COLORADO SPRINGS— After a month of negotiations, teachers and staff in Colorado Springs School District 11 have ratified a new contract. This means significant pay raises across the board next school year.
The base pay for new teachers starts at $50,000, a 20 percent increase. This is one of the highest starting salaries in the Pikes Peak Region.
"It's not enough," said a Mark Twain Elementary School 5th grade teacher Kevin Coughlin.
Coughlin remembers when he first became a teacher 21 years ago. "I worked three jobs, I just had to in order to survive," said Coughlin.
Current teachers will get a 16% pay raise, including a one-time bonus and other benefits.
"It's the biggest wage increase we've seen in my career, so it means the world," said Coughlin.
The district's educational support professionals (EPS) got the biggest boost in pay, 23%.
"It allows me to support my family as much as I can, send the kids to college," said a Coronado High School EPS Christine Bauers.
Bauers said this pay raise shows the district values her and her peers.
I'm told the idea is to keep teachers in the district and recruit more. Not all of the compensation comes in the form of a salary increase and is not a flat rate salary increase.
There's a 5% cost of living adjustment, a one-time staff appreciation payment (in two parts) equal to 6%, an increase in PERA contributions, increased coverage for the cost of health insurance, a roughly 2% increase for 'steps' or experience level, and one-time 2% payment for people who are maxed out in experience levels.
The D11 spokesperson, Devra Ashby, said many teachers and staff left for better pay in other districts since the start of the pandemic.
"We knew we had to be competitive in order to keep those folks because we cannot survive in the district without our ESP staff," said Ashby.
Ashby said the Colorado Department of Education gave the district more money than in recent years.
"I think our state is starting to recognize the value of public education," said Ashby.
Many other school districts in our area are also upping pay. I spoke with D11's biggest competitors, Academy District 20 and Falcon District 49.
D20 new teachers start at almost $49,000 next school year. D49 starts at $47,000.
"We now have people who are motivated, we now have people engaged," said Coughlin.
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