The Lawrence school district isn't alone in reaching impasse in teacher negotiations this year in Kansas.
Rodney VanZandt, associate executive director of the Kansas-National Education Assn., said 35 of the state's 304 school districts are reported at impasse in teacher negotiations. Negotiators for the Lawrence Education Assn. and Lawrence school board negotiators declared impasse Tuesday.
VanZandt said 117 districts have settled on contracts, and the remaining 152 districts continue negotiating.
Among districts that had completed negotiations by last Friday, the median salary increase for teachers was 8.5 percent, he said.
That figure includes both salaries and fringe benefits. It also includes supplemental salary increases for additional assignments such as coaching. In some cases, he said, districts have provided teachers additional compensation for an extended school year.
LEA representatives have proposed raising by 9.95 percent the amount of money spent on teacher salaries and fringe benefits. School board representatives have proposed a 6.95 percent increase.
UNDER THE school new finance plan approved by the Kansas Legislature this year, most school districts were granted greater budget authority than they were given in the 1991-92 school year. VanZandt said he expected teachers in many districts used the opportunity to try to put their salaries on par with others across the country.
"Kansas teachers have been falling further and further behind the national average for several years," VanZandt said.
In 1988-89, he said, the average Kansas teacher salary was $2,352 below the national average. In 1991-92, the average Kansas teacher salary was $30,731, or $3,682 behind the national average of $34,413.
"We have fallen behind the last few years," VanZandt said.
As for the number of Kansas school districts that have gone to impasse, VanZandt said, "I don't see a significant difference between this year and last year." However, he said, with so many districts still negotiating, "the potential is there for more."
NOW THAT Lawrence teacher negotiations have gone to impasse, a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will be assigned to try to help the negotiating teams find a middle ground. VanZandt said it now is taking from a month to six weeks for a mediator to be assigned to a district.
Last year, it took six weeks after impasse for Lawrence negotiators to meet with a mediator. However, negotiators settled their differences after meeting for just one day of mediation.
If mediation isn't successful in helping teachers and the district reach agreement, a fact-finder will enter the process. Under the fact-finding procedure, each negotiating team presents a case for its proposal.
If both negotiating teams cannot agree to the fact-finder's proposal, the school board could issue unilateral contracts to teachers.