Archive for Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lawrence district, teachers at odds over raises

June 9, 2011

Advertisement

The Lawrence school district wants to pay its teachers another $500 for the coming school year, a one-time raise that would be paid in December using money the district expects to save from reduced costs on health insurance.

The offer came Wednesday night from the district’s negotiating team and, after negotiators for the teachers’ union spent 45 minutes reviewing their notes, their response could be summed up with three simple words.

Thanks for nothing.

“That’s not ‘their’ savings,” said David Reber, lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Association. “That’s our money. If the insurance costs less, we should be able to get better insurance or something else, because that money is already ours.

“Essentially, it’s smoke and mirrors to make it look like they’re giving us something when, in fact, they’re not.”

The district’s proposal came in response to an earlier request from the teachers’ union, a call for giving all 925 or so licensed educators in the district a $1,500 raise for the 2011-12 school year — giving all teachers pay bumps that would not revert back to 2010-11 levels for the next contract year.

The divide is among the biggest issues being negotiated in pursuit of a new work agreement for licensed educators. Formal negotiations started three months ago, and Wednesday’s meeting was the first time administrators had offered a counter proposal on compensation.

The $500 raises would cost the district about $462,500 in all, or about as much as the district plans to save next year from an 11 percent drop in insurance premiums regarding insurance for licensed educators, said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer and lead negotiator.

After Wednesday night’s session, Harwood cited state budget cuts as the basis for not meeting the teachers’ request for an additional $1,500 for all teachers. The district has closed Wakarusa Valley School, adjusted other operations and agreed to use contingency funds to make ends meet for the coming school year.

“We’re losing $3 million from the state, and we’ve cut $3 million,” Harwood said. “It doesn’t look like it (additional raises) is in the budget. Something else would have to come out of the budget, or it would have to come from other funds.”

Reber, a biology teacher at Lawrence High School, said that line of reasoning was “tough to buy,” especially considering that all districts have faced state budget cuts but several in the area already have settled on providing teachers larger raises.

“Smoke and mirrors,” Reber said, after the session.

Comments

TheStonesSuck 4 years, 1 month ago

Welcome to the new world order. President Camacho will be addressing us soon. In the meantime, help yourself to some Brawndo, it's got electrolytes.

Matthew Herbert 4 years, 1 month ago

David Reber works at Free State, not LHS.

cowboy 4 years, 1 month ago

How bout restoring the hour and position cuts they inflicted on the paras

weeslicket 4 years, 1 month ago

quote from the article: The $500 raises would cost the district about $462,500 in all, or about as much as the district plans to save next year from an 11 percent drop in insurance premiums regarding insurance for licensed educators, said Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer and lead negotiator. FALSE

correct facts: the reduction in insurance premiums is 11.7%, which is equal to about $1.125 million. $462,500 is less than HALF of that amount.

please get in the ballgame, Mr. Fagan

imastinker 4 years, 1 month ago

So the thinking here is that the teacher owns the savings on benefits, but the district has to eat any additional costs for benefits?

I say we give them their 1.125 million dollars and then cap the health insurance benefit at today's rate. We both win right?

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

No, the district would NOT have to eat any additional cost for benefits. The contract between the district and teachers specifies a dollar amount per employee for health insurance. The actual insurance benefit (deductibles, co-pays, etc.,) can and does change from year to year...depending on what that dollar amount buys.

In effect, then, it is the teachers who eat the cost of increased premiums through a reduction in insurance coverage. For example, a couple years ago the cost of providing the "same" insurance increased by about 35%.

Since the contract specifies a dollar amount, not a coverage plan, the coverage dropped significantly - teachers had a TENFOLD increase in deductible that year.

imastinker 4 years, 1 month ago

I am referring to future costs.

If what you say is true, how is the district saving money if the insurance went down?

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

The district isn't saving money on teacher's insurance benefits. They may think they are, owing to their misunderstanding of the contract and/or case law.

What is happening is an opportunity for teachers to have better insurance coverage next year, for the same amount of money.

imastinker 4 years, 1 month ago

Please explain this sentence then:

"The Lawrence school district wants to pay its teachers another $500 for the coming school year, a one-time raise that would be paid in December using money the district expects to save from reduced costs on health insurance.

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

That sentence is explaining the district's mistaken understanding of the situation.

The district believes, mistakenly, that they do not have to continue funding health insurance at the dollar amount specified in the negotiated contract.

Rather, they think they can spend less on health insurance; and then re-label the difference as a one-time salary increase.

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

Mark Fagan didn't make this claim. Rather, he is quoting Frank Harwood.

weeslicket 4 years, 1 month ago

correct. mark fagan is a reporter. as such, he ought to report when someone is blowing smoke up his backside.

TRob5 4 years, 1 month ago

David Reber, go check out your contract at publicschoolspending.com

http://www.publicschoolspending.com/kansas/lawrence-usd-497-teachers-contract-2010-11/

Tell us about some more things that we don't have a say in.

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

Looks like something Dave Trabert (Koch's local online mouthpiece) would have posted. This is the first post from "TRob5", on the first day he/she has a user account on this site.

Hmm......

TRob5 4 years, 1 month ago

Funny how you conspirators love to point out conspiracy. But Koch money and union money will no longer hold value once citizens actually wake up.

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

What you call conspiracy-minded I call "paying attention." It's not hard to figure these things out.

Your link, "publicschoolspending", comes from the Education Action Group. EAG isn't much of a group, but rather a facade for a few people who refuse to disclose their real motivations and source(s) of revenue. Here's the truth:

http://www.eagtruth.com/fivethings.htm

So tell us, TRob5. Are you Trabert? And tell us...since EAG refuses to.....who funds EAG?

TRob5 4 years, 1 month ago

So you are paying attention, and I am not??? What horse did you ride in on?

