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How to Read DPS’ Proposed Teacher Salary Schedule

What is a teacher salary schedule? It’s a document showing how teachers will be paid over a 30-year career.

When school districts and teachers’ unions negotiate contracts over teacher pay, they exchange proposed salary schedules to show what they want teacher pay to look like.

So DPS’ proposed salary schedule is intended to be a predictable and transparent way for teachers to see how their pay will grow over time.

Like teacher salary schedules nationwide, the district’s proposed schedule is based on a system of what are commonly called “steps” and “lanes.” 

In Denver, where voters approved a groundbreaking teacher pay plan created by district and union leaders in 2005, the proposed salary schedule — and teacher pay in general — looks a little different than most.

That’s because DPS teachers can substantially increase their pay by making decisions about where they teach, what they teach and how long they stay in a school. Read the FAQ below to learn more.


What is a step on DPS' proposed teacher salary schedule?

A step usually refers to a year of experience. On a typical teacher salary schedule, steps are shown on the left and “moving down a step” means a teacher has added a year of experience and gained an increase in pay.

On DPS’ proposed salary schedule, a teacher also must earn a positive annual evaluation to gain a “step” increase in pay. The district and the teachers’ union, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, have agreed that teachers must earn Approaching, Effective or Distinguished ratings on their annual performance evaluations to receive the step increase.

In DPS, 99% of teachers achieve one of these positive ratings on their annual evaluations

These criteria are based on the intent of ProComp, the professional compensation system created by district and union leaders and approved by Denver voters in 2005. Read the ProComp ballot language.

What is a lane on the district's proposed schedule?

A lane usually refers to a pay increase based on attaining more education, such as college credits, an advanced license or national teaching certification. This is usually shown to the right of the step column on the teacher salary schedule and is often referred to as “moving over a lane.”

Like most teacher salary schedules, DPS’ proposed schedule includes a lane for teachers with bachelor’s degrees and a lane for those with doctorates. It also includes lanes in the middle called “master educator lanes.”

DPS is proposing several ways a teacher can move over a lane and earn more: Adding 20 college credits to a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s degree, earning a master’s degree plus 30 college credits, earning an advanced license, earning National Board teaching certification or serving 10 years in DPS classrooms.

The experience lane is unusual for a teacher salary schedule but DPS has included it as an incentive for teachers to stay in our schools. It also allows teachers to increase their pay without having to spend money on advanced degrees, which can be expensive.

In DPS, two-thirds of teachers meet at least one of these criteria for pay increases based on moving over a lane.

What's different about steps and lanes on DPS' proposed schedule?

DPS’ proposed schedule has three key differences from most teacher salary schedules:

1. Includes step requirement

Instead of an automatic increase for another year of experience, as is typical, the DPS schedule would require teachers to earn a positive annual evaluation to move a step and receive the pay increase. In DPS, 99% of teachers achieve a positive rating on their annual evaluations.

2. Adds lane based on experience

While lanes on most teacher salary schedules are based on increased education or credentials, DPS is proposing a lane increase based on 10 years’ of consecutive service in our district. A teacher who completes 10 years in DPS would receive a salary increase equivalent to that given for adding 20 college credits to a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s degree, earning a master’s degree plus 30 college credits, earning an advanced license or earning National Board teaching certification.

This is intended to show how much DPS values keeping our teachers. It also allows teachers to increase their pay without having to spend money on advanced degrees, which can be expensive.

3. Allows continuous growth: No salary caps

In many school districts, the salary schedule includes caps on how much a teacher can earn over time without completing other requirements. DPS’ proposed schedule has no caps, allowing educators to continuously grow their salary over their entire 30-year careers.

For example, a DPS teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience in our schools would earn a salary of $75,500. In Boulder, that teacher would earn $49,665 because their salary schedule requires teachers to start working toward an advanced degree in order to grow their compensation.

What pay can DPS teachers earn in addition to the salary schedule?

Teachers in DPS have various opportunities to earn additional pay based on decisions about where they teach, what they teach, how long they stay in a school and whether they want to coach other teachers in their buildings.

Here’s what those opportunities would look like under the district’s pay proposal:

Annual incentives for serving in high-poverty schools and hard-to-fill positions: Add $2,500-$5,000

  • Based on current data, 72% of DPS teachers would earn at least one $2,500 incentive, as reflected in the “typical for DPS” example above. 

Annual incentives for participating in the district’s teacher leadership program: Add $800 to $5,000

  • Currently in DPS, 1 in 5 teachers participate in the teacher leadership program, where they coach and collaborate with other teachers in their schools. Incentives range from $800 for new teacher ambassadors up to $5,000 for senior team leads. Most participants earn at least $1,500.

Annual incentive for serving in highest-priority schools: Add $2,500

  • Under the proposed pay plan, 30 DPS schools would be defined as “highest-priority” schools because of the significant challenges they face. Educators who teach in these schools and return to teach the next year would receive an additional $2,500 bonus in the fall. This reflects the district’s belief in attracting and keeping strong teachers in our most challenging schools.

Salary increase for advanced education, credentials and service in DPS: Add $3,500-$17,500

  • The district’s pay proposal creates several ways a DPS teacher can add another $3,500 to their annual salary: add 20 college credits to a bachelor’s degree, earn a master’s degree, earn a master’s degree plus 30 college credits, earn an advanced license, earn National Board teaching certification or serve 10 consecutive years in DPS. Currently, two-thirds of Denver teachers have achieved at least one of these milestones.

Why are teachers paid differently in DPS?

This is largely due to the Professional Compensation System for teachers, commonly known as ProComp.

District and union leaders created the ground-breaking teacher pay plan that gives more money to teachers based on factors such as serving in a more challenging school or in a hard-to-fill position such as secondary math or special needs.

Denver voters approved funding for ProComp in 2005. Today, it adds another $33 million to teacher pay in DPS.

Before ProComp, the DPS teacher salary schedule and compensation plan looked like most other districts, with teachers receiving the same salary regardless of what or where they taught.

ProComp has evolved over time and many say it’s grown too complicated or focuses too much on annual bonuses rather than building base pay. DPS’ proposal streamlines ProComp, includes a transparent and predictable salary schedule, and moves millions of dollars from bonuses into base pay.

Learn more about ProComp and read the ProComp ballot language approved by Denver voters in 2005.