The length of the school year, not salaries, appears to be the major stumbling block in Lawrence teacher negotiations.
Representatives of the Lawrence Education Assn. and the Lawrence school board negotiated for nine hours Tuesday night, wrapping up the session around 3 a.m. The two sides are now closer on the issue of salaries but still divided over the length of the school year.
Last week, the LEA team proposed a 4.33 percent increase in the base salary for teachers, and the board team proposed a 1.34 percent increase. On Tuesday, both sides appeared to agree on the board team's proposal of a 2.55 percent increase.
But whereas the board team thinks the increase should include five additional teacher contract days, the LEA team thinks the increase merits only three additional contract days.
The board team is proposing 176 teaching days and 12 nonteaching days, and the LEA team is proposing 174 teaching days and 12 nonteaching days. Presently, the district has 173 teaching days and 10 nonteaching days.
The board's proposed school calendar is the same as the one recommended by a calendar committee of teachers and administrators. LEA spokesman Kim Henrichs said this morning that the committee's word is not etched in stone.
"One of the problems throughout negotiations has been that the board has been inflexible and has used the calendar committee recommendation as the gospel," Henrichs said. "The board has been inflexible in terms of hearing other proposals."
Bill Wilson, the district's director of human resources and spokesman for the board team, said this morning that the board team had accepted some changes in the recommendation.
Although the calendar committee recommended a school day of 6 hours and 19 minutes, the board team has agreed to shorten that to 6 hours and 15 minutes, he said.
Wilson said the length of the day isn't quite as important as the number of days that students are in class.
"We're trying to move in the direction of students attending 180 days out of the year," Wilson said.
Wilson said that when it comes to the number of teacher contract days, Lawrence ranks in the bottom 10 percent among Kansas school districts. He said the board team's proposed calendar would barely put Lawrence among the top third of Kansas school districts.
Under the board team's latest salary proposal, the starting salary for a first-year teacher in the district would go from $20,358 this school year to $21,195 next school year.
A teacher with 10 years of experience and a master's degree would earn $30,223, compared to $29,029 this school year.
The salary proposal would put an additional $1.33 million, or 6.51 percent, into the total teacher salary package.
In addition to the increase in the base salary, the total salary package also reflects the cost of employee benefits and additional assignments that teachers take on. It also reflects the implementation of the district's salary schedule, which provides automatic pay increases for a teacher's additional year in the district and additional graduate study completed.