August 27, 2015

IPS Adopts 'Precedent Setting' Teacher Contract, Gives First Raises In 5 Years

Eric Weddle / WFYI Public Media

Eric Weddle / WFYI Public Media

New contract lets teachers reach the maximum base pay of about $60,000 in 16 years instead of 25 years.


All teachers at Indianapolis Public Schools will get their first base-pay raise in five years as part of a proposed two-year contract that aims to attract new educators and reward those who carve out a career in the district.

The 2015-16, 2016-17 contract was approved tonight by the IPS Board in a 6-0 vote. The contract was ratified by 93 percent of Indianapolis Education Association President members, the union that bargains for IPS teachers, who attended a Wednesday meeting.

The contract sets base pay for IPS teachers at $40,000 -- an increase of 12.1 percent and now one of the highest in Marion County. That means, 500 teachers in their first few years of teaching who currently earn less than $40,000 will have their pay bumped up retroactively to July. The total cost of this increase is $4 million.

"At a time when IPS is one of the school corporations in Indiana that is slated to lose the most money in our state school funding formula, we are one of the school districts, we believe, that will make the greatest investment in teachers," Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said after the board approval.

The overall cost of the pay increase for more than 2,200 teachers is more than $12 million over two years. The district faces a potential $16 million reduction in state funding during the next two years based on lawmakers' new funding formula.

District reserves will help fund the new salaries during the future years. Cutting costs will be required, Ferebee said, over the next two years to keep the pay sustainable.

Indianapolis Education Association President, Rhondalyn Cornett said the contract is a dramatic change from what teachers are used to -- the traditional "step" pay increased based on tenure have been changed to teacher effectiveness -- but shows significant financial support by the district. The IEA will provide information to explain the changes to teachers.

"But what they need to know is, everyone is getting a raise," Cornett said. "No one is going down."

Teachers in the middle or late part of their career, who are already paid more than younger educators, will also receive pay increases of at least $2,600.

Teachers would reach the maximum base pay of about $60,000 in 16 years instead of 25 years.

"This incentivizes people to come to the district and rewards those who stay," said Tina Ahlgren, an Arlington High School teaching coach who helped design the contract. "We are giving teachers a viable career path at IPS."

Ahlgren leads Elevate IPS -- a group of both union and nonunion teachers that worked directly with district leadership and the Indianapolis Education Association. Ahlgren was also part of IEA's contact negotiation team.

The contract aims to boost the pay of teachers most impacted by the five-year pay freeze, she said. A teacher who started in 2011 at $35,684 would have been paid $41,620 this school year if increases had been given each year.

Instead, she said, those teachers would see around a $60,000 loss during a career at IPS if the base rate was not boosted. The new pay scale also lets more experienced teachers make up for their stagnate pay in the coming years.

"What we have done is definitely precedent setting for the state," Ahlgren said.

The salary increase makes IPS one of the highest paying districts for new teachers in Marion County -- basically tied with Wayne Township and just behind Speedway, according to 2013-14 data from the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board.

The proposal also seeks to keep teachers from programs like Teach For America, who work on two-year contracts, in the district. A teacher entering their third year in IPS would see a pay increase of $2,000. 

Justin Ohlemiller, Stand for Children Indiana executive director praised the decision today. The goup has worked with parents in the district to improve low-performing schools. 

“Every child deserves to have a great teacher in their classroom, and we applaud Dr. Ferebee and his team’s continued work to make this happen for the 30,000 students in IPS. We look forward to seeing the next steps the district takes to build a strong pipeline of talented teachers.”

The new contract also calls for:

  • Increasing  top base salary a teacher can earn to $59,400, a increase of 2.9 percent
  • Raises for teachers rated effective or highly effective during this and the next school year
  • Offers additional money to educators in "high-impact teacher leadership roles" where they oversee other teachers and are responcible for the grades of those teacher's students.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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