Lawmakers to school officials: Consider paying teachers more

? Kansas lacks enough teachers in general, but that shortage is particularly noticeable in math, science and special education.

Several state lawmakers who met with north-central Kansas school officials Friday said districts should be considering higher pay for those teachers. Districts generally pay teachers based on their education and years of experience regardless of grade level or subject.

Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, who chairs the House Education Committee said education should be treated like any other business that competitively compensates workers with in-demand skills.

Rep. Deena Horst, R-Salina, who is vice chair of the education committee, said she agrees that districts need to find ways to pay more to teachers in math, science and special education. Horst is an art teacher at Salina Middle School and has been on the National Education Association-Salina contract negotiating team in the past.

“A few years ago, you’d have never heard me say that,” Horst said. “Those of us on the side of the teachers associations are going to have to take a look at our past position on that.”

Teachers unions have generally opposed such pay plans. The issue has not been brought up in Salina contract negotiations for years.

The lawmakers, who were speaking at an annual legislative lunch, said they agree with providing a fourth year of funding in the upcoming legislative session, based on the current school funding plan.

The 2008-09 school year is the last year of the current three-year plan. Before that, school districts would not learn until late spring or even midsummer what their budget would be when school started in the fall.

Rep. Charlie Roth, R-Salina, said he supports approving money for the 2009-10 school year this spring. He added that Speaker of the House Melvin Neufeld and Senate President Steve Morris, who visited with local leaders in Salina last week, also support this as well – with indexing for inflation.

“If you have Speaker Neufeld and President Morris say it’s a good idea, I think you’ll see it happen,” Roth said.