An influx of state funding means School District 51 teachers will see their biggest pay raise in at least five years under the newly approved contract between the district and the Mesa Valley Education Association.

In total, teachers will see a 2.6 percent and $500 pay increase next year as well as an additional contract day for professional development.

MVEA President Heather O'Brien said the 1 percent market adjustment to the teacher salary range is particularly significant. It will raise the minimum and maximum teacher salaries from a range of $34,280 to $71,477 to a range of $37,440 to $75,780.

"It makes us much more competitive in hiring new teachers, and we're moving from near the bottom to being on top regionally with offering competitive pay," O'Brien said.

MVEA members voted to approve the contract on Monday, and the District 51 Board of Education approved the contract Tuesday.

District 51 Compensation Specialist Gi Moon said teacher salaries have been lower than the market rate because, for many years, the district did not offer a cost-of-living adjustment. That changed in 2017 with a 1 percent increase.

O'Brien said she was pleased with the positive working relationship between MVEA and the school district, particularly in light of state and national teacher strikes over classroom resources, teacher pay and benefits.

"We work really hard on our relationship with the district and school board," O'Brien said. "We keep the focus on what's best for kids and it makes it possible to have these conversations."

School board member Doug Levinson said successful negotiations between the district and teachers union are made possible by "a common goal and common interest" in improving education.

"There's great recognition on our board that we've got to compensate our teachers fairly," Levinson said. "From the new state dollars we received, we were able to make a good package for staff and teachers but still meet other needs in the district."

The additional state funding came as a result of legislative action to reduce the "negative factor," or the amount by which legislators have underfunded schools in order to balance the state budget.

The contract also includes a new teacher evaluation system that the district is testing through a pilot phase this year.

O'Brien said instead of the state-mandated evaluation, which requires principals to evaluate every teacher on 217 measures, the district's proposed evaluation is more of a conversation about growth, standards and what teachers are doing in classrooms.

Depending on how the pilot program goes, District 51 could ask the state board of education next year for a teacher evaluation waiver in order to use its own system.

Additionally, the new contract puts a hold on the instructional leader program, which offered a $5,000 stipend for teachers who took on additional duties such as serving on committees, designing curriculum or teaching other teachers.

O'Brien said MVEA and the district are looking at all teacher stipends, including those for professional development, in order to offer more in-house training for teachers.