Here’s a look at teacher salary deals in some nearby districts.
De Soto: Teachers received a 1.25 percent raise overall. However, the base salary for first-year teachers with no experience remained the same as the 2008-2009 school year. New money was added to the salary schedule for veterans.
Blue Valley: 1.72 percent increase.
Olathe: While the base salary for teachers did not go up, the school board did implement a step increase on the existing scale for teachers based on longevity. That averaged out to a 1.73 percent raise.
Shawnee Mission: In 2008-2009, the district and the teachers agreed on a two-year contract that included a minimum of a 3.5 percent increase on the base salary each year. They have kept that agreement.
Teachers in one-fifth of Kansas school districts — including Lawrence — are working this year without new contracts even though school has been in session for weeks.
Researchers say the state budget crisis has loomed large on talks this year.
“Districts are trying to figure out a way to do something but not build it in because next year is going to be even worse,” said Jim Hays, a research specialist with the Kansas Association of School Boards.
After districts had extra money to work with the past few years, the recession hit them hard forcing many to cut services for savings. The numbers also affected bargaining talks.
According to KASB data through last Friday, the median base salary and fringe benefits package for teachers is $36,810 in districts that have new teacher contracts — a 1.2 percent increase from 2008-2009. The past two years, the median percentage increase was 4 percent each year.
“The settlements have been pretty disappointing, to say the least,” said Wade Anderson, director of research and negotiations for the Kansas National Education Association.
Negotiators for the Lawrence school board and Lawrence Education Association will return to the table at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lawrence High School, 1901 La. The two sides are currently $140,000 apart on salary, as school board negotiators propose about a 1.1 percent increase compared to last year.
The LEA’s total $600,000 offer includes $140,000 for horizontal movement on the salary schedule, which rewards teachers for increasing their own college credit hours. The teachers’ offer would also include adding money to boost vertical movement, which rewards teachers for years of service with the district.
School board negotiators agree to the $140,000 for horizontal movement, but they want to spread the rest of the extra money out among all certified, licensed staff for a one-time payment of $350, which LEA negotiators oppose.
Hays, of the KASB, said state budget cuts that affected local districts made it difficult for districts to boost all three main compensation areas — horizontal and vertical movement plus upgrading health insurance. Many districts have offered one-time payments because they are afraid they will have even less money to offer next year, he said.
In fact, the highest increase in compensation this year has come from two districts that signed two-year pacts at the beginning of last year, Shawnee Mission and Frontenac, Hays said.
“You throw those people out, and everybody else is pretty much hurting,” he said.
Anderson, of the KNEA, said it’s been common for talks this year to include minimal raises.
“What I do think is that in some cases, most teacher groups have been pretty respectful of that and have maybe been too respectful, in some cases too anxious to help out and carry out a lot of the burden themselves,” he said.
Hays said he was not surprised by the number of districts that have not yet settled given the state’s budget situation.
Last year the Lawrence district reached a deal with LEA negotiators in August after a federal mediator was brought in. Anderson said it was “unheard of” for 20 percent of districts not to have settled by October.
“That’s really rare, and it’s not necessarily because they are just really deadlocked and arguing,” he said. “I think it’s more often the case they are just struggling to try to figure out how to do what’s right and what they can afford. It’s just so complicated.”