Grand Ledge Gazette Writer In early November, Grand Ledge teachers reached a tentative agreement as part of an attempt to settle the teachers’ contract situation in Grand Ledge. Parents of the Grand Ledge community and members of other institutions and establishments weigh in on the state of education in Michigan.
In October, several Grand Ledge teachers stood in front of the GLPS Board of Education fighting, pleading, and imploring the Board to reconsider removing “steps” from their contracts. Steps are negotiated incremental pay increases in the union contract based on teacher performance, years of experience and educational levels.
The possible elimination of steps was a major stumbling block in the negotiations between the teachers and the school district. The teachers also expressed concern about the possible elimination of TAs (teacher’s assistants) and the salary levels of incoming teachers.
In Michigan, the average beginning teacher salary is $35,164 and the average teacher salary $57,327 according to the NEA (National Education Association).
“I think Grand Ledge schools are the best in Eaton County. My children used to attend another district within the county, and I was less than impressed with their education. Oh, and did I mention I used to work for that district?” said Renae Lugibihl, Grand Ledge parent.
The Michigan Department of Education cites teacher evaluation and pay for performance as closely linked, stating “pay for performance depends, in part, on a teacher’s evaluation which must be tied to student growth.” (cited in their spring 2011 teacher evaluation and pay for performance power point)
“In the last year we were at the other district, one of the children did not learn a thing the last six months we were there. We came to Grand Ledge and ALL of my children are thriving,” said Lugibihl.
“There is something about the support and attitude of people who live and are drawn to the community of Grand Ledge,” said Vene Yates, Grand Ledge citizen.
One thing that the Grand Ledge teachers stressed at GLPS Board of Education meeting in October was that the students are the ones who are truly hurt by the effects of low professional pay. Students miss out on valuable educations because good teachers are leaving the profession.
“Low teacher pay comes at a high cost for schools and kids, who lose good teachers to better-paying professions,” says the NEA on their website stating their position on professional pay.
“I know that part of the new Grand Ledge teachers’ contract was to allow school administration to have more flexibility with classroom sizes. Kids cannot learn and teachers cannot teach with that many kids in a class,” said Lugibihl.
The current job market includes a lack of teachers in fields such as special education, math, science, foreign language and art. These holes are most evident in rural and urban schools in Michigan, says the NEA. (under quick facts)
“Having highly qualified teachers is essential to student success – but who in the future will be lured into a profession with wages that start low and fail to keep pace with comparable careers?,” the NEA asks.
Neither the Grand Ledge teachers nor the GLPS Board of Education were available for comment on the current state of the contract.