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With Salary Negotiations Halted, Salt Lake City Teachers Say They Won't Back Down

Salt Lake City teacher group photo
Rocio Hernandez / KUER
Salt Lake City teachers rally outside district's board meeting.

About a hundred Salt Lake City teachers, parents and community supporters rallied on Tuesday to demand better pay. Salary negotiations between the teachers’ union and the district reached an impasse two weeks ago.

The crowd gathered outside of Innovations Early College High School where the school board’s annual planning meeting was taking place.

Teachers and their supporters, wearing red T-shirts, listened to speakers and chanted messages such as “Cut our earnings? We say no.”

“We are so lucky. Our jobs are so meaningful, and they matter so much everyday. But feeling fulfilled in your job doesn’t pay the bills,” said Elise Maxwell, a Bonneville Elementary School third grade teacher who spoke at the rally.

Other school districts in the Wasatch Front like Canyons School District have recently increased teacher salaries. Next year, Canyons teachers will see their pay go up by almost $8,000 across the board — for a new starting salary of $50,000 — making the district the second highest-paying in the state along with the Murray City School District.

Yándary Chatwin, the Salt Lake district’s spokeswoman, said the teachers’ union has rejected the district’s previous offers. The latest would have increased starting salaries from $45,001 to $50,100. That’s $600 below the highest paying school district in Utah, Park City School District.

The Salt Lake school board moved $1.4 million out of the district’s capital fund to pay for the raise, Chatwin said.

“Our board really does have a commitment to our teachers,” she said. “It’s just always really difficult to manage our priorities with the limited funding.”

The teachers have also asked for a cap on class sizes and extended pay for parental leave, but the district rejected those requests.

James Tobler is president of the Salt Lake Education Association, the local teachers’ union. He said the district’s proposals include a salary system that could hurt teachers in the long run.

The new system could mean a loss of more than $125,000 in earnings over a 30-year career, according to the union’s calculations.

“We can’t accept that salary lane and so we are wanting to keep what we have, improve upon what we have and hopefully recruit and retain the best educators to Utah and the Salt Lake District,” said Tobler.


Salt Lake City teachers hold signs
Credit Rocio Hernandez / KUER
Salt Lake City School District teachers rally for better pay.

Parent Marilee Coles-Ritchie, who attended the rally, said teachers aren't asking for much.

“If you want really quality people to be teachers of your students, then we need to up their pay,” Coles-Ritchie, a teacher educator at Westminster College, said. “They are looking at this [pay] scale and seeing that there are holes in it and that they are not going to be supported long term.”

Casey Trawick is another parent and serves as a substitute teacher in the Salt Lake City School District. She and her husband attended the rally to support a raise for teachers.

“I haven’t talked to a lot of teachers who are willing to move [if the mediation process doesn’t go their way], because they are established here. But I know that the frustration level is rising significantly,” Trawick said.

The Salt Lake City School District and its teachers’ union will have to wait until July 10 for a federal mediator to assist in the process.

Tobler, the teachers’ union president, said he is optimistic that the two parties can reach a decision before the next school year starts in August.

Rocio is coming to KUER after spending most of her life under the blistering Las Vegas sun and later Phoenix. She earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish at the University of Nevada, Reno. She did brief stints at The Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Public Radio. She enjoys wandering through life with her husband and their toy poodle.
Kate joined KUER from Austin, Texas. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Communication. She has been an intern, fellow and reporter at Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer, Quartz, the Texas Standard and Voces, an oral history project. Kate began her public radio career at Austin’s NPR station, KUT, as a part-time reporter. She served as a corps member of Report For America, a public service program that partners with local newsrooms to bring reporters to undercovered areas across the country.
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