Starting this fall, South Bend Community School Corporation teachers will work an additional 40 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays with no salary increase. The district approved the change in early July, arguing it needs the extra minutes to help improve student performance.
The 40-minute blocks will be used for meetings so teachers can discuss student performance data and develop collaborative lesson plans.
The teachers union, NEA-South Bend, opposed adding extra hours without a pay increase. Instead, they advocated for smaller class sizes.
“I love my job, and I’m a team player. I have been teaching for 29 years, and every year we are expected to do more and more,” South Bend Community School Corporation teacher Christine Jones said at the June 7 school board meeting.
“The extra 40 minutes passes without pay, what is next?” Jones said. “Educators can’t keep giving and giving and getting nothing in return.”
Fellow teacher Jessica Hoover shared similar sentiments at the June 7 meeting.
“You want to improve student test scores? Taking 40 more minutes of my time will not achieve that,” Hoover said. “Stop throwing program after program at us and let us teach.”
Chief Academic Officer Brandon White said the district supports smaller class sizes, but that teachers also need time for professional development and collaborative lesson planning.
“Other districts have already gone this way,” White said in an interview. “Our teachers work one of the shortest work days in the region; they’re compensated at one of the highest levels. But we also have some of the lowest achievement scores across our area.”
As of the 2018-2019 school year, less than 25 percent of South Bend third through eighth graders scored proficient in English/Language Arts and Math as measured by the ILEARN statewide standardized test.
And the district’s scores have dropped, according to 2021 ILEARN data released earlier this month — only 16 percent of South Bend third through eighth graders scored proficient in English/Language Arts and only 10.4 percent scored proficient in Math.
“I think it’s difficult for us to look at our students' academic performance and not realize that we need to do more,” White said. “What’s even more startling is when you start to look at our subgroups, especially our African American students. We have African Americans passing in the seven percent for ELA and three percent for math.”
White said the extra 80 minutes applies to all district schools except for Muessel Elementary School, as it was recently redesigned.
Originally, the district proposed adding an extra 40 minutes a day five days a week, but dropped it to just Tuesday and Thursday after negotiations. The union and the district last met on June 3, but were unable to come to an agreement.
However, the district can make the change anyway — teacher schedules don’t need to be approved with a school board vote.
“What I did hear from several members — not leadership, but several members of the union, was that they at least felt heard that we went from five days to two days,” White said. “They were not necessarily happy with that because they did not see an increase in compensation directly tied to this 80 minutes a week.”
As for salary increases, the district can’t negotiate raises until the collective bargaining period in September.
But South Bend schools are getting nearly $100 million in federal elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds, and $9.9 million of that is going toward supporting educators through $1,500 staff stipends and staff support programming. White said the district also increased its summer school pay to $70 an hour.
“If you track the average amount of compensation teachers have received over the last year, I think you would see this is a great increase,” White said.
In addition, Indiana’s 2021-2023 state budget includes nearly $2 billion for education with a first-time mandate on teacher pay — schools must spend 45 percent of their per-student funding on educator salaries.