Archive for Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teachers request $1,500 raises during negotiations with Lawrence school district administrators

April 6, 2011, 9:11 p.m. Updated April 7, 2011, 2:02 p.m.


Teachers in the Lawrence school district are asking for raises of $1,500 each for the next school year.

Negotiators for the Lawrence Education Association made the formal request Wednesday evening at district headquarters, as negotiations continued with administrators for a new work agreement.

The teachers say the raises — total estimated cost: $1.389 million — would help recruit new teachers, retain experienced educators and otherwise begin to fairly compensate hundreds of union members who have gone several years without pay raises while enduring higher expenses and reduced benefits.

“We think this is more than reasonable, given the district’s budget,” said Chris Cobb, a negotiator who teaches math at South Junior High School, after the evening’s 42-minute session. “They have more than enough money to properly compensate us.”

Administrators don’t quite see it that way. The district is working to fill an expected $3 million budget hole for the coming school year, a drain caused by reduced revenues from the state.

Just last week, administrators advised the board that they could save $2.5 million next year by dipping into contingency funds, reclaiming a diploma-completion program, reducing spending on nonwage expenses and making other changes.

By closing Wakarusa Valley School, they expect to save nearly $500,000 more.

“The board is straining to be fiscally responsible is a very difficult time,” said Frank Harwood, the district’s lead negotiator and chief operations officer. “Using all our resources on raises in one year is not fiscally responsible.”

The raises, as proposed, would boost salaries of the district’s 926 licensed educators by $1,500 each. The raise would be equal to 4.3 percent for an entry-level teacher who earns $34,780; the raise would be about 2.5 percent for a teacher earning $58,830, with at least 13 years of service and a doctorate.

Cobb and his fellow negotiators maintain that the district has $6.8 million in a contingency fund, plus another $7.3 million in a special reserve fund — money that could help boost the pay of all teachers, including the more than 450 who have seen their salaries climb just $250 total during the past five years.

Budget problems?

“I don’t buy it a lick,” Cobb said. “They clearly have enough money to do this. It’s whether the district chooses to make this a priority.”


Shannon Merritt 6 years, 9 months ago

It might be more appropriate to title the story "Teachers Union Requests $1500 Raises". Point of fact, there are a good number of teachers in the district who recognize that the current economy and significant state-wide cuts in education budgets are, just perhaps, not the most conducive environment in which to ask for more money. Not every teacher is a member of the union.

kugrad 6 years, 9 months ago

Or even, Teachers Union Negotiators Request $1500 Raises." Almost all teachers found out about this the same way everyone else did, reading the paper today. There are not meetings where every member of the union are informed about what is going to be negotiated. Teachers don't know in advance what the negotiators will do. I imagine a number of teachers are wondering about this. Then again, it appears the negotiators are saying the district has more money than they have let on, so I guess we don't know all the information to judge. Teachers probably don't know the facts on this either.

MISTERTibbs 6 years, 9 months ago

So, if granted this request, all of you teachers that realize this isn't the most prudent thing for the union to do will turn down the offer right?

alpineriver 6 years, 9 months ago

It's about time the teachers in Lawrence get a raise! They already earn much less than their efforts are worth. The district always seems to have money to invest in technology (flat screen TV's in cafeterias so students can watch KU play in NCAA), and athletics (two nearly identical sets of ball fields. How can a district with two high schools justify such a blatant misuse of funds? In the district where I grew up, 16 high schools shared three stadiums - I guess this district admin. doesn't believe in sharing. And don't give me the "different pots of money" nonsense; if it's different pots of money; then the district needs to figure out how to make the system flexible enough to move money around where it needs to go. Isn't it about time we invested in the human resource? After all, it's the teachers who guide students through the learning process. And if you don't want to pay for your children's education then I suggest that you quit your job and educate your own kids at home; or those without kids can give back the money that was spent on their education. And by the way, I'm not a teacher.

Shardwurm 6 years, 9 months ago


Are you on SNL? a video of you saying this and put it on will go viral I assure you.

Kash_Encarri 6 years, 9 months ago

"In the district where I grew up, 16 high schools shared three stadiums" I call BS on this one. What district?

"I guess this district admin. doesn't believe in sharing." - The citizens of Lawrence set themselves up for this one back when the second school was built, though I agree one district complex would have been a better option.

"And don't give me the "different pots of money" nonsense; if it's different pots of money; then the district needs to figure out how to make the system flexible enough to move money around" - it is called state law it isn't the district that needs to figure it out.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago


But instead of athletic fields, that money could and should have been spent on maintenance and repair of buildings, heating and cooling systems, etc.

