BAR HARBOR — Daniel Horning, the lead negotiator for the local teachers associations in contract talks with the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) board, says the two sides are not very far apart on the issue of compensation, but they aren’t yet close enough to seal a deal.
The current three-year contract expires Aug. 31.
The Islander reported last week that school board members agree that teachers should be paid more, but they want to raise salaries over a longer period of time than the teachers are proposing in order to avoid a large property tax increase all at once.
“It seems we have the shared goal of parity with similarly situated schools in terms of total compensation,” Horning said.
He said “similarly situated schools” refers to schools in other Maine communities with similar demographics, property valuations, school academic performance and other factors. He gave Camden and Rockport as examples.
“There is more disparity [between MDIRSS schools and others] as you move from the bottom to the top of the salary schedule,” Horning said. “We are currently 60th in the state when it comes to the maximum salary of a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 70th when it comes to the master’s degree maximum.
“But just focusing on the bottom and top of the salary schedule doesn’t address the whole schedule, which has a huge impact on career earnings. We’re ranked 66th [among school districts in the state] when it comes to career earnings for someone with a master’s degree and 63rd for someone who has a bachelor’s degree. So, the goal is to shrink the disparity across the salary schedule.”
Horning said a teacher’s compensation package includes both salary and the employer’s contribution for health insurance. Local teachers receive more than $1,000 less for health insurance from their employer than do teachers in the comparison schools, he said.
The teachers are aiming to shrink the compensation disparity with other schools in this round of contract negotiations, not eliminate it altogether, Horning said.
“We’re looking at similarly situated schools and what their compensation package is now and setting that as a goal for us in three years, when we know full well that in three years that target is going to move,” he said.
“So, as much as we want parity, we recognize that, in this cycle alone, that might not be achievable. But we would certainly like to approach it, to get closer to it.”