According the Maine Department of Education’s website, followed by an article in the Bangor Daily News today, the State of Maine has decided to stop subsidizing the minimum teacher salary. The minimum teacher salary has been $30,000 in Maine for many years ($27,000 in 2005-06; $30,000 since then) [20-A MRSA 13405, 13406]. However, the state has been reimbursing school systems that did not pay the minimum.
The effect of this policy has been to keep down starting salaries in many smaller, rural school systems around the state.
For example, a typical salary scale in 2004-05 might have looked like this:
So, in 2004-05, a new teacher (Teacher A, no experience) would have been hired at $25,000 (Step 0 on the negotiated scale).
In 2005-06, another new teacher (Teacher B) could still have been hired at $25,000, but paid $27,000. The state would have reimbursed the school $2,000 for Teacher B. Even Teacher A, hired the year previously, would have garnered the school system a subsidy because Teacher A (now at Step 1) was still $1,000 below the mandatory minimum.
A year later, another new teacher (Teacher C) might still have been hired at the same $25,000, but paid $30,000. The school system contributed $25,000 and the state the other $5,000. The two previously hired teachers were each also paid the $30,000; the school system got reimbursed $3,000 for Teacher A, $4,000 for Teacher B. Those subsidies totaled $12,000 that the school system did not have to spend out of their own budgets, but helped them pay newer teachers almost as much as their colleagues who had many years’ experience.
There was almost no incentive to move the scale below Step 5 to anything other than where it stood. Any money that became available during the years since 2005 would have been applied to the higher steps on the scale. New teachers became stuck at $30,000 until they reached Step 6 – seven years into their careers!
It is long past time for the State of Maine to stop the minimum teacher salary subsidies. However, the Essential Programs and Services funding formula also needs to change in order to make sure smaller, rural school systems can actually afford to pay their teachers what they are worth: the same as professional educators in other parts of the state.