Lawrence teachers and school officials on Wednesday agreed to a salary package that's expected to boost teacher wages by 8.1 percent.
"We're really happy to reach a settlement," said Lawrence Schools Supt. Randy Weseman. "Personally, I'm really glad we're getting more money to teachers. That's been the goal all along."
Under the settlement, a beginning teacher's salary would increase to $29,550 from the current $26,825.
The settlement has yet to be ratified by the district's roughly 840 teachers.
"We hope to have it ratified in time for the board's Oct. 24 meeting," said Lawrence Education Assn. President Sam Rabiola.
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Several board members, he said, have assured teachers the package will pass.
The package does not include an 8.1 percent raise for every teacher. Instead, each teacher's raise will depend on experience and number of graduate credit hours.
"It's an 8.1 percent increase in salary dollars. That's over and above the amount spent on teacher salaries last year," Weseman said. "It's that much more being plugged into the (salary) schedule."
If ratified by the teachers and the board, the raises will show up in teachers' Nov. 18 paychecks.
The raises are retroactive. Teachers will receive lump-sum payments for September and October, though the date for cutting the checks has not been decided.
The 8.1 percent increase is projected to cost the district an additional $2.8 million. Standard payroll deductions - FICA, unemployment, worker's compensation - will push the total to $3 million.
The raises are for the district's certified staff - teachers, nurses, speech pathologists and psychologists. They do not affect secretaries, paraprofessionals and custodians.
Teachers welcomed the settlement, but noted district salaries still lag behind those in several area school districts.
Wellsville, for example, pays its starting teachers $31,000; Olathe, $33,230; Shawnee Mission, $31,777; De Soto, $33,000; Blue Valley, $33,208.
"To the public, 8.1 percent may look like a healthy raise, but we're still behind what's going on in other districts," said Dan Karasek, a member of the teachers' team of negotiators.
"We need several healthy raises in a row," said Karasek, a fifth-grade teacher at Prairie Park School.
The two sides also agreed to begin an overhaul of the district's salary schedule, which dictates pay based on a teacher's pay and expertise.
"It's everybody's understanding that next year there'll be a new schedule," said Kelly Barker, a negotiator for the teachers. "The one we now has been kept on CPR long enough, it's time to pull the plug."