It's good to see that the Lawrence school district and its teachers have arrived at a salary package that will include a sizable pay increase for local teachers. After two years of meager and delayed pay raises, an overall 8.1 percent increase in the district's budget for teacher salaries is a positive move.
The teachers had hoped for a larger increase, but the 8.1 percent increase is a significant improvement over the past few years. The agreement also calls for boosting salaries for beginning teachers by about 10 percent to help address a key weakness in Lawrence's pay scale. Although Lawrence teachers generally fare well as their careers advance and especially when they retire, the salary for beginning teachers in this district continues to lag behind what is paid in other nearby districts.
Continuing to improve starting salaries is likely to be a top priority as the district and teachers work to overhaul the district's pay schedule. Teachers had proposed that revisions in the pay schedule be part of this year's negotiations but the fact that increases in state funding weren't finalized until a special legislative session in June made it difficult to accomplish that goal this year.
Teachers and administrators have agreed to start looking at pay schedule revisions in preparation for next year's negotiations. Reviewing the system is a good move that is likely to benefit teachers and the district.
An 8.1 percent raise is high compared to what many other local workers can expect this year, but it comes after some lean years for teachers, including the last school year when teachers worked without any raise until they received lump sum payments equal to about 1.5 percent of their salaries in July. Overall, Lawrence salaries continue to lag behind those in other nearby districts.
Much of the local district's ability to help close that gap depends on funding from the state, but there is little doubt that teacher salaries across the nation don't adequately reflect the important role these professionals play in the lives of our children and our communities.