QUINCY -- Should a salary increase result from negotiations between Quincy Public Schools and the Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel, a declining retention rate could potentially right itself, according to the union.
Entering the 2016-17 school year, QPS had to fill 100 positions, an increase of more than 20 from the previous year. The district's 81 percent retention rate falls slightly short regionally and is about 5 percent less than the statewide average.
Quincy Federation spokesman Jen Drew said she has become aware of a dropping retention rate in the district during the last five years. She said the turnover rate "has been very high the past few years and is getting higher every year."
According to "The High Cost of Teacher Turnover," a report prepared for the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, "high-turnover schools incur significant costs associated with their constant recruitment, hiring, training and separation of teachers, and these costs are not being weighed against possible salary savings; high turnover creates a constant drain on funding that offsets savings on low salaries for beginning teachers."
Although QPS is known as "a good district to work in," Drew said, disparate benefits among districts are among the leading causes of faculty members seeking employment elsewhere.
Retirement expenses are factored into teachers' incomes, which, after being deducted, can drop a teacher's net income below that of the outlying school districts.
"Our salary is actually 9 percent less than this because we pay our own retirement," Drew said of the teachers' $44,780 average annual salary. "Our retention rate is not very good because of our salary and benefits. I think it should be closer to 90 percent or higher."
Teachers in the Liberty, Mendon and Payson school districts all earn a smaller average gross income than those in QPS, yet in Mendon and Payson, the retention rate is 84 percent. In Liberty, the rate is 86 percent.
"Some of these other districts also pay their retirement on top of this," Drew said in noting the higher retention rates in rural Adams County schools. "If we're able to get an increase, I think it might help."
Higher salaries tend to be paid in larger metropolitan hubs, such as Chicago. However, there is significant inequality among cities of similar sizes. Roughly equal to QPS in enrollment, Rock Island School District teachers earn $22,000 more than a year on average than QPS teachers, and Rock Island's retention rate is 5 percent higher. Teachers in the Galesburg School District, a city with almost 10,000 fewer people than Quincy, earn over $10,000 more a year on average than QPS teachers, and the district's retention rate also is 5 percentage points higher than that of QPS.
"I know some of those cities have higher costs of living, but when you look at the list, Macomb makes more money than we do. I don't think the cost of living is higher in Macomb than it is in Quincy," Drew said.
Seven prospective teachers hired by QPS before the start of the current school year accepted positions elsewhere before school began. While not uncommon for a newly hired person to accept another opportunity, Drew said she has never seen so many in a single year. Some first- and second-year teachers, Drew said, also resigned and sought positions outside the district.
"We want to keep the teachers who are here. It's really hard to start over again every year," Drew said. "The teachers have had a lot of work added on in the past several years, with the new standards in Illinois and all the assessments we have to do. It's really hard to get the teaching in when you have so many other things on your plate."