The median salary for teachers in Dayton Public Schools is $25,000 less than average teacher pay in the neighboring Oakwood City School District, according to Ohio Department of Education data on teacher compensation in the 2016-2017 school year.
The data, analyzed by the Dayton Daily News, shows a wide disparity in how much educators are paid across the region.
The data lists Dayton’s two highest-paid teachers as making $70,228, which is lower than more than 4,000 teachers at other area districts; 54 teachers at Mason schools are paid more than $90,000, the data shows.
Dayton’s teacher union threatened to strike last year before agreeing to a contract including 3 percent annual pay raises for two years. Dayton’s school board this week approved a 3 percent pay raise retroactive to July for school administrators and non-union staff.
“(The disparity) means that we may not be getting the quality teachers that we need in the district and that’s one of the reasons why we are moving to try to rectify the disparity,” Dayton School Board President William Harris said. “We want quality education for our children and we know we have to be competitive as it relates to teacher salary.”
Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli has advocated raising pay for Dayton teachers as well. One obstacle, said Harris, is that the district hasn’t passed a new levy in a decade.
The median pay for Dayton teachers was $50,238 last year. This means half of the teachers at the district made more than that, and half made less. In Oakwood the median was $75,984.
Median pay for teachers across Ohio was $57,907 last year, according to education department data. A recent report from the National Education Association found Ohio ranked 15th in median teacher pay nationwide, an improvement over the year before.
Greg Lawson, policy director at the conservative Buckeye Institute, said teachers’ union contracts are typically structured so that everyone receives the same percentage raise. That makes it difficult to reward high performers, he said.
“Good teachers should be paid well,” he said. “I think it (union contracts) does limit flexibility and it means you cannot always reward what you want to reward.”
In general, said Lawson, the wealth of a community is more reflective of school district pay and student performance than the quality of its teachers.
“If you really look at it, students living in poverty, the outcomes are a lot worse,” he said. “What do we do in communities where there’s high poverty? Because if you don’t address that, you can pay teachers $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 in some places…it’s not going to be resolved by funneling more money into the schools.”
Becky Higgins, president of the teachers union Ohio Education Association, said there are districts across Ohio that pay far less than Dayton, and far more than Oakwood. This is because of the reliance on property values in a school funding system that has been found to be unconstitutional, Higgins said.
“Schools that have money because they come from wealthier districts, they are able to pay their educators more,” she said.
Merit-based pay would encourage competition instead of collaboration among teachers, according to Higgins.
Even the lowest-paying districts have great teachers who are there for the kids, not the money, she said.
“I have been all around the state. I have been into wealthy districts. I’ve been into high-poverty districts. And I can tell you the commitment of the teachers no matter what they make is the same,” said Higgins. “They’re committed to giving their students the highest quality education they can.”
The pay gap doesn’t just involve teachers: Oakwood schools Superintendent Kyle Ramey was paid $155,324 last year compared to $135,616 for Dayton’s superintendent Rhonda Corr, according to the state data.
Corr resigned amid controversy in January but received a separation agreement that paid her more than $100,000 to go away.
Her replacement, Lolli, will receive up to $175,000 starting next year, according to her contract.
Harris said Lolli’s pay raise made her compensation fair, considering she oversees the region’s largest district.
State education data generally only includes base pay on superintendents, making comparisons difficult. Superintendent contracts often include perks such as pension pickups or a travel allowance, making the total value of their compensation higher. Corr, for example, had an expense account worth $18,000, though Lolli won’t get that same benefit.
The region’s highest-paid educator, Mason Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline, is retiring at the end of the school year. She was paid $181,290 last year, according to the state data.
Deputy superintendent Jonathan Cooper will become Mason’s new leader in July when Kist-Kline retires and will have a salary of $163,000, according to school district spokeswoman Tracey Carson.
As part of its ongoing public payroll project — searchable on the myDaytonDailyNews.com website — the newspaper examined the number of employees making $100,000 for each area school district.
The Mason and Centerville school districts tied for the most — each having 28 employees who reached the $100,000 threshold last year.
The median pay for teachers in Mason and Centerville was $75,909 and $72,418, respectively.
Carson said the Mason district sets pay for educators and superintendents based on comparisons with “other high-performing school districts.” Many of their teachers are in their 15th to 20th year, she said, and their salaries reflect that experience level.
Overall, area public school districts paid 476 employees more than $100,000 in the 2016-2017 school year, the newspaper’s analysis found. The breakdown included 129 principals, 92 superintendents, 48 school treasurers and three teachers.
Local governments make payroll with your money, which is why the newspaper has assembled and made available a searchable database of pay for public employees. The database includes information on employees from 130 area school districts and charter schools. Only employees who made at least $50,000 in the 2016-2017 school year are included in the database.
The payroll records come from the Ohio Department of Education and are self-reported by school districts. This means there may be inconsistencies in how various districts report the numbers.