District agrees to 8 percent pay raise

Lawrence teachers, school board still must approve package

Lawrence school officials agreed Wednesday to give the district’s 850 teachers an 8 percent pay raise.

“This is wonderful,” said the district’s lead negotiator Kim Bodensteiner.

Plans call for the teachers voting on the $2.6 million package in 10 to 14 days, after which it will be voted on by the school board.

Assuming it’s approved by both sides, the raise likely would take effect in time for the district’s Oct. 20 payroll. Bodensteiner said the raise is expected to make the district’s wages more competitive with districts in nearby Johnson and Shawnee counties.

“We have to be competitive,” she said. “We need to be able to hold on to our veteran teachers, and we need to be able to attract quality new teachers.”

Bodensteiner, who’s principal at Cordley School, warned that Lawrence’s salaries still lag behind those in many districts. But the gap, she said, is narrowing.

“We value our teachers,” she said.

A beginning teacher’s salary is expected to go from the current $29,550 to slightly less than $32,500.

On the high end of the salary grid, teachers who’ve earned doctoral degrees will see their salary go from about $52,000 to roughly $56,000. Exact figures are not yet known.

“It’s about a $3,000 bump on both ends – for both the new and veteran teachers,” said Kelly Barker, a junior high civics teacher and lead negotiator for the teachers.

Other components:

¢ The district’s 25-year salary grid would go to 15 years, allowing teachers to reach their maximum “vertical movement” – raises based on years of experience – 10 years earlier than they do now.

¢ Hourly pay for taking part in curriculum and professional development would increase to $14 from the current $13.50.

¢ Pay for “additional assignments” – coaching and club sponsorships, mostly – would increase 3 percent across the board.

Eighteen of these assignments would receive additional raises designed to make them comparable with those in similar-size districts.

High school forensics coaches, newspaper and yearbook sponsors each would receive raises of more than $2,000.

¢ A joint committee would study whether to change the district’s early retirement benefit.

Barker and Bodensteiner both said this year’s negotiations were considerably smoother than those in 2005-06.

“Both sides, I think, really tried to listen,” Bodensteiner said. “We really haven’t been that far apart.”

Board president Sue Morgan welcomed news of the agreement.

“It’s good for the teachers and its good for the district – it’s a win-win,” she said. “We’ve all recognized and struggled with the (25-year) salary schedule’s flaws for a long time. This makes us more competitive when it comes to putting quality teachers in front of our kids.”

The news coincided with board plans to add as much as 6.437 mills to the district’s property tax levy, generating an additional $6 million.

The increase will be the subject of the board’s Aug. 21 meeting.

The agreement Wednesday was reached shortly before 8:30 p.m.

Prior to Wednesday, 84 of the state’s 296 school districts had reached salary agreements with their teachers.

“At this point, the median raise, statewide, is right at 4.3 percent,” said Jim Hays, research specialist at the Kansas Assn. of School Boards. “The high is 11.1 percent in Wichita, the low is zero – there are always some districts that can’t afford to give any raises, either because their enrollments are going down and they don’t have the money or whatever money they do have gets eaten up by their health insurance premiums.”

Four districts – all small and rural – have reached settlements that do not include pay raises, Hays said.

“Before it’s over, I expect we’ll see a lot more in that position,” he said.