by Mary Alys Cherry
Teachers in the Clear Creek School District finally are getting a break this fall – a 6 percent pay raise to make up for the two years they went without one when the Texas Legislature cut CCISD funding by some $23 million and they were forced to work with larger classes. Three percent of the raise was approved in March.
Paraprofessional and auxiliary staff will get increases of 5 percent, and the district increased its monthly contribution toward employee health care from $225 per employee to $265 per employee.
With more legislative funding expected this year, Clear Creek ISD officials have been looking at ways to provide its teachers and staff with a satisfactory salary increase.
That came when school board trustees met for their monthly workshop Aug.12 and heard both Superintendent Greg Smith and Deputy Superintendent Paul McLarty explain how CCISD salaries had fallen considerably behind other area districts and ranked behind most.
For example, CCISD’s starting salary last year for a first year teacher, $44,600, ranked 15th among 18 area districts and salaries for more experienced educators ranks 16th and 17th. With the raise, a first year teacher will earn $47,000.
Last spring, before they knew what action the Texas Legislature would take on funding education, trustees voted to reward them with a three percent pay hike this school year. Now that some of the funds taken away by the previous legislature have been restored, they felt they should increase their salaries even more.
Besides wanting to make up for the two years the educators have gone without a salary increase, trustees worried they will begin losing teachers to area districts that have already increased salaries by 3.5 to 4.5 percent and are planning more pay hikes.
“I don’t know if we have a choice if we are to remain competitive,” Trustee Ken Ballard said before the unanimous vote. Cost for the raises will be $12 million — $10.5 million for the salary hikes and $1.4 million in health care premium assistance.
Competitive salaries and keeping up with the cost of living are important strategies in recruiting teachers and keeping them, McLarty told the school board when trustees first began focusing on raises at the July meeting, reminding them that “CCISD needs to provide a salary and benefit package that is competitive with peer districts and local employers.”
He feels the district should provide a salary that at least approximates the average salary of its peers.
Starting in 2004 when the district ranked 19th among area school districts in pay, CCISD began increasing teacher pay by 4 percent that year, 3 percent in 2005-06, 7 percent the next year and then 3.5, 3.6 and 3 percent before the economy began its free fall around 2010-11 and teachers only got a 1 percent pay hike.