Archive for Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lawrence School District, teachers agree on pay raises, benefits changes

Educators to receive $1,250 raise

July 28, 2011


Teachers and their bosses reached a tentative agreement Thursday evening on a work contract for the coming school year, one that would include a $1,250 raise for each and every licensed educator in the district.

Now all teachers need to do is find enough folks to cast ballots to approve it.

“I don’t think the voting ‘yes’ will be a problem,” said a smiling David Reber, a biology teacher and Free State High School and lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Association. “But getting enough people to vote might be.”

The LEA, the bargaining unit for the district’s 926 licensed educators, needs at least half of those educators to cast ballots, and then for the majority of those voters to vote “yes.” Union leaders aim to have the contract ratified by Aug. 5 so that members of the Lawrence school board could approve it Aug. 8.

‘Excellent job’

If all goes according to plan, such educators — teachers, counselors, librarians, speech therapists, nurses and other licensed professionals — would start seeing a share of their $250 annual raises reflected on their regular paychecks beginning in September. Teachers would receive the remaining $1,000 in the form of a one-time, lump-sum payment either Dec. 21 or 22.

“Pretty nice Christmas bonus,” said Laurie Folson, a communications teacher at Free State who was among about 50 educators to attend Thursday’s final negotiating session at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. “It recognizes what the teachers in the district have been asked to do throughout the year. Before this, I don’t know that we feel we had been recognized.”

Such educators started the 2010-11 academic year with fewer teachers, and then spent the year planning for a switch from junior highs to middle schools, and preparing to go from three- to four-year high schools.

All while continuing to help students meet increasing assessment standards and post improved academic success.

Which they did, said Bob Byers, one of two board members on the district negotiating team.

“Our teachers do an excellent job,” Byers said. “We can’t give them what they deserve, but we can give them as much as we can.”

In total, the additional compensation for teachers — through salary increases, plus bumps for “extra duty” pay and for earning additional degrees or college credit — would amount to $1.39 million during the coming year. The total would average out to a 3.32 percent raise for each educator.

The district plans to get the money from a contingency fund, a savings account that must be drained of $3.1 million by June 30 to comply with state law. The fund also is being used to rehire some staffers who had been let go under budget pressures and to reinstate some programs that had been cut.

Other employees

Board members now will turn their attention toward increasing pay for other district employees not covered by the contract — formally called a “master agreement” — that governs pay and working conditions for licensed educators.

Kyle Hayden, the district’s chief operations officer, said a proposal for compensating administrators and classified staffers likely would be ready for board consideration Aug. 8. During the past year, district administrators had their pay cut by 2 percent, through furloughs, and other nonteaching personnel endured pay cuts as well.

“There are a lot of things to be taken into account,” said Hayden, who joined the district staff earlier this month.


Union officials, meanwhile, aren’t wasting any time getting the contract ratified. They intend to use the district’s emergency phone system to send out a voice message to all licensed educators, urging them to vote on the tentative agreement; the message is likely to go out Monday, although times and sites for voting have yet to be determined.

The contract includes a number of new items, including provisions for district savings on health insurance costs to be funneled back to licensed educators. The money then could be used, on a tax-free basis, to defray the cost of “buying up” on coverage, or to otherwise pay medical expenses.

Negotiators on both sides know they’ll have plenty of additional work to do for next year’s negotiations, but for now they’re happy to have settled their differences.

“I’m pleased with the progress we made,” said Deena Burnett, union president, who will be teaching seventh-grade language arts and social studies this year at West Middle School.


DRsmith 6 years, 9 months ago

Yep. Should have been a cop or a teacher. Raises no matter what.

KSManimal 6 years, 9 months ago

Wrong (surprise, surprise....a teacher-basher is wrong....).

For about half the district's teachers, this $250 ANNUAL raise - the only part of the salary increase that is permanent - exceeds their raises for the past five years COMBINED.

That $250 raise comes to $20.83 per month.

That being said, how about instead of complaining about the raises enjoyed by unionized employees you look inward and ask yourself why you're willing to settle for less? Maybe you're letting your anti-union ideals kick the tar out of you.

llama726 6 years, 9 months ago

It's not too late. Go back to school for five years, paying out of pocket, and get certified, then take further courses to keep up your certification. Hope you don't mind a vocal portion of society criticizing you repeatedly and vigorously nearly everywhere you go. Hope you don't mind parents not holding up their end of the bargain. Hope you don't mind dealing with the "my kid couldn't get a bad grade" parents during conferences, if they even show up. Good luck to you.

parrothead8 6 years, 9 months ago

It's not like they're raising taxes to do it. The state has ordered the district to spend down a savings account, and the district has chosen to give a large percentage of it to their employees. Do you have a better idea?

