Archive for Thursday, May 31, 2001

Teachers, district reach agreement in salary talks

Average wage increase to be 3.1 percent; ratification needed from rank-and-file, board

May 31, 2001

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Lawrence public school negotiators Wednesday agreed on a one-year contract that includes a 4.1 percent increase in funding for teacher salaries.

When increases for fringe benefits are taken into account, the district's 900 teachers would see a 4.7 percent increase in compensation in 2001-2002. The cost will be nearly $1.5 million to the district.

"In terms of new money, this is more than the last five or six years," Supt. Randy Weseman said.

The deal must be ratified by teachers, represented in the bargaining by the Lawrence Education Assn., and the Lawrence school board.

"When you consider what we've done with this tight budget crunch, it's amazing," said Wayne Kruse, president of LEA and a Quail Run School teacher.

Raises will vary according to a person's experience and educational level, said Mary Rodriguez, the district's personnel director. The average wage hike will be about 3.1 percent, she said.

Weseman said he would recommend the school board authorize a similar raise for the district's classified employees and administration staff.

Neither classified workers nor administration staff are part of LEA and don't have collective bargaining.

Highlights of the teachers' deal:

The district will add $300 to every step on the salary grid. The district had initially offered a base hike of $220.

For beginning teachers, the bottom two salary steps were eliminated, effectively raising starting wages to $26,157 a year. Teachers new to the district also will receive a paycheck Aug. 20 rather than waiting until Sept. 20 as in the past.

For teachers with 12 years to 20 years of experience, dozens of "black holes" in the salary grid in which there were no annual raises were eliminated.

For the most experienced teachers, with more than 21 years on the job, the lump-sum bonus will increase to $800 from $600 annually.

Kruse said LEA members would likely push for significant raises again next year. This year, they asked for a $520 base salary increase.

Lawrence teachers also will continue to urge the district to invest more money toward reducing class sizes, he said.

Weseman said everyone should be aware that devoting a bigger slice of the budget to hiring new teachers to trim class sizes also reduced resources for teacher pay hikes.

"I believe that's a very delicate balance," he said.

He said the district's budget committee would begin a review of district programs and courses in September with the intent of streamlining offerings. Savings will be reinvested in the district, Weseman said.

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