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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:             May 26, 2006

RE:                  New Minimum Teacher Salary Requirements

On May 9, 2006, Governor Baldacci signed Public Law, Chapter 635 – An Act to Update Minimum Teachers’ Salaries. The law repeals the existing statutory minimum teacher salary of $15,500 established in 1987. It requires school administrative units to pay certified teachers a minimum salary of $27,000 for the school year beginning July 1, 2006 and $30,000 for the school year beginning July 1, 2007 and beyond. The law provides for dedicated State funding to achieve the minimum salary requirements in FY2007 and the Legislative intent to fund the $30,000 minimum required in FY2008 and beyond. Qualifying school administrative units will be required to submit a list of eligible certified teachers in September of each fiscal year and an adjustment will be made to the unit’s subsidy to cover the costs of the difference between what the teacher would otherwise be paid on the local teacher salary scale and the required minimums set forth in Chapter 635.

Effective Date of Chapter 635:

The Act will take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature. That adjournment date will likely be late this month with an effective date of late August 2006. Some school units will have begun their 2006-2007 school year before the effective date of the law. While each periodic salary payment to teachers does not have to equal the annual salary minimum amount divided by the number of pay periods, the total salary for the 2006-2007 year must equal or exceed the statutory minimum of $27,000 regardless of the starting date of the school year.

Staff Eligibility for New Minimum Salary Requirements: 

Certified teachers who are employed either full or part-time in a “qualifying school administrative unit” are eligible for an adjustment in their annual salary as necessary to achieve the minimum salary amounts spelled out in the new law. The minimum salary requirement applies to all “certified teachers” who are employed in a qualifying school administrative unit and who must be certified pursuant to 20A-MRSA section 13303 for the positions which they hold. That includes education specialists such as literary specialists, library media specialists, and guidance counselors. It applies to all categories of certification including provisional, professional, conditional, and targeted needs certificates. School nurses and social workers are not covered by this requirement.

The minimum salary law does not distinguish between full-time and part-time teachers. Full-time teachers must be paid a minimum salary of $27,000 in 2006-2007 and $30,000 thereafter. The minimum amount may be prorated for part-time teachers in proportion to their full-time equivalency.  

Local School Unit Eligibility for State Support to Meet New Minimum Salary Requirements:

Each “qualifying school administrative unit” is eligible to receive State reimbursement for the costs associated with meeting the new minimum salary requirements. A qualifying school administrative unit includes a municipal school unit, a school administrative district, a community school district, or any other municipal or quasi-municipal corporation responsible for operating or constructing public schools. For the purposes of this law, a qualifying school administrative unit also includes a career and technical education region. The minimum salary law does not apply to private schools and State-operated schools.

Method of Application by a Qualifying School Administrative Unit:

In 2006-2007, the State will provide each SAU with the full funding needed to raise salaries from the levels in locally established salary scales to the statutory minimum amount of $27,000. In the fall of 2006, the Department of Education will provide each SAU with forms and procedures to identify those teachers who are actually employed at that time and whose salaries under the locally established salary scale are below the statutory minimum amount, and the amount of funds needed to raise salaries to the statutory minimum. Subject to verification, the Department of Education will include funding for the difference in the SAU’s monthly subsidy check.

By September 30 of each school year, each qualifying school administrative unit must submit a list of certified teachers whose salaries on the local salary schedule is below $27,000 for the year beginning July 1, 2006 and below $30,000 for the year beginning July 1, 2007 and beyond, along with their relationship to full-time equivalent (FTE) status and the applicable salary schedule for the unit for that school year.

Method of Payment to a Qualifying School Administrative Unit:

Once the eligibility and adjustment have been verified for each teacher and the total adjustment amount calculated for each unit, an adjustment to the unit’s subsidy printout (ED281) will be issued and payment included in the remaining monthly subsidy checks. The adjustment to subsidy must occur on or before February 1st of each fiscal year. A provision in the law allows for receipt of additional State funds and payment of those funds to certified teachers without approval by the local governing body. 

The law does not describe a specific mechanism for funding in 2007-2008, although the law provides that it is the intent of the Legislature that at least $2,118,308 be appropriated in fiscal year 2007-2008 to carry out the intent of the minimum salary law.

For 2008-2009 and thereafter, the law provides that the Commissioner shall increase the State share of the total allocation to a qualifying SAU by an amount necessary to achieve the minimum starting salary.

Specific funding is included in the approved State budget to implement the minimum salary law in 2006-2007.  The law expresses the intent to fund the minimum salary increases in later years.

Method of Payment to Eligible Certified Teachers

The additional amount required for each certified teacher to meet the new salary minimum should be added to the locally established salary and distributed as regular salary in normal periodic pay installments. It is subject to all normal withholding requirements for tax and retirement purposes.

Collective Bargaining

The law makes no reference to collective bargaining. Therefore, it does not change collective bargaining obligations that already exist, and adds no new collective bargaining obligations. For SAUs that have collective bargaining agreements that are effective through the 2006-2007 school year or beyond and that cover salaries, there is no obligation to negotiate on salary changes to take effect during the contract period, unless the collective bargaining agreement itself includes such an obligation by its specific terms. 

School boards and bargaining agents may mutually agree to engage in additional mid-term collective bargaining about salaries, if both parties elect to do so. 

The law does not require any change in salaries for teachers who are receiving salaries above the required minimum levels.  Any changes to those would be though the collective bargaining process.

Where collective bargaining agreements are in effect for 2006-2007 or beyond, and provide for salaries for some certified teachers that are below the statutory minimums, the law effectively supersedes those contract provisions that conflict with it. Salaries of affected teachers must be raised to the statutory minimum amount.

Additional Questions Regarding Collective Bargaining That Have Been Raised

1.  If the collective bargaining agreement in a school administrative unit expires at the end of the 2005-2006 school year or 2006-2007 school year, must the salary scales that are negotiated for future years establish and reflect a $27,000 minimum amount in 2006-2007 and a $30,000 minimum amount in 2007-2008 and thereafter?

No, but all certified teachers must be paid at least $27,000 in 2006-2007 and at least $30,000 in 2007-2008 and thereafter. If the locally established salary scales do not provide for at least these amounts, the school unit will be required to pay teachers whose locally established salaries are below the statutory minimum rate an amount equal to the statutory minimum The State will provide the difference between the negotiated salary and $27,000 in 2006-2007 and $30,000 in 2007-2008.

2.  If a school administrative unit negotiates a collective bargaining agreement after the effective date of the law that includes a locally established salary scale with some rates below the statutory minimum of $27,000 for 2006-2007 or $30,000 for 2007-2008 and thereafter, will the State provide funding to SAUs to raise salaries to the statutory minimum amounts?

Yes, the Department of Education will distribute additional funding to such school units to achieve the statutory minimum in the same manner as it will for school units who already have contracts in effect for future years.  Conversely, if all rates on the locally established salary scale exceed the statutory minimum, no teachers will be paid below the statutory minimum and the SAU will receive no State funding to implement the minimum salary scale.