It's looking like Lawrence teachers will get a slight pay raise this year after all.
School officials on Wednesday agreed to offer the district's 850 teachers a so-called step increase in pay. Negotiators representing the teachers accepted the offer.
A step increase -- incremental raises based on experience and postgraduate hours of education -- is comparable to a 1.5 percent raise.
Teachers are expected to vote on the offer later this month.
"The goal is, present it to certified staff by the end of the month," said Sam Rabiola, president of the Lawrence Education Assn.
Votes will be collected after an explanatory "general meeting" with the district's teachers, Rabiola said. The meeting has yet to be scheduled.
Al Gyles, a math teacher at Free State High School and head of the teachers' negotiating team, said he expected the offer to be ratified.
"I can't say for sure, but I'm optimistic, yes," Gyles said.
But ratification does not imply satisfaction, Gyles said, noting that most teachers feel shortchanged.
"Overall, I'm not happy with it," he said. "But given the financial situation the district is in, what can you do?"
Though earlier negotiations included step-increase raises in both 2004-05 and 2005-06, the Wednesday offer affected only the current school year. Both sides agreed to put off discussing the 2005-06 salaries until after the Kansas Supreme Court upholds or rejects the state's school finance formula.
As proposed, the annual raises would be roughly:
- $925 for teachers with one to 14 years' experience.
- $125 for teachers with 14 to 25 years' experience.
- Almost $400 for teachers with more than 25 years' experience.
The offer calls for teachers receiving their raises in lump-sum payments between July 1 and July 20. The money will come from the district's 2005-06 budget.
Mary Rodriguez, the district's lead negotiator, said the offer made the best of a bad situation. "We are not as competitive in the area of teacher salaries as we'd like to be," she said.
Rodriguez warned that without a significant increase in state aid, the district would be forced, as in recent years, to cut programs, staff and benefits.
State records show that Lawrence is one of seven school districts without a ratified contract. Currently, there are 301 school districts in Kansas.