OEA Research Teacher Salaries: Changing the Index
Salary increases can also be achieved by making changes to the index. The most common method for adjusting the index is to add experience steps or training columns. For instance, a schedule that recognizes a maximum of 25 years of experience may be modified creating a new longevity step at 27 years. Or, a MA+45 column may be added to a schedule that previously recognized a MA+30 as the most highly compensated academic training level.
Changes of the type such as those described above have had a historical appeal. For teachers it provides an opportunity to maximize their final average salary for retirement benefit calculation purposes. For school boards it serves as a way to minimize short-term salary costs. Since relatively few employees immediately qualify for a salary increase associated with additional experience steps or training columns, school boards can avoid significant spikes in their payroll costs.
Another way to change the index is through compression. To compress the index means to shorten the length of time required to reach the maximum salary levels, thus increasing overall career earnings.
As mentioned, starting teacher salaries in Ohio are quite low both nationally and among comparable states. One possible explanation is the historical tendency to expand salary schedules so that earnings are maximized toward the end of teachers’ careers. However, as “baby boomer” teachers begin to retire in masse this practice could challenge the solvency of the state’s retirement system. Lower career earnings not only diminishes spending power, but also decreases STRS contributions.
Another possible benefit of compressing the index is an intangible one. Surveys suggest that newer teachers feel a disconnect with their local and state associations. Enhancing newer members’ salaries could go a long way toward facilitating union commitment.