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Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said IPS teachers will get a raise when contract negotiations with their union are complete later this year.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said IPS teachers will get a raise when contract negotiations with their union are complete later this year.

Scott Elliott

Ferebee: IPS teachers can expect a raise next year

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee tonight delivered Indianapolis Public Schools teachers the news they’ve been waiting to hear for more than five years: He promised them a raise next school year.

Ferebee said the administration, school board, the union and Elevate IPS, a new group that advocates for better pay for IPS teachers, jointly agreed union contract talks later this summer would produce “a raise on the salary base for all of our teachers.”

“This is a monumental statement in our effort to ensure that we value the talent of our teachers, many of whom have been loyal to IPS,” Ferebee said. “It’s an opportunity to retain and attract the best teachers for our classrooms.”

Exactly what the raise would entail — and whether it could be part of a bigger overhaul of pay scales and benefits that could offer teachers more pay for different job duties or taking on extra responsibilities — wasn’t shared. The school board will begin bargaining with the union over next year’s contract on Aug. 1.

“We can’t specifically discuss numbers at this point,” Ferebee said. “We want to be as creative and innovative as possible.”

IPS teachers union president Rhondalyn Cornett said she was pleased with the plan.

“It’s all negotiable,” Cornett said. “We’re opening to listening, of course, because we want people to get paid. Everybody’s suffering.”

Going more than five years without raises has proved to be difficult for teachers, who say they’re worried that too many of their colleagues are leaving IPS to take jobs in nearby districts that sometimes pay as much as 10 to 25 percent more. Ferebee said it’s hard to know how many people have been leaving to take higher-paying jobs.

Board member Sam Odle said the promise of a raise was a good first step to correct that disparity.

“We refuse to accept that excellent IPS teachers cannot be paid as much as their counterparts in other school districts,” he said.

Tina Ahlgren, IPS’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, said the announcement was exciting, but not a panacea for teachers who are financially struggling. It’s unlikely IPS could make up the entire deficit with a single raise, she said.

“We’ve gotten ourselves into a mess,” Ahlgren said. “We’re at a point where it has to be fixed.”

For now, Ahlgren said she hopes it gives teachers a reason to stay.

“It’s a tough job,” she said. “It takes a lot of hours. It takes a lot of heart. It’s really hard to be an IPS teacher when you know other districts nearby have sometimes more resources and a higher salary.

“We really hope any teachers that were thinking about possible making a leap out of IPS this summer rethink that.”