ELKHART — Some Elkhart teachers will be getting a financial boost in the coming months.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, during a regular school board meeting, the Elkhart School Board approved an agreement between the board, the school corporation and the Elkhart Teacher’s Association that says Elkhart Schools will pay a one-time stipend of between $200 and $1,000 to Elkhart teachers who have 18 or more years of teaching experience. More than 200 teachers fall into this category and will be getting the bonus, according to Doug Thorne, director of personnel and legal services for Elkhart schools.
Linda Fine, vice president of the Elkhart Teacher’s Association and a government teacher at Tipton Center, said following the meeting that it’s important to recognize the commitment of longtime teachers.
“Teachers took the stand of, we need to do something for the people who are sticking around,” Fine said.
Thorne explained after the meeting that no school employees have received a raise in pay since 2008, simply because the school corporation cannot afford raises. He added that teachers who have less than 18 years of experience do receive an incremental increase in pay each year, which is chalked up to a cost-of-living increase. Alex Holtz, president of the Elkhart Teacher’s Association, noted that teachers are actually bringing home smaller paychecks, even with the cost-of-living increases, because of rising health care premiums.
Thorne said that while the agreement approved by the board Tuesday only issues a stipend to teachers with 18 or more years of experience, he expects to hear from other employee groups about negotiating a similar bonus. He noted that different employee groups have different compensation plans.
Thorne also said that Tuesday’s agreement is the first formal agreement between the board and the Elkhart Teacher’s Association for a stipend. During the meeting, all board members except Glenn Duncan voted yes for the stipend agreement.
Duncan said that he voted against the agreement not because he doesn’t like the idea of a stipend, but because there are other school employees who also have not received raises since 2008.
Thorne said Tuesday that the teacher stipends would be paid by the school corporation using additional funding the school received from the state this year for having more students enrolled. He said that teachers who qualify for the stipend may expect to see their bonus before the end of 2013 or early in 2014.