BAR HARBOR — As contract negotiations drag on between representatives of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) board and the teachers union, area residents are increasingly paying attention and taking sides.
Teachers say they want a “fair and competitive” contract. School board members say they do, too.
Teachers say they deserve to be paid more for the work they do and to pay less for their health insurance. School board members have said they want to do the best they can for teachers, while being fiscally responsible and not overburdening the taxpayers who fund the schools.
Under the three-year contract that expires Aug. 31, a brand-new MDIRSS teacher with a bachelor’s degree makes $36,236. A teacher with 25 years of experience and two master’s degrees or a doctorate makes $65,534.
For teachers at Mount Desert Elementary, who three years ago negotiated a separate contract with the Mount Desert School Committee, the salaries for those with all levels of experience and education are slightly higher than they are for teachers in the rest of the school system.
Both contracts are for 184 work days a year, from late August until mid-June.
According to figures compiled by the Maine School Management Association (MSMA), first-year MDIRSS teachers with a bachelor’s degree rank 23rd in salary among their peers in the state’s 138 school districts. Starting teachers in York-Ogunquit make the most, $45,638. The lowest paid, in Lubec, make $27,835.
First-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree in Ellsworth make $35,450. In Bucksport, it’s $32,000.
The MDIRSS figure, $36,236, is about halfway between the highest and lowest salaries in the state for starting teachers with a bachelor’s degree.
Comparing salaries at the highest level of the pay scale is tricky because, in some districts, it takes only 10 to 12 years to reach the top. But in Yarmouth, for example, it takes 30 years. And in Westbrook, teachers have to be on the job for 50 years before pulling down the highest salary offered for their level of education. In the MDIRSS, the journey to the top takes 25 years.
According to the MSMA, there are 22 school districts in Maine in which teachers can reach the top rung in the same number of years or fewer than MDIRSS teachers and also make more money once they get there.
Among those school districts is Cape Elizabeth, where teachers with a bachelor’s degree can make $70,142 after 25 years. But in Portland, it takes 31 years to claim the maximum salary of $61,207.
Cape Elizabeth’s highest salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree is $8,108 more than in the MDIRSS. Portland’s is $827 less.
After salaries, health insurance is the biggest part of teachers’ compensation package.
MDIRSS schools currently pay 82 percent of the insurance premium for “single, two-adult, family or adult with child(ren)” coverage. Teachers pay 18 percent. There is $200 a year deductible for the policy holder and $400 for each family member covered by the plan.