I bet there'll be a bond issue soon, claiming that they need more money to pay for those items.

Kash_Encarri 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm not saying I disagree, but that isn't what alpineriver was griping about.

texburgh 6 years, 9 months ago

Actually, state law only stops them from "moving it around." The district chooses how much money to put in each fund annually. They could easily "move money around" by not putting so much in or perhaps putting no money in and use it for other purposes - including a raise.

Martin Shupert 6 years, 9 months ago

Silly point #1: It happens to cost less to have artificial turf fields than to keep the grass cut and maintain a grass field.

Silly point #2: Flat Screen TVs, really? Our schools should not have state of the art audio visual equipment? A flat screen TV would pay for one teacher's salary for a month... and without a reasonable monitor there, how many teachers would you need to employ to monitor those rooms? But paying our teachers a solid wage should be a matter of civic pride in this community. The absurd notion that we can't afford to pay our teachers comes from the very people who pushed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. If we simply rolled back those cuts, the National Deficit would be sliced in half.

optimist 6 years, 9 months ago

Talk to your state representative. The state very specifically restricts how each of these pools of money can and cannot be used. The stated reason is to assure a level of equality from one USD to the next.

Shardwurm 6 years, 9 months ago

Thank GOD there is someone else out there who hasn't partaken of the Kool Aid that we've been sold for the last 25 years!

If you're that good at what you do go find a job somewhere in the private sector. What?!?!? No takers? Shocking.

How many stories have you read where it says: "Former school teacher becomes big-time executive in private sector"?

Teaching is welfare for the educated.

overthemoon 6 years, 9 months ago

well, its clear that the hard work of your teachers did little good. Do you think teachers go into teaching to make big bucks or only as a stop gap til they move on to 'real work'? Many teachers teach because they truly want to educate our kids. Would you prefer that no one did that? Crazy. Absolutely crazy.

question4u 6 years, 9 months ago

Hmmm...GOD should be thanked for Lawrenceguy40? Interesting comment. Is it GOD who has revealed to the chosen two that education is a sham and "teaching is welfare for the educated"? That certainly explains things.

bballwizard 6 years, 9 months ago

my wife is a teacher and has been for 25 years. she makes $4000 a month. i work in the private sector and I make $12000 a month. she works three times harder than me and makes three times less. My three sons are straight A students and its because of my wife. You must be uneducated yourself because your comment is totally ignorant and really not positive. your life might be a little better if you start looking for the positive in your life and not be so negative. same for your friend up above.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 9 months ago

It would appear that Shardwurm got the worst of the worst of bad teachers.

Really sorry about that, Shardy. Maybe you should sue for malpractice.

Zachary Stoltenberg 6 years, 9 months ago

Actually LG40, your rant really makes you look stupid. Most teachers work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with 30 minutes fro lunch. That means 8 hours a day, just like everyone else. Secondly, the school year runs through the end of May and starts again August 5th so teachers really get about 8 weeks off in the summer. Christmas break this year was 10 days over two weekends so really 5 work days off. That means teachers in our area get about 45 days off out of a 12 month period. That's not all that different than the private sector salaried positions if you evaluate vacation time and sick leave.

Secondly, with the way the pay schedule works at every district I know of, teachers who have been with the district the longest and have the most education make the most money. Since you can't do much about the number of years, most teachers choose to continue their education to move up on the pay scale. YES, these are the people I want teaching my kids. The FACT is that many of the people who teach our children would make a lot more money in the private sector. Lawrence is one of the lowest paying districts in our area meaning that they will get a lot of the "leftover" teachers who are willing to work for less. I'm not saying that's true of them all, I know it's not, but it makes it very difficult to attract new teachers and keep good ones when every district around you pays more. Remember the Free state soccer coach last year?

Lastly, many teachers ARE getting other jobs. My wife has been a teacher for her entire professional career and is leaving the classroom after this year. Facing a state budget with continued cuts to funding education, ever larger class sizes, fewer resources, more demands and "extra" classes and programs due to NCLB, and parents a lot like, well, YOU, are all reason enough for anyone to get out of teaching. She's taken another position in the private sector that pays almost 12k more a year. She will miss the kids and the job but not the politics and the demands of a very "real" job. I'd love to see how you do with 100 seventh graders for even one day, let alone 10 months out of the year.

speak_up 6 years, 9 months ago

Thank you. I would also like to add that the vast majority of teachers work well beyond the eight hours per day that are required in their contract grading, lesson-planning, etc. Some even work on weekends. Most spend the summer furthering their education (paying out of pocket) or working a second job in order to make ends meet.