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

It's the conclusion Brownie would like people to draw, though. Order Lawrence to pay down their surpluses in excess of what they wanted and then complain that their teachers got bonuses.

newmedia 6 years, 9 months ago

Glad to hear the district can do more with less. Simply amazing.

ClassifiedPeon 6 years, 9 months ago

All I can say is it is a good thing the district is going to be made to spend down its excess contingency fund or the support staff would have to take another pay cut to pay for this raise, not that the teacher would care.

KSManimal 6 years, 9 months ago

Once again, Peon, you aren't paying attention.

If teachers had settled for nothing, what do you think the district would give to classified staff? It is BECAUSE of the raises negotiated by the teachers union that classified staff stand a chance at raises too.

Can you name ONE time that classified staff have gotten a raise when teachers haven't? Go ahead, name ONE classified staff raise that wasn't a direct result of teachers negotiating a raise for certified staff. Take your time......

ClassifiedPeon 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't think that is the point I am making, though I can name one time that classified staff has had to endure a pay cut so the precious teachers could get a pay raise: last year. If the teachers had settled on nothing last year, then classified pay would have remained the same. Thank you sooooo much teachers!!

ClassifiedPeon 6 years, 9 months ago

There was no belittling in anything I have said, only truth. But, now that you mention it, you must be a teacher since you have no clue what goes on outside the classroom. (Now I'm belittling) In case you were wondering, there are a lot of "behind the scenes" jobs that, if not done, would bring the district to a screeching halt. Imagine a teacher having to empty their own trash, or clean their own room, or solve their own computer problems, or print all their own worksheets and test. But, as with most things, behind the scenes = out of site and out of mind. As for your bitter comment above, I will now give it the attention it is due....

ferrislives 6 years, 9 months ago

You're obviously not support staff either.

I can agree that ClassifiedPeon seems pretty pissed, but maybe there's a reason. No one brings much attention to the workers behind the scenes at any business, even though they deserve a lot of praise for what they do (and endure) everyday.

ResQd 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm not a teacher and wouldn't want to be! However, I do agree with you - give the classified staff a raise as well, even if it means reducing the teachers bonus. They are deserving as well and it appears that there is a division amongst the classified staff and teachers. Better yet, the administrators make alot more, they could donate their shares.

JustNoticed 6 years, 9 months ago

Sarcastically referring to the teachers as "precious" is very belittling. And, "sight" not "site".

Hilary Morton 6 years, 9 months ago

Just to be clear, I have been a teacher for 10 years, and I empty my own trash, clean my own room, solve my own computer problems AND print all of my worksheets and tests. And I love the classified staff I work with, but all of those mentionables you listed, many teachers do themselves.

Barry Watts 6 years, 9 months ago

In these difficult times, when budgets are tight, and programs are getting cut, this is no time to be giving raises. Teachers should be thankful to have a good job with benefits, when many others do not. I am a husband of a teacher, and I can say that although teachers are not paid highly, they make a good living. $35,000 pay for a teacher is equivalent to a $50,000 annual salary, when calculating for number of weeks worked. I know they put in many hours, but so do others in other fields. This is not a popular position, but my wife and I are thankful she has a great job she loves, she is paid a decent wage, and her employment is much more secure that other industries right now. I am thankful for all our teachers and their dedication. In these economic times, when so many are sacrificing, so many programs getting cut, raises do not seem appropriate.

llama726 6 years, 9 months ago

No. It's not. $35,000 doesn't magically become $50,000, and securing summertime employment is excessively difficult. And in these economic times, a raise is the only thing that is appropriate. Do you really think that middle class people getting more money is going to HURT the economy?

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

Your wife does get off easy. I know plenty of teachers who work much longer than their contracted work week schedule alleges they do. I guess $35k is equivalent to $35k for them.

Barry Watts 6 years, 9 months ago

They have 188 contracted work days. 5 days per week. 37.6 work weeks. (This is not including vacation/sick days - all full time jobs have these) 52 weeks in a year. Before you get snotty with your answers, know what you are talking about. Thank you.

chootspa 6 years, 9 months ago

37.6/52 = 72% 35x1.28 = 44.8.

Perhaps you should have talked to a math teacher?

jmadison 6 years, 9 months ago

What is the total dollar amount on the insurance rebate to the employees?

KSManimal 6 years, 9 months ago

There is no insurance "rebate."

