O'Neill Asks Boost in Teacher Pay, Support

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Gov. William A. O'Neill of Connecticut will formally propose a $19,300 minimum statewide salary for teachers next month and a companion program that could raise the pay for veteran teachers with a master's degree to twice that amount.

If approved by the Republican-controlled legislature, the three-year, $300-million proposal submitted by Governor O'Neill, a Democrat, would make Connecticut teachers among the highest paid in the nation. It would also continue the trend in the Northeastern states toward greater direct state support for teachers.

But an aide to the Governor predicted the proposal would "set up a big fight in the legislature" because it directs the bulk of new state aid for teachers to Connecticut's poorest towns, rather than distributing it through the state's existing school-finance formula.

The average starting salary for teachers in Connecticut now is $15,448, according to the state education department. The average salary for teachers statewide is $27,100.

The salary plan was developed last year by a special commission and was recently approved by the state board. Mr. O'Neill revealed his support for it at a reception this month for the state's teacher of the year.

Earlier, the Governor had endorsed the minimum-salary proposal, but not the more costly incentive-pay plan.

"Four months ago, I declared that 1986 would be the year of education in Connecticut," Mr. O'Neill said. "That commitment would be hollow indeed if we were not to take our moral position and cast it in terms of dollars and cents.

"That is what I am doing today," he said.

12 Percent Increase

Overall, Governor O'Neill is proposing a $91-million spending increase for precollegiate education in fiscal 1987, including $47.5 million for the teacher-pay programs. That represents about a 12 percent increase over the state's current $750-million K-12 appropriation.

At the same time, the Governor is proposing a variety of other education initiatives that will keep the Connecticut legislature busy.

"Education is going to be the big focus in Connecticut this year," said David J. McQuade, an administrative aide to Governor O'Neill.

''It's really a big package here," added Joan M. Martin, an associate education consultant in the education department's school-finance office. "They're trying to improve teaching and the teaching profession on a number of different fronts."

Aside from the teacher-pay programs, Governor O'Neill is proposing a plan to reduce the teacher-pupil ratio statewide to about 15 to 1, and a variety of initiatives aimed at upgrading the teaching profession, including:

  • A $1.05-million mentor-teacher program that would provide additional classroom support to first-year teachers;
  • A $1.2-million cooperative student- teacher program;
  • A $1.4-million teacher-in-residence program;
  • $2.5 million in grants to districts that design career ladders and differentiated-staff programs; and
  • $1 million in grants to districts that develop teacher-evaluation models.

Mr. O'Neill has not yet endorsed a new certification plan for teachers, recently approved by the state board, that includes an alternative route opposed by the state's teacher unions.

But the board is expected to submit the plan to the legislature.

Pay Plan

Under the Governor's teacher-salary proposal, the state would pay for three years the full cost of bringing teachers who now earn less than $19,300 up to that level.

The state would also offer to share with local school districts the cost of raising other teachers' salaries, based on a model salary structure that starts at $19,300 and tops out at $38,600 for a teacher with 13 years' experience and a master's degree.

The state would cover the difference between what local districts pay their teachers now and what those teachers would earn under the model salary scale.

But it would direct the bulk of the aid to the poorest towns and those that tax themselves most heavily to pay for schools, Ms. Martin said. Other districts would have to raise taxes to reach the state salary targets, she said.

To ensure that districts do not lay off teachers to offset the cost of higher salaries, the pay plan includes a staff-incentive component that directs funds to any district with fewer than 64.5 teachers per 1,000 students, a ratio of about 15 to 1.

Such districts would receive $22,000 for every teacher needed to reach that ratio, Ms. Martin said.

Funds for the salary increases and staff ratios would be distributed to districts in a lump sum, and the distribution to teachers would be subject to collective bargaining.

Of the $47.5 million the Governor is proposing for the salary and staff-incentive programs in 1987, only $4-million would be required to bring all teachers to the $19,300 minimum.

Spending for the programs would jump to $101 million in fiscal 1988 and $160 million in fiscal 1989, including $30 million in payments for new teachers in the third year, Mr. McQuade said.

He said the infusion of state funds would allow Connecticut to compete with surrounding states for teachers. Massachusetts and New Jersey raised their minimum salary for teachers last year, while New York's Gov. Mario Cuomo recently proposed new state funds for teachers.

Certification Plan

The certification plan proposed by the state board was first approved a year ago, but lawmakers waited to act on it until the Governor's commission on equity and excellence in education released its recommendations for rewarding teachers.

"Last year, teachers were very concerned that we were moving ahead on issues related to certification and evaluation and raising standards, without any specific proposals on the salary part of the equation," said Betty J. Sternberg, director of the division of curriculum and professional development for the department of education. "We wanted this to be a balanced equation. Now it will be in the lap of the legislature."

The proposed changes would move Connecticut from a two-tiered certification process, based primarily on the number of course hours completed, to a three-tiered process based on a combination of teacher tests and continuing education.

To receive an initial certificate, new teachers would have to continue to pass a paper-and-pencil test in mathematics, reading, and writing, as well as new subject-area examinations in their fields of expertise. During the first year of teaching, they would have to pass a performance assessment of professional knowledge and skills in order to obtain a provisional certificate at the end of the year.

State officials said they hoped the additional requirements for first-year teachers would be buttressed by the proposed mentor-teacher program.

Provisionally certified teachers would have to complete a minimum number of credit-hours in education-related courses during the next eight years before earning a professional certificate--the top rung of the certification plan. To retain the professional certificate, they would have to take additional courses every five years.

Teachers who fail the first-year performance assessment would have one more year in which to correct their weaknesses and retain their certificates.

The subject-area tests would be phased in over the next four years as they were developed.

At the same time, the board has proposed an alternative route to attract "creative" and older people into teaching, said Ms. Sternberg.

Degree Required

To qualify, a person would be required to have a bachelor's or master's degree, at least a B-average in college, and passing scores on the tests in reading, writing, math, and the relevant subject area.

A superintendent also would have to express interest in hiring the individual after an initial interview. According to Ms. Sternberg, these candidates would complete an eight-week summer program focused on pedagogy before entering the classroom and would begin teaching with a 90-day permit. If in 90 days they demonstrated that they had met 8 of Connecticut's 15 teacher competencies on a performance assessment, they would receive an initial two-year certificate and be enrolled in a two-year beginning-teacher support and assessment program with a mentor teacher.

Vol. 05, Issue 20, Pages 1, 11

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