City teachers press for pay-schedule change

Lawrence teachers want a new salary grid.

Instead of having to put in 25 years before reaching the top of school district’s salary schedule, they want to get there in 15 years.

“Right now, if you’re a brand new teacher, you start out at $29,000 and 25 years from now, you would reach the highest point on the schedule – and that’s $54,000 if you have a master’s degree and an additional 60 graduate credit hours,” said Kelly Barker, a junior high civics and history teacher and lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Assn.

“We want that first-year teacher to reach that high point in 15 years rather than 25,” Barker said after a three-and-a-half hour contract negotiation session Monday. “We want the schedule to move faster.”

The proposed change, he said, is designed to allow teachers to earn more money over the length of their careers.

The school board, represented by Cordley School Principal Kim Bodensteiner, offered to put an additional $1.1 million into the new schedule. But instead of 15 years, it proposed first going to 20 years.

“The board team proposed 20 years because of the expense,” Bodensteiner said.

Both sides, Bodensteiner and Barker said, favor a “faster” salary schedule. Whether it’s 15 years or 20 years or somewhere in between is still to be negotiated.

“We support the 15-year salary schedule,” Bodensteiner said. “The question is when and how quickly can the funding be available to make it happen.”

The two sides generally agree on the district’s fringe benefit package and its early retirement incentives.

Barker and Bodensteiner said negotiations are hamstrung by the district’s not knowing whether the Kansas Supreme Court will approve the three-year, $466 million funding package passed by the 2006 Legislature.

Initial projections have shown the Lawrence school district receiving an additional $2.8 million.

But Bodensteiner warned, “We have to take out $900,000 for special education costs, and we’re required to spend $700,000 on at-risk programs. That doesn’t leave much.”

The court heard arguments for and against the spending package last month but gave no indication when it would issue a ruling.

Contract negotiations resume July 25.