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.