You and your distractions from the truth. Are you a teacher taking one of those personal daze, or just sick?

Tell us the truth? We'll keep our change thank you.

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

Hmm... I asked two direct questions, and got zero answers. And zero explanation/defense of your "schoolspending" web page and what it's really about.

If you were a debate student, you would have just flunked.

ferrislives 4 years, 1 month ago

“That’s not ‘their’ savings,” said David Reber, lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Association. “That’s our money. If the insurance costs less, we should be able to get better insurance or something else, because that money is already ours."

Actually, that money is ours Mr. Reber. We are the taxpayers after all.

How about if they close 1 or 2 more schools, including laying off their entire staff, so that the rest of you can get your $1500 raise? Would that work for you? Probably not.

Yes, you're teachers, and that's an admirable profession for most. But you really need to get a reality check; we're all hurting right now. No one's getting raises, and neither should you.

tomatogrower 4 years, 1 month ago

The thing is, ferrislives, that in good times there will be tax cuts, especially with our present administration, so teachers won't get a raise then either. And in today's corporate business models, you won't get a raise either. You know the workers; they're all a bunch of leeches who should be happy they even have a job for any pay (sarcasm alert).

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

ferrislives, you're wrong. For starters, you make the ubiquitous - yet erroneous - implication that public-sector employees aren't taxpayers. But your errors go far beyond that to a basic misunderstanding of economics.

The money you (and I) pay in taxes ceases to be our money once we've paid those taxes. Likewise, once the state treasury pays USD 497 that money then belongs to USD 497, not the State of Kansas.

Likewise, USD 497 pays its employees in exchange for their time and talents. Once that exchange takes place, the money belongs to the employees - NOT the school district.

The contract between licensed teachers and USD 497 specifies a dollar amount that the district will spend per employee for health insurance. This is part of a legally-binding, negotiated agreement. The fact that the cost of insurance has temporarily dropped does not change the negotiated fringe benefit amount.

That money belongs to the licensed teachers, period.

I should also point out the cognitive dissonance that is evident among those who claim teacher's salaries and benefits belong to the "taxpayers"; because those same folks never lay claim to the salaries and benefits of our fine men and women in the U.S. Military.

Why don't you stop by the nearest military base, and tell the soldiers there that the money in their wallets actually belongs to YOU?

ferrislives 4 years, 1 month ago

I never said that they weren't taxpayers, but not all taxpayers are teachers. If they were, then they could decide on what to do with the money. I'd personally prefer for them to direct that money straight back into the classroom (i.e. educational materials, books, etc.), which would help the teachers out in the long-run.

If the teachers care about more schools not being closed down here in Lawrence, they'll back off this year. They were asking for this raise before they knew anything about the savings in health care; they're just using that as an excuse now. How about if that money goes towards the classrooms, as opposed to another raise or sports stadiums?

From what I hear from people in these types of professions, it's hard to find jobs for plenty of noble professions right now, including health care, law enforcement, etc. They're lucky they have jobs. Everyone's feeling the crunch; get with reality already.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 1 month ago

From my reading of the LJW, district 497 certified staff are the only tax dependent group not getting a raise in recent years. From my observations, teaching is falling further and further behind other traditionally comparable vocations. Police and RNurse come to mind.

Correct me if wrong, it seems teachers understand "fix it" one time pay raises do not help in future salary schedules. I thought teacher salaries were easy to keep track of. A teacher has a Masters, worked 12 years in the district they go to the proper box and find salary.

http://www.bluevalleyk12.org/education/page/download.php?fileinfo=U2FsYXJ5X1NjaGR1bGVfZm9yXzExLTEyXzIucGRmOjo6L3d3dy9zY2hvb2xzL3NjL3JlbW90ZS9pbWFnZXMvZG9jbWdyLzM5MzlfZmlsZV8xMjk4OV9tb2RfMTMwNTY0NDE0OC5wZGY=

My understanding is 497 is not keeping up with step movement which should be adjusted for inflation from time to time. Not fair to have them working on a 1998 salary step schedule for instance.

So, if Tongy gives teachers a 700 smacker addition to the step schedule, it's permanent. Lawrence is tossing "fix it" raises which do not keep up with the inflation step schedule. So Lawrence teachers keep falling behind.

nascar 4 years, 1 month ago

Let me get this straight. The BOE "saved" money on a benefit that they had contractually paid to employees last year and now they want to use the SAME money to fund a new contract? Really? That doesn't just seem wrong it seems...

Last I knew the district had money, rather a lot of money, in the contingency fund as well as the special reserve fund. And they want to use the money they contracted for a benefit last year AGAIN?

Someone help explain this to me.

Liberty275 4 years, 1 month ago

No. Apply that and any other funds to lowering taxes. Teachers, it isn't YOUR money until you work for it. I and other Lawrencianers (or whatever you call people from this backwater hole) have already worked for it and had it taken in taxes by whatever city (durr, topeka I know) in this flyover state is the capital.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

Check the information posted above by KSManimal.

If correct, that money was contracted for the teachers in the form of insurance benefit money.

Or, are you in agreement with those who think that it's fine to simply break contracts if you feel like it?

KSManimal 4 years, 1 month ago

"Teachers, it isn't YOUR money until you work for it."

You are absolutely right!

But, you don't appear to have a clue what this discussion is about. No teacher gets a dime from the district without working for it. The money in question is ALREADY ENUMERATED in the current teacher's contract; and the district is proposing changes that would, in effect, reduce the total compensation package.

Truth 4 years, 1 month ago

If the district pays a set amount to a teacher for health insurance, how does the district save money when the premiums drop? Have the premiums dropped below the set amount the district pays its teachers? Also, does the district pay a set amount to the classified staff for health insurance?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.