Commentary by Beth Niedermeyer
We have a serious challenge at Noblesville Schools that we have been struggling with since 2017. High-quality teachers are leaving our district in the midst of a significant, statewide teacher shortage.
Replacing expert teachers when they leave isn’t as easy as it used to be, and this is especially true of teachers with specialized skills sets like science, technology, engineering and math. Evidence and experience have decisively shown that strong teachers are the most important factor in student academic and interpersonal success, so their loss is especially troubling.
In the last 18 months 70 percent of teachers who left Noblesville Schools left specifically for a higher salary. The increase they left for was substantial, and they didn’t have to go far.
Analysis of teacher salary data from the large four Hamilton County school districts shows that differences in teacher pay rates can range from Noblesville teachers, with 5 years of experience, making $10,000 less than their neighbor teachers, to as much as $19,000 less with 20 years of experience. Factors that impact these amounts include level of education and area of expertise.
This disparity in salaries is a fairly recent development. When we asked the community for a continuation of our operating referendum in 2016 at a reduced tax rate, our salary offerings were competitive with our neighbor districts. However, those neighbors have passed referendums, raised their tax rates and implemented large salary increases for their staffs.
Since then we’ve seen an increase in high-quality teachers leaving for neighbor districts, sometimes even in the middle of the school year, and citing salary as the reason for their exit. This exodus will increase in frequency if we do not address it.
While much of the media attention surrounding this 2018 referendum has focused on the portion that will fund enhancements in mental health and safety, in fact 47 percent of the funds we are requesting will be used to retain and recruit high quality teachers and staff.
Please know that improving employee salaries was not included in the referendum proposal as an afterthought. Before the West Middle School shooting occurred, we knew that we would have to ask the community soon for more funding to address teacher salaries. Rather than run a referendum now for mental health and safety, and another one next year for staff salaries, it just made sense to combine all three of these needs into one referendum.
I want Noblesville Schools to continue to be a district where the best teachers want to stay and future teachers want to locate. A stable, committed and innovative teaching staff is critical to the vibrancy of the Noblesville community and the future of the city’s workforce.
We are leaders in education thanks to our high-quality staff. We must offer them competitive salaries if we hope to stay that way.
Our children and the future of Noblesville deserve it.