, but was defeated in the state Senate. Opponents have promised to fight hard against it this year.

But to give local school officials and boards of education the flexibility they need to get and keep the best teachers, lawmakers should approve the provision this time around.