ResQd 6 years, 9 months ago

I'd love to give all the teachers a raise, they are very deserving. However, alot of americans have not seen raises for quite awhile, and have had to cut back within there own households, me included. Until the school administration can stop spending on frivilous things, I'm afraid the teachers are at the bottom of the pool.

Soapbox 6 years, 9 months ago

Future teachers know just as these teachers did that the pay is low. IT IS A BAD ECONOMY WITH A PRES THAT INSTEAD OF JOBS CREATION AS A PRIORITY PASSED HEALTH CARE REFORM! EAT CHICKEN AND FOOD STAMPS LIKE NON GOV. WORKERS or simply work somewhere else doing something else. I ask for a raise in this economy and I would be looking for a job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By the way the elementary schools in Lawrence are terrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kawatchi 6 years, 9 months ago

Isn't it just like a union to demand a $1500 raise for everyone regardless of whether or not they have earned it? How about a $3000 raise for the top 20% of teachers? How about a $5000 raise for the top 5%? I am sure the union would just LOVE to have teachers compensated based on their performance...

jhawkinsf 6 years, 9 months ago

Sounds like a good way to keep and reward the better teachers while gently nudging the poor teachers out the door.

conservative 6 years, 9 months ago

Poor timing to ask for a raise especially without offering any ideas for saving money. We cannot continue to dip into the contingency funds, they are there for unforseen problems. If the union wants raises how about they offer to end early dismissal wednesdays. It is a perk that is dramatically abused and which adds More than 7 days onto the school year.

speak_up 6 years, 9 months ago

You do realize that even though students leave early on Wednesdays, teachers work their full contract day? They spend the time in collaboration with other teachers, attending staff development meetings, lesson-planning, and tackling those mounting piles of papers that need to be graded. That said, I do think this request for a raise, though well-deserved, is poorly timed.

conservative 6 years, 9 months ago

You do realize that it is grossly abused by many teachers who leave long before their scheduled time off. Others "collaborate" at local watering holes on regular basis. No other district that I am aware of gives this perk to their teachers. Go by the schools and see how many of the teachers cars are still there by 3 oclock, they don't all have group collaborations at headquarters.

kugrad 6 years, 9 months ago

You have no proof of any of this and it is simply untrue. This is not a perk. It is a work time. Don't make things up to make your point.

optimist 6 years, 9 months ago

...and costs families and employers in productivity. Scheduling a day in the middle of the week with early dismissal creates significant challenges for many families to earn because few jobs allow that kind of flexibility. From my experience it seems to affect more those with lower household incomes.

Dan Matthews 6 years, 9 months ago

"Teachers request $1,500 raises during negotiations with Lawrence school district administrators"

Ooooooooops! There goes another school.........

workinghard 6 years, 9 months ago

Hey, give them the raise and pay for it by doing away with early dismissal on Wednesday. Wasn't it Eudora that cut 10 schools days off the calendar by doing that? Add five or ten minutes to each day on top of that and cut a few more days off. Present this plan to the teachers union and see what they say. I for one would be very interested in their reply.

pz5g1 6 years, 9 months ago

It doesn't cost anything to ask for it; the worst they could do is get no raise, which is what they'd get without asking.

optimist 6 years, 9 months ago

Deliberately spending the reserves is an oxymoron. The reserves are meant for unforeseen expenses that can’t be planned for. Pay raises are a budgetary issue not an emergency. It is this kind of mentality that has put this country in the whole it is in today. Does nobody understand fiscal responsibility?

overthemoon 6 years, 9 months ago

There seems to be a direct correlation between the value a country places on its teachers and the standing of its eduction system in the world. The US education system slips every year, from once being the envy to all to being mediocre at best. And now we are vilifying our teachers and suggesting that what they do 'isn't really work'. Ignorance and lack of education of our children will be the downfall of this country...and there are those who would like to see this happen. An ignorant electorate is one easily manipulated by the propaganda produced daily by the Fox Party.

speak_up 6 years, 9 months ago

So true. And the best, most experienced teachers are leaving the profession in droves because they are tired of NCLB, tired of being so poorly treated. And young teachers, who initially pursued teaching as a career full of idealistic notions of making a difference, are finding that they can't get a job, and if they do, they will likely lose that job the following year. You can be sure that our country's greatest competitors are not so short-sighted.