The contract already in place specifies a dollar amount the board contributes per employee. For 2011-12, the premiums will drop; thus the same dollar amount will buy more insurance or provide some money for a health reimbursement account, etc.,...

It is important to note that what appears to be an increase in fringe benefits is actually just a re-arrangement and will not cost the district more than what was already in place.

llama726 6 years, 9 months ago

Wow. You guys freak out over teachers getting a few extra dollars a month (a relative cost of less than a few pennies to you), but have no concern for, I don't know, executive pay:

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

Those are "job creators" as opposed to teachers that give kids the skills they need to work in those hypothetic jobs. Mmmm, this cake is really moist and job creator.

chootspa 6 years, 9 months ago

Shhh. We're busy with our magical incantations. If we repeat the lie that they're "job creators" long enough, somehow it will come true.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

The anti union force wants just about everybody to work for less. So busting unions reduces wages which opens the market very wide for reducing other wages union or not.

Lower wages are hell on any economy. Lower wages throughout an economy can call for an increase in taxes because neither city,state nor federal governments reduce their spending to match the decrease in wages and/or low wage teacher pay. Considering Lawrence is a low wage community city and county governments need cut their spending on growth that never pays back.

There is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned - annexation and new housing is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

With increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.

Meanwhile the anti union leadership is making bundles of dough and spending tons and tons and tons of dough on the anti good wage and benefits campaign. Typical neocon republican thinking and spending.

YES for the teachers! YES again! Finally some USD 497 spending that makes sense.

Tracy Rogers 6 years, 9 months ago

So then who does their jobs? The paperwork and supervision doesn't go away just because you get rid of people.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 9 months ago

"Lower wages are hell on any economy. " That's why millions of illegal aliens working for less than minimum wage paid in cash are dragging down our economy.

parco814 6 years, 9 months ago

If your sweeping generalization has any truth to it, then it says something bad about the structure of our economy, not about the people who are working hard for low wages. I think people who do an honest day's work have a right to wages far above the degrading minimum this country offers.

This economy and this nation need new priorities. Your priorities include scapegoating people who do the work that keeps this country functioning and, in many cases, fed. Priorities like yours are part of the problem and are dragging the country down.

weeslicket 6 years, 9 months ago

echoing jmadison's post:

there was/is about a $1.125 million dollar reduction to fringe benefits costs. there are/were about 1500 "employees" who paid into fringe benefits (certified and classified. contractual and "at will.") that's about $750 per "shareholder".

hmmmmm........ where did that money wander off to? hhmmmm.................

getreal 6 years, 9 months ago

I am thrilled that the teachers got a raise. What job in this country is more important than shaping the future through the education of our children? I am sad to see a divide between classified, teachers, and administrators, because it is exactly what those elected officials who want to starve public schools desire. If they can divide, they can conquer. How about we all join forces and demand that they repeal the billion in tax exemptions and fund our schools! We need unions to keep ALL wages in a decent range where people can afford to put their kids through college and retire before they are 80. Killing unions is going to kill the middle class.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Low wages do not allow for as much money to be spent in the economy across the board.

Who wants to work for less money?

Flap Doodle 6 years, 9 months ago

Illegal aliens who work for cash under the table, that's who.

weeslicket 6 years, 8 months ago

really? you compare teachers, principals, custodians, and even superintendents to illegal aliens. really?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Who is screaming about the cost of unions the loudest? It's coming from neocon repub leadership who keep telling us unions are the problem to the point where too damn many start to believe them. It is this same leadership that sponsored the outsourcing of american jobs by the millions.

This BS has not reduced the cost of living in america nor has it reduced CEO salaries,cost of medical insurance,cost of golden parachutes(why should consumers support golden parachutes), cost of shareholders,cost of special interest spending on political campaigns or reduced the number of corporate jets.

What has increased is the number in the upper percentiles of the wealthy. Among them is the Wal-Mart family billionaires who are constantly working against the very people that made Wal-Mart what it is right along side the Koch brothers.

The question becomes why do people in Lawrence or anywhere else continue to support these billionaire families who have been key supporters of this anti wage movement for many years who also would close public schools tomorrow in favor of corporate schools (aka privatization)? These names are also major discriminators of women in the work force.

This household quit shopping Wal-Mart years ago. Not only were we not saving bundles of money supporting their anti union and anti good wages and benefits for all in america could not be justified.

Public schools is a best bang for the tax buck when the legislators stand behind the system. Perpetual reduction of revenues then claiming the system is not working is the calculated method of forcing the closing of OUR public schools. Some on the school board past and present have been working toward this end result as well. Let's not get duped again!

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