The two sides have dug in with a $1 million gap between them.
Lawrence school board negotiators announced Wednesday evening their intention to bring in a federal mediator to help with teacher-contract talks.
Lawrence Education Association negotiators disagreed and said the board's team hasn't let the process play out. The school board should up its offer for teacher raises, according to the LEA.
"It's fair to say the board has talked about this issue a number of times," said board member Marlene Merrill, also a negotiator. "The board highly regards the teaching staff in Lawrence and has worked very hard over a number of years to improve salary conditions. We are in very tight budget times, and I think the board has done the best that we can do."
"I just want you to be aware of the statement that the board is sending to the teachers," LEA President Adela Solis, a Cordley School teacher, responded during the session at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive, with more than a dozen teachers watching.
After each side made maneuvers on offers Tuesday, they spent most of Wednesday's session explaining their positions.
LEA negotiators are asking for $1.85 million to be added to the salary schedule. Board negotiators have offered adding $825,728 to the schedule, but their offer also includes an extra $1.1 million - mostly $646,920 to start a new retirement system and $324,000 to give more planning time to elementary teachers.
LEA negotiators say the planning time costs shouldn't be mentioned in a compensation package. The board's team has also proposed adding one day to the work year to make it 187 days for returning teachers and 191 for new ones.
LEA negotiators have said the current offer for raises is inadequate, partly because it would give less than a 0.75 percent raise to veteran teachers. They have also said a higher offer was needed to compete with area districts.
Administrator Frank Harwood, the board's chief negotiator, said the district's benefits package keeps it competitive overall in the state.
At the end of Wednesday's session, teacher negotiators said the school board should discuss increasing its offer in coming weeks before talks resumed, but board negotiators said it was unlikely they would budge.
Harwood said he intended to file paperwork acknowledging an impasse to begin the process for bringing in a U.S. Labor Department mediator.
"When based on the positions of both teams it doesn't seem like an agreement is possible, then the next step is a mediator, and we think that's the most productive way to move ahead," he said.
LEA's leaders said they wouldn't sign the impasse papers but indicated they would participate in talks with a mediator later this summer.
LEA team members said they were "shocked" when the board's team mentioned mediation this week because, LEA negotiators said, the two sides have talked about salaries for only a month, not long enough to let the sessions run their course.
"For them to already have an amount that they're capped out at, in my mind, goes contrary to what (the negotiating process) is about," Solis said.