RonBurgundy 6 years, 9 months ago

Hey I have a great idea. Let's continue to pay teachers as little as possible, rarely give them a raise, and reduce their retirement. Then if there are any cuts to be made, due to budget shortfalls, we put them on the chopping block first. At the same time expect their students test scores to be comparible to students in other countries while ensuring that all students don't get "left behind". Our priorities are clearly not in the right place. And to those of you who think that teachers don't work hard or only work a few hours a day, then maybe you need to do a little research before you start making false accusations.

devilwithinthedetails 6 years, 9 months ago

I'd like to re-title this story: Lawrence Teachers Request Poorly Timed $1,500 Raise, Enrage All Other State Employees Facing Pay Cuts and Salary Freezes

But that's probably too long so as a compromise I'll alternatively propose:

Lawrence Teachers Unfamiliar with Concept of Bad Ideas at Inappropriate Times

Shannon Merritt 6 years, 9 months ago

as I said in my earlier post (FIRST!), not every teacher in the district is represented by the voice of the union. Why the union chose now as the time to request a pay increase is beyond me, and there are non-union teachers out there who I know share the same opinion. In short: don't make the assumption that all Lawrence teachers are a part of this asinine request.

KSManimal 6 years, 9 months ago

"not every teacher in the district is represented by the voice of the union."

That statement is ambiguous at best. It could be ignorance, or perhaps you've been misinformed or are attempting to mislead?

While not every teacher is a member of the union, every teacher IS represented by the union. Lawrence Education Association is the legally-recognized entity that negotiates a new contract with the USD 497 Board of Education every year. ALL teachers in the school district work under this contract whether they are union members or not.

If an increase in salary is part of next-year's contract, will those non-union-member teachers you speak of donate their raises back to the district? Or will they, hypocritically, continue to publicly object to the union's "asinine" requests while privately depositing each union-bargained paycheck into their own bank accounts?

Shannon Merritt 6 years, 9 months ago

Dearest KSManimal, thank you for pointing out the inconsistency in my choice of verbiage. Let me rephrase: not every teacher in the district chooses to pay union dues, partly because they do not always agree with union decisions.

Better? As for what those teachers will do with a pay increase if, in fact, the union gets their way -- I won't speculate on what teachers or any professional would do with a pay raise they did not request.

Yes, the union negotiates contracts for all teachers, not just dues-paying union members. But let's not use that fact to support a false assumption that all teachers agree with the union. My opinion stands that an arbitrary pay raise in the current economy is unwarranted. Teachers are under-paid, and I'll be the first to admit that. It doesn't make the union's request any more palatable.

mfagan 6 years, 9 months ago

FYI, everyone: Entry-level teachers in the district earn $34,780 per year, not the $37,780 I'd reported earlier. An alert reader pointed this out, and I've made the change in the story. - Mark Fagan Schools reporter

overthemoon 6 years, 9 months ago

Maybe if we changed the compensation structure:

"Are you sick of high paid teachers? Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - baby sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan — that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children.

Now how many do they teach in day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

LET’S SEE…. That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children

X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)


optimist 6 years, 9 months ago

This was an absolute waste of your time to write and my time to read. If this is the best argument that one can make in favor of increasing teacher pay then I think convincing the masses may be a bit difficult. Until the conversation includes comprehensive reform of the way teachers are hired, evaluated and retained then simply throwing more money at education is more bad money after bad and I for one can't be for increasing teacher pay.

overthemoon 6 years, 9 months ago

I should have noted that I did not write it. Its been bouncing around the blogosphere for some time.

optimist 6 years, 9 months ago

The union on behalf of the teachers in USD 497 has requested a significant increase in pay at a time when many families are taking pay cuts, losing benefits, working longer hours or worse losing their jobs.

Teachers need to understand that while we value what they do and how important they are they are no more significant than any other cog in this thing we call society. We all have our part to play.

Many here have said that if I don’t support paying teachers more then I am against teachers. Well that is flat ridiculous and those that have said that do so because they lack the intellectual capacity to discuss and debate the issue without placing the constraints of political correctness on those that hold a different viewpoint.

Teachers work for us. They have asked their boss for a pay raise and flatly denying it without consideration wouldn’t be prudent. The first thing I would ask is: • Why do you feel as though you deserve a raise? • Do you have data indicating that your pay is not competitive in this market? • How does or will giving you a pay increase benefit the organization? • What other duties or responsibilities would you be willing to take on?

I would have preferred a headline that read something to this effect: Teachers Union Offers Ideas for a Performance Metric, Includes Financial Incentives for Top Educators.

