Starting teacher salary set at nearly $61,000 by Westminster district in tentative contract

A kindergarten teacher helps a girl and boy with a class activity.
Beginning teachers in the Westminster district could soon earn $61,000 a year under a two-year contract officials expect to approve shortly. (Allison Shelley for EDUimages)

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The Westminster school district north of Denver will pay beginning teachers a starting salary of nearly $61,000, according to a new contract tentatively approved by the district and teachers union Monday. 

The new pay floor in the 8,000-student suburban district appears to be the highest in Colorado. The Cherry Creek district announced this month new teachers will start at $57,000 next year. And new contracts negotiated last summer in Denver and Jeffco set starting salaries this year at about $50,000 for new teachers. 

News of Westminster’s new starting salary comes as districts across Colorado face ongoing challenges when it comes to filling teaching jobs, especially in special education and secondary math and science classrooms. But the severity of teacher vacancies varies widely by location. Plus, some national experts say recent shortages may also be because schools have used COVID stimulus money to create new positions that they’ve had a hard time filling, not because of unusually high teacher turnover.

According to a recent survey by the Colorado Education Association, 85% of educators say the shortage of classroom teachers in their school is worse than in previous years. 

“When the community approved our mill levy override in 2018, we promised taxpayers that we would focus on attracting and retaining high quality staff,” Westminster Superintendent Pam Swanson said in a press release Tuesday. “This agreement does just that.”

The two-year contract is expected to be ratified quickly, according to the release.

Colorado lawmakers have tried to ease teacher shortages with a variety of strategies in recent years. 

Last year, they created a new loan forgiveness program and made it easier for retired teachers to return to the classroom. This year, they’ve proposed bills that would a create teacher apprentice program, provide stipends and loan forgiveness for student teachers and make it easier for out of state teachers to work in Colorado 

Ann Schimke is a senior reporter at Chalkbeat, covering early childhood issues and early literacy. Contact Ann at aschimke@chalkbeat.org.

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