Today we look at how teachers move through this pay system, and how individual teachers can increase earnings throughout their career.
New teacher pay experience
For new teachers, a typical pay progression would look like this (these figures are based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)):
- Year 1: (Step 1, Bachelor Lane): $48,520
- Year 2: (Step 2, Bachelor’s, 1% grid increase): $49,462
- Year 3: (Step 3, Bachelor’s + 24 credits, 1% grid Increase): $52,770
- Year 4: (Step 4, Bachelor’s + 24 credits, 1% grid increase): $53,796
- Year 5: (Step 5, Master’s, 1% grid increase): $57,409
- Year 6; (Step 6, Master’s, 1% grid increase): $58,831
- Year 7: (Step 7, Masters + 15, 1% grid increase): $64,557
So this teacher will experience a 30%+ pay increase in 7 years, from three sources:
- Step increases (7 steps worth 9% pay increase)
- Lane increases (3 lane movements worth 15% pay increase)
- Grid increases (7 annual 1% increases worth 7%) — not guaranteed as this is negotiated between PSEA and UCF during collective bargaining, but 0.5% to 1% has been typical in recent years.
In our example (which is based on real pay data and the average rate of progression through lanes at UCF), we can see the following dynamics at play:
- Pay increased at an annual rate of 4-5%.
- Lane movements contributed half of the overall pay gain
- Step increases contributed one quarter of the pay gain
- Grid increases contributed one quarter of the increase in pay
The under-appreciated fact about the “step and lane” system is that pay increases are built in every year, even without any grid-wide increases. These guaranteed pay increases only stop once teachers reach Step 16, and Masters + 60 credits. Excluding any grid increases, teacher pay (with an average pace of progression through lanes) will increase 3.9% annually until Steps and Lanes are ‘maxed out’ in mid-career.
[Update April 2015] It is worth noting that some recent collective bargaining agreements have contained step and/or lane ‘freezes’ for one year. So while a teacher may have accumulated another year of service, or have earned the next level of educational preparation, pay will remain unchanged for an additional year. So this will slow down pay the built in pay progression.
So if there is no grid increase in a particular year, it would be misleading to say that there is no increase to teacher pay. As our example makes clear, the step/lane system guarantees pay progression up to Year 16 and up until Masters + 60 credits. So for at least the first 16 years in the profession, pay increases are structured, regular, and guaranteed in the CBA. So if a past, present, or future CBA has no grid increase in a given year, we should not think that teacher salaries are standing still. Of course if the District and the UCFEA agree to a pay freeze as part of negotiations, a pay freeze can be experienced.
But for some teachers, salaries do stand still: those who have completed all 16 steps and who have moved through all educational lanes. At UCF, 31% of teachers have topped out in the Step dimension. And 51% of teachers have topped out in the Lane dimension. Only 23% have topped out in both dimensions. So if there is no grid increase in a particular year, it is accurate to say that 23% of teachers would be ‘frozen’ at their current level of pay.
How to maximize pay within the step/lane system
So, if one is trying to maximize lifetime compensation (don’t we all try to do this in our own jobs?), clearly getting additional education is key. If you could add a guaranteed incremental 10% to your pay, year after year, for holding a degree, wouldn’t you beat a path to the nearest grad school and get your master’s degree ASAP? I know I would.
And as if this were not incentive enough, collective bargaining agreements require school districts to reimburse the cost of continuing education (up to an annual limit). So why would a teacher not get a Master’s degree? Over a 30 year period, one could earn an additional $150,000+ in base pay, with the only investment being the time and energy needed to complete the coursework while still working full time (not easy, but doable especially using summer time off to do extra coursework). Given these incentives, it is no surprise that 87% of UCF teachers have achieved master’s or higher graduate-level education. And the 13% that do not have a master’s degree are almost all in their first 4 years of teaching — not quite enough time to have completed the coursework.
Every pay system has incentives. The teacher pay system we have has been in place for a long, long time. And it creates incentives to stay in the profession, and to complete additional graduate-level coursework. Our teachers respond to this incentive, with almost 90% completing at least a master’s degree within their first eight years.
- Teacher pay increases automatically each year from Steps
- Larger jumps occur as graduate coursework is completed
- Grid increases (the number that is usually trumpeted during CBA negotiations) is a small contributor to individual teacher pay increases during the first 15 years