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SANDY — It's official, the Canyons Board of Education approved Tuesday a $50,000 starting wage for teachers this fall and a $7,665 annual raise for all certified teachers in an agreement with the Canyons Education Association.
The pay increase, which will require a property tax increase, means the Canyons will be among the highest paying school districts statewide. At this point in the yet-to-be completed contract negotiation season, Canyons' pay is second only to Park City School District, said Leon Wilcox, the district's business administrator.
The pay raise includes $500 for each educator provided under the Teacher and Student Success Act that appropriated more than $98 million statewide for local education initiatives. The act allows all schools to use 25 percent of the funding for teacher salary and benefits.
Although the board voted unanimously to approve the agreement, which was earlier approved by the teacher association, board member Chad Iverson called out the Utah Legislature for refusing to raise taxes for education, which forces the local school boards to make difficult decisions.
"I don't think they really have the courage to raise taxes for education," Iverson said. "Then it comes down to a seven-member board in Canyons School District to raise taxes unilaterally."
He also took issue with the school board's process, which was announcing the administration's tentative agreement at the district's teacher of year celebration before the board had an opportunity to discuss it among themselves.
"Given where we are I think these meetings are kind of a sham," he said.
Board member Amanda Oaks said the fact that Utah ranks last in the country in terms of per pupil funding "is frankly an embarrassment," particularly in a state that says it values families and education.
Teachers deserve better, she said.
"I am who I am because of my family but also because of remarkable teachers I've had in my life," Oaks said.
Board member Steve Wrigley said he spent his career in human services and because of that choice, both he and his wife had to work to support their five children.
When teachers are not paid a living wage, there are consequences, he said. Wrigley said he occasionally works as a substitute teacher. He said he has observed few male teachers and many female educators who work for about five years and leave because they can't afford child care.
Raising teacher pay gives professionals more options and it boosts their morale, he said. If a teacher feels good about themself, "you're going to have a student who feels good about themself."
"It's all for the kids," Wrigley said.
Teachers who addressed the board earlier in the evening thanked the members for supporting their work, which ultimately supports students.
One teacher said she will for the first time consider not working two jobs and she won't have to resort to drastic steps to raise money such as selling plasma.
In Canyons' case, the pay raise for licensed teachers will also require a local property tax increase — around $12 monthly on the average home in the district. The school district will conduct a truth-in-taxation hearing in August to present the proposed tax increase to district patrons.