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Will more districts follow Canyons’ lead and raise pay?

Photo: Getty Images

The announcement that the Canyons School District plans to implement pay raises could ripple out to the other school districts in Utah.

“We don’t see a scenario where other districts would be able to not match this effort to stay competitive over time,” said Utah Taxpayers Association vice president Rusty Cannon.

Several districts that KSL Newsradio contacted on Wednesday morning said it was too early to comment.

But Jordan School Board of Education president Bryce Dunford says if they are going to match it, they would have to increase taxes as well, or the best teachers might move to the Canyons school district.

“We applaud Canyons and we are cheering them on, because if their public says, yes, we’ll pay the increase in taxes, give our teachers more, then that’s going to create a ripple effect throughout the state of Utah,” he said.

A couple of years ago, a sort of teachers’ salary arms race was kicked off as districts all raised pay and/or benefits.

Dunford says Jordan kicked it off by moving existing money around.

“Well now all of a sudden, we have a district that is turning to the public and saying, do you really want to put your money where your mouth is,” said Dunford. He said if other districts don’t raise pay, the best teachers might move to Canyons.

He estimates the proposed tax hike in Canyons would be about $50 million they would need in order to give this size of raise.

The Canyons School District said a new state law would help pay for the increases, but their Board of Education plans to vote to increase property taxes.

Cannon said taxpayers generally are ok with that if they can tell that their increased taxes are going to teacher salaries, and not to side projects or other things.

“It sounds like what the Canyons School District wants to do here, is increase property taxes solely for the purpose of raising teacher salaries. If that’s something they can guarantee will be done, then that’s something we can support,” he said.

Canyons wants to make their starting salary $50,000 a year. Right now, only the Park City School District offers that.

The state school board says the average teacher pay in Utah is $57,237.19, according to this report.

Envision Utah says the median salary is about $54,200 a year.

Meanwhile, the Utah Foundation reports the teacher pay is $47,604, but research director Shawn Tiegen says they used older numbers in order to compare across the board to other states and other professions.

“You see some teachers that are just leaving because they have an opportunity in another industry to make 25% or more,” said Teigen.

Tiegen says salary increases help with teacher recruitment and retention.

“The more you elevate the profession, the more competition there’s going to be between and across teachers,” he said. “You can increase the pool of candidates.”

“We are losing good people because the pay just does match where they could go in other careers,” Dunford said.