School district employees earning more each year

Marshalltown Education Association member Brad Weidenaar is a negotiator with the school district over teacher salaries and benefit packages. There are things teachers are happy with and some that could use improvement.

The earnings of the staff at the Marshalltown School District have kept up with rising inflation.

The school district released the combined earnings report for the 2018-19 school year to show what each employee earned and the report does not include benefits.

School district director of finance Paulette Newbold said the state of Iowa requires districts to release that information every year.

“It is the average total salary,” Newbold said. “It would show the regular contract and if a teacher also served as a coach or attended extra meetings, the report shows that too.”

Since the state requires school districts to release that information, there can be a tendency to compare districts with one another.

Marshalltown Schools English learner coordinator Rachel Inks, standing, works with district teachers at a professional development session. The average salary for teachers in the 2018-19 school year was $59,467.

Superintendent Theron Schutte said it is difficult to compare the Marshalltown school district with similar size districts in Iowa.

In the 2018-19 school year, the Marshalltown School District average total compensation for teachers was $80,842. That includes salary and benefits. The average salary was $59,467.

The enrollment of Marshalltown was 4,877 students. Similarly-sized school districts in the state are Muscatine with 4,738 students, an average salary of $54,258 and a total compensation of $76,398; and Pleasant Valley with a student population of 4,877, an average salary of $63,473 and total compensation of $86,823.

“The average teacher salary is well funded compared to other districts,” Schutte said. “Generally people every year get paid more but it’s a question of how much more. A lot of factors go into that.”

The Marshalltown School District needs well-funded salaries as Schutte said they are competing for teachers with districts such as Ottumwa, which provided teachers with an average salary of $58,142; or Mason City, with an average salary of $62,729.

“Our goal is to be as equitable as we can,” Schutte said. “We want everyone to get competitive wages as it relates to their field but it’s an ongoing process to get there.”

Brad Weidenaar, instructional coach for the school district and member of Marshalltown Education Association said overall teachers were happy with the salaries received last year.

“Would they like to see more? Sure,” Weidenaar said. “Some people in the country say Iowa is rated fourth in the nation when it comes to teacher pay. I don’t know where they come up with that.”

The cost of living might be factored in to that belief. Weidenaar said teachers in school districts on the east coast such as in New York or Connecticut might receive a higher salary but the cost of living is much higher.

“Iowa has a relatively low cost of living so the salary goes a bit farther here,” Weidenaar said.

One of the big factors in determining what teachers receive is the benefits package. While the benefits are not reflected in the combined earnings report, Weidenaar said it might be one of the reasons Iowa is ranked highly in the nation when it comes to teacher pay.

“The push is to make the benefits look like what they do in private business,” Weidenaar said.

The insurance package offered to Marshalltown teachers this school year is similar to what other school districts in the state offered. The new health insurance package eliminated a lower-paying plan and increased expenses for the teachers.

Weidenaar said he is aware of a full-time teacher in the district who is also a single parent with two children at home. The teacher is on the school district plan but the children were placed on Hawki – the state-run health insurance program for children.

However not everything is doom and gloom with the Marshalltown School District benefits package.

Weidenaar said teachers do receive 15 days of sick leave and 10 days for sick leave for family members.

“They are happy about that,” he said. “There was wisdom on their part to put that in there.”

Weidenaar is referring to the school board and administration.

He also stressed that there is a perception when there is a cut to teacher pay or benefits someone else is doing the reaping.

“There is an implied mandate,” Weidenaar said. “It is a fear in teachers. Districts have a goal for the superintendent to get the best settlement package possible; if he can save money some of that will be given to his salary.”

That is not the case in Marshalltown School District. Weidenaar said superintendent Theron Schutte and the school principals work very hard and are all quality leaders.

“I do not disparage them even $1 of what they earn,” he said.

At the end of the day Weidenaar said the school district is in the business of teaching.

“Better than 80 percent of the school district money goes to salaries,” Weidenaar said. “We are in the business of people teaching kids, teachers in the classrooms. Without that, we are just playing games.”