Lawrence teachers and school officials on Wednesday remained split about the size of salary raise teachers should receive.
"We're still a long way apart," said Kelly Barker, a spokesman for the school districts' teachers.
Many of the roughly 30 teachers who attended the 90-minute session wore T-shirts characterizing the Lawrence school district as a minor league team that trains teachers for "major league" schools in Northeast Kansas.
The shirts bore charts that showed Lawrence teachers earn thousands of dollars less than their peers in neighboring Johnson County.
"It's embarrassing," said Kristyn Nieder, a fifth-grade teacher at Quail Run. "Here's Lawrence, a college town that's so well-educated, and we don't even pay our starting teachers $30,000 a year - Wellsville pays its starting teachers $31,000 a year."
The teachers and district have settled one issue: They agreed Wednesday to stick, for now, with the existing salary "schedule," even though both sides agree it's broken.
But money remains an issue.
Using the existing salary structure, the teachers proposed raising the base salary figure by $1,500. With incentives for longevity and other considerations, most of the district's teachers would take home an additional $2,400 to $3,000 annually.
District representatives balked at the $1,500 figure. Instead, they offered to add $2.6 million into the formula, an amount, they said, that represents an 8 percent raise.
But the teachers argued the $2.6 million figure includes payroll expenses and health insurance premiums and should not be confused with an increase in take-home pay.
"I'm not worried about 'percent,' I'm worried about dollars," Barker said.
Barker and Mary Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the district's negotiations team, agreed that for most teachers, the district's $2.6 million offer would result in lesser raises than the teachers' proposal.
District representatives agreed to come up with an apples-to-apples comparison in time for the groups' next meeting, Sept. 30.
Nieder bristled at the district's claim that teachers are in line for an 8 percent raise.
"After you take out the payroll expenses, it'll be closer to 5 percent," she said. "And that's after getting no increase for all of last year."
Nieder conceded that the district had followed through on its promise to offset last year's stalled negotiations with retroactive, lump-sum raise payments in August, shortly after the district received its first increase-in-state-aid check.
"You know how much I got? Seven hundred dollars," Nieder said. "And I did better than most - that's $700 for the year."
Al Gyles, a 34-year math teacher with a master's degree, said his check was for $125.
"We have a lot of ground to make up," said Dan Karasek, a fifth-grade teacher at Prairie Park.
Nearly two-thirds of the state's 300 school districts have ratified contracts with their teachers.
"Actually, the confirmed number is 194," said Jim Hays, a research specialist at the Kansas Association of School Boards. "Another 13 reached agreement, but they've not yet been ratified."
Statewide, the median raise for teachers - a combination of salary, supplemental contracts, benefits - stands at 5 percent, Hays said.
Raises in the state's bigger districts, he said, tend to be larger than those in the medium-size and smaller districts. The larger districts have benefited from additional aid for bilingual and at-risk students while the smaller districts' budgets have been hurt by persistent declines in enrollment.
Hays said Lawrence is in the unfortunate position of being a large district that's lost enrollment in recent years.
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