Teachers and other school staff in Aurora will get an average 8.5% raise this coming school year, district leaders announced this week.
District and union leaders agreed on the salary increases, which still need approval by a vote of union members, and the district’s school board next month.
If approved as expected, leaders believe the raises will be among the highest in the metro area this school year.
Classified and administrative staff will get a commensurate raise as is practice in the district.
“We want to make sure we recognize the need to stay competitive,” Superintendent Rico Munn said. “We have prioritized that over many years.”
The increases are estimated to cost the district about $30 million annually.
Negotiations for salaries continue in the Denver and Jeffco school districts. In Littleton, the school board approved giving teachers and other licensed staff raises of about 7%, including steps and lanes — compensation for longevity and additional degrees or training. The Adams 14 district and teachers union reached an agreement last month to give teachers a 3.5% cost of living raise, separate from step increases and retention bonuses.
Aurora Public School officials are touting that they’ve given raises ranging from 4.86% to 8.8% each of the last five years, which they say that adds up to 34% in average increases.
As of early last month, Aurora staff retention for next year was 87.92% — slightly lower than usual, but still within a normal range, and not concerningly low, Munn said.
The challenge, he said, is in finding new hires.
“Where you had a vacancy before, you had 10 people applying. Today we have two,” Munn said.
Linnea Reed-Ellis, president of the Aurora teachers union, said that she hopes the salary increases will help the district hire and retain more staff, as well as making the profession “more sustainable.”
“Anecdotally, I hear from a lot of teachers who are struggling and trying to decide whether or not to stay in the profession,” Reed-Ellis said. “I know that compensation is always one of the top priorities for educators, so we’re hopeful this will support our educators in making the decision to stay.”
But with the rising cost of living, she said, “It’s still hard to be an educator in Colorado.”
In addition to the salary increases, the union and the district renegotiated their entire contract. Reed-Ellis said teachers are also excited about new limits on class size.
“Basically all or the majority of my site visits the first semester this school year, class size was a common theme, regardless of age of students,” Reed-Ellis said. “It really gets to the sustainability of the careers.”
The contract lays out thresholds, and also a process to review each case when a class size ends up larger than the guidelines.
Both leaders said that they were proud of the negotiating teams.
“We didn’t hit an impasse, we didn’t have a big fight, we were able to work through these issues,” Munn said. “That kind of stability is important for people these days.”
Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at firstname.lastname@example.org.