We as a community should make certain that teacher compensation is competitive with other career fields requiring similar education and being of the same nature in order to ensure we are able to attract quality citizens to be teachers. We should continue to compensate teachers for continuing their education and maybe even assist in paying for relevant coursework. I don’t however think we should place more emphasis on whether or not a teacher focuses on their own education than we do on how much they focus on our children’s education.

I would like to see developed a metric for measuring teacher performance to include input from students, student improvement (standardized test scores), administrator evaluations, anonymous peer evaluations and parent input. No system will be perfect but we know the current system isn’t. We all know that there will be problem students and parents that may evaluate teachers unfairly but there are statistical methods for finding and excluding those outliers and keep the system as fair as possible. The school board in conjunction with school administrators would then determine teacher pay based on this information, mentor teachers that are middle of the road and council teachers that aren’t cutting it. Teachers that aren’t cutting it aren’t automatically let go but in most cases they would be paired with the teachers at the top of the profession for one-on-one mentoring to allow them time to grow and improve. If they fail to meet standards after a pre-determined period then the board and administration should have full authority to terminate the teacher.

Shannon Merritt 6 years, 9 months ago

Well said. Sound advice for our teachers union and school board. I would only hope that some of the decision makers read this and take it to heart.

alpineriver 6 years, 9 months ago

Just as long as the same metrics apply to your own job performance, at the same pay scale. Actually, I think that one could find ample data to support the FACT that education IS one of the most important elements of a healthy, robust ,and productive civil society; so in actuality, education really is MUCH MORE than just another cog in the wheel. Why do think foreign nationals consistently flock to US universities and colleges? Maybe b/c education has a high-return on investment? So the less we invest in education the lower the return. If you doubled the salaries of teaching positions, don't you think there would be a little more competition for those positions? And wouldn't that attract a larger, more motivated, and qualified pool of candidates? Maybe you'd like to try working as a teacher for a while, at their pay scale, having to deal with the challenge of managing 25+ individuals all day, everyday; and be responsible for their performance, when there are so many other factors involved that impact students' performance (such as family life, etc.). In fact, maybe try working in an inner-city school to get a sense of how "easy" teachers have it. It might offer a different perspective - and maybe a willingness to pay them a decent wage.

George Lippencott 6 years, 9 months ago

Spoken as one who provides the service.

While I agree that education is important, I do not agree that it is proportional to money spent.

The woeful ignorance in this space as to history and economics bares testimony to a problem.

We keep forgetting that education is a four-ring circus. The teachers are only one part. The parents are a part - one not uniformly and constructively applied. The environment is a part. In that pot I include societal expectations that are unfortunately not where I think they should be. The last part is the student. The choice to apply oneself is personal. A choice not to cannot be held against society. We offer a very expensive and extensive educational program in which many teachers give their all for a result that is abysmal – and IMHO traceable more to the student than any other factor.

I was trained under the old adage that if the student fails to learn it is because the instructor failed to teach. I no longer hold that view.

kugrad 6 years, 9 months ago

I think most of your post is very thoughtful, but I'd take issue with this statement

"How does or will giving you a pay increase benefit the organization?"

In the private sector, no one asks employees how giving them a pay increase benefits the organization. To suggest otherwise would be dishonest. Inherent in the idea of raises are the notion that increased experience = increased skill set = increased performance. This is generally true. Similarly, the assumption is that employees who are well compensated are less likely to leave the organization and go elsewhere for work.

weeslicket 6 years, 9 months ago

again, way late in on this.

please consider a few facts that we seem to be forgetting. 1. the district actually has these funds (about $14 million) available for "compensation only". 2. let me repeat. the district is sitting on $14 million that can ONLY be used for only the costs of "compensation." (we are not talking about ballfields or maintenance or construction costs in these funds) 3. an average $1,500/year raise in "compensation" = about $1.4 million dollars. 4a. in other words, the district could actually compensate their staff at this rate for another 10 years before "going broke". 4b. and even at that, ONLY if NO other monies go into this "funding pool". 5. kindly remember that we are at the end of this school year, not next year (i.e., insurance premiums have already paid). these amounts really are "in the bank". 6. let me be redundant: these funds are available for exactly this use.

my opinion: asking for $1500/year seems very reasonable, restrained and moderate. (if i may speak so indelicately)

Stephen Roberts 6 years, 9 months ago

So the teachers are asking for a raise, are the people who work in the admin building that had to take a gross pay cut last year to allow the district to meet the budget going to get their salary back to the same level before last years budget?? If not, then the teachers should get $0 raise.

If the teachers want a raise, which school are teachers proposing to close???

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