Starting Salt Lake City teachers to make $46,845 a year after school board approves raise

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Teachers walk out of the public comment period at the Salt Lake City School District meeting regarding salary negotiations, June 4, 2019.

After months of tense salary negotiations, Salt Lake City teachers will get a 4.1% raise — with the final vote of approval for the compromise coming from the district’s board of education Tuesday night.

Board members overwhelmingly supported the increase, which is lower than what educators had asked for and lower, too, than surrounding districts approved this year. But after threats of a strike, the agreement was welcomed as a way to move forward.

Talks initially stalled in June, and Salt Lake City School District had to bring in a federal mediator to help it come to a consensus with the local teachers union. The group announced the deal earlier last month. Now that both have agreed after Tuesday’s vote, the compromise will increase the annual pay for starting educators to $46,845 while bumping all teachers up at least $1,845.

This is the third consecutive year that Utah districts have attempted to outbid one another in the so-called teacher “salary wars.” Salt Lake City had been the last to reach a deal and now falls near the bottom of the pack for pay among the big districts. Just two years ago, it was among the highest paying in the state.

Initially, the district’s school board members had suggested a 3% raise. The stalemate started when the education association refused to accept that.

Teachers held their first protest in June, walking out of a board meeting on the night before the last day of school with signs that said “6%” — indicating the raise they wanted. They rallied again a few weeks later outside a district meeting, chanting: “Cut our funding, and we’ll go job hunting.”

The disagreements came in the midst of statewide difficulties in hiring and retaining teachers — where pay has become the bargaining chip for districts to attract the best in the field. An arms race kicked off in April, when Canyons School District announced it would raise its annual salary for starting teachers to $50,000.

Murray School District matched that. Jordan School District settled on $48,000 but promised additional teacher bonuses. Granite School District ended at $43,500 while boasting no tax hikes and a new health care center where teachers are treated for free. Park City School District didn’t have an increase this year, though it remains the highest in Utah at $50,700.