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Mediation awaits Salt Lake City School District, Teachers Union

Teacher Mary Hamilton helps sixth-grader Karina Palza at Oquirrh Hills Elementary in the file photo taken Aug. 30, 2010. (Photo: Keith Johnson, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District and the Salt Lake Teachers Union are headed to mediation after failing to reach an agreement on salary increases.

Yandry Chatwin, a spokeswoman for the school district, told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic the latest offer was generous.

“Six percent is really a substantial increase,” Chatwin said. “And the jump from a starting salary of $45,100 to $50,100 is definitely more than six percent.”

The district’s offer of a starting salary of $50,100 beats the average state income of $47,610.┬áBut teachers say the offer, which was the most recent of three salary offers, would change their lane and step schedule too much.

Most schools districts’ salary schedules for teachers include lane and step changes, which govern raises over time – for example, how much a teacher with 10 years of experience will make compared to a teacher with 10 years plus an advanced degree.

Kyle Bracken, a social studies teacher at Highland High School, explained some teachers might feel disincentivized to get higher degrees if the payoff doesn’t make sense.

“That’s the only way we can advocate for ourselves, is to grow professionally, up through the lanes. And the steps all coincide with the years’ experience you have,” he said.

Chatwin says the district is doing the best it can.

“We feel that our board has tried its very best, within the limits we have, to show how much we value our educators,” Chatwin said.

Bracken says he doubts it will come to a strike.

“I get a sense that no one wants to strike. We love working with the students. One of my most exciting times of the year is when fall comes around, and many of my colleagues feel the same way,” Bracken said.

The union and district will meet with a federal mediator on July 10. If negotiations there fall through, teachers would still be paid in the new school year, but the next year’s contract would go back to the local board of education.