Archive for Friday, June 24, 2011

Lawrence school district offers to boost some teachers’ salaries

June 24, 2011


The Lawrence school district is willing to boost salaries for teachers who take additional classes and earn additional degrees but isn’t prepared to lift all teachers’ salaries beyond a $500 across-the-board raise proposed in recent weeks.

At least not yet.

Thursday night, negotiators for the district offered to grant teachers “horizontal movement” on the district’s salary schedule, as part of ongoing negotiations for a master agreement that would govern teacher compensation and working conditions for the coming school year.

If enacted today, 39 teachers would qualify for additional pay by virtue of taking extra classes and completing additional points through professional development. District administrators estimate that such movement on the scale would cost the district another $125,000 to $150,000 for the coming year.

The offer is “moving in the right direction,” said David Reber, a teacher who is lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Association, the union representing more than 900 licensed educators in the district.

“But it doesn’t really affect a lot of people,” Reber said.

The district didn’t budge on its offer to give all such educators another $500 for next year, a one-time payment that would not carry over into the following year. The union has stood by its contention that all educators should get another $1,500 a year, and that the raise should remain on the books for years to come.

Both sides also continued to disagree on fringe benefits. The district wants educators to keep the same health insurance coverage for the coming year, expected to cost the district about $44 less to provide for each teacher.

Administrators maintain that the reduced spending on health insurance would save taxpayers money, while union negotiators argue that the district should spend the $44 in “savings.”

“That’s not the board’s money,” Reber said, noting that any district proposal that dipped below the current contributions would be a “deal breaker.”

“That’s not the administration’s money,” he said. “That’s our money.”

Union negotiators also reiterated their contention that the district should boost teacher compensation by spending money in contingency funds. Reber noted that the district has more than $7 million that should be available for teachers’ fringe benefits, including insurance.

“We still have a long way to go,” Reber said.

Negotiators on both sides agreed to meet once more before July 11, when the Lawrence school board will have a new majority: Mary Loveland, Marlene Merrill, Rich Minder and Scott Morgan are departing, while four new members elected in April — Rick Ingram, Shannon Kimball, Randy Masten and Keith Diaz Moore — will join the board.


Benjamin Roberts 7 years ago

“That’s not the board’s money,” Reber said, noting that any district proposal that dipped below the current contributions would be a “deal breaker.”

“That’s not the administration’s money,” he said. “That’s our money.”

No, Mr. Reber. That is the taxpayer's money. It is money that is entrusted to the school board to provide the best education possible for our children. That may include providing for your health care. However, ANY money used to purchase benefits for the district's employees belongs to the district; not the employees. The agreement between an employer and employee is for a set wage and a set benefit. That is not to say that savings in one area could not be used in another for the employee's benefit. Yet, it is the flagrant attitude of a few, such as Reber, that causes the general public to lose respect for teachers. And, that is a shame; for, the majority of teachers are respectful of the tax payers and, in turn, have the respect of the public.

TheStonesSuck 7 years ago

I believe he was simply referring to the fact that the district proposed to shuffle around some money then act like it was giving the teachers some sort of windfall. He has a valid point, it just came off a little obtuse. In his defense, I think most people in that position would be fairly indignant about the whole thing.

KSManimal 7 years ago

DIST, your ignorance is showing.

The teacher's contract specifies a dollar amount contributed by the board for health insurance. It does NOT specify what the insurance coverage will be. Under Kansas' continuing contract law, a teaching contract remains in force unless and until a new one is ratified by both parties.

In simple terms for you: the current dollar amount is what the board must provide as part of teacher's overall compensation; period. This amount has ALREADY been negotiated in prior years. At this time, the board is attempting to pocket the savings from a reduction in insurance premiums. This is a blatant money-grab for which the district has no legal standing, and the teachers have called them on it. Case law exists to support the teacher on this issue.

Your statement that money used to purchase benefits belongs to the district. Again, case law says otherwise: it is the employees who own the benefit dollars, not the district.

Your claims of protecting taxpayers are flawed twofold: One, the total amount of taxes paid would not change if the district were allowed this money-grab. Thus, the total savings to taxpayers = zero. Second, in bringing up the "taxpayer" as you have; you imply a "teachers versus taxpayers" dichotomy that simply does not exist. Teachers ARE taxpayers.

If you want to bash teachers, that is your choice. However, you don't get to make stuff up to do it.

LTownBaby 7 years ago

What "Case Law?" I can't stand when people say case law exists to support this and then don't provide any evidence. Which case manimal?

KSManimal 7 years ago

NEA - Coffeyville v. USD 455; January 28, 2000. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the teachers, not the district, owned the insurance policy and therefore also owned any savings that resulted from the actions of policy holders (such as divisible surplus or lower premiums).

That case aside, the fact is that the USD 497 teacher contract states a dollar amount that the board will contribute towards health insurance - this money already belongs to the teachers, having been negotiated in prior years. The board is attempting a money-grab, plain and simple.

Under both continuing contract law and the professional negotiations act, the board cannot unilaterally change the existing contract. Period.

kugrad 7 years ago

No, Mr. Reber is correct. That money has been promised to employees through a negotiated agreement. The board entered into an employment agreement that gave that amount of money to employees. You are wrong Did-I-Say-that when you say "ANY money used to purchse benefits.......belongs to the district," The benefit is NOT for a set wage/benefit. The agreement is for specific dollar contributions to the same. So the employees of the district already negotiated for that dollar amount. It is very easy for people to jump on public employees thinking their money belongs to the public, but once a deal is negotiated, that money is part of employee compensation for a job done.

KSManimal 7 years ago

DIST, your ignorance is showing.....again.

The actual insurance isn't negotiated and isn't even in the contract. What is negotiated - and enumerated in the contract - is the dollar amount paid by the board.

kugrad 7 years ago

No I am not arguing semantics. I am arguing the letter of the contract. The dollar amount is what is negotiated and if the cost drops, the dollar amount spent on compensation should not, especially when the insurance the district offers is so poor.

KSManimal 7 years ago

"If enacted today, 39 teachers would qualify for additional pay by virtue of taking extra classes and completing additional points through professional development. District administrators estimate that such movement on the scale would cost the district another $125,000 to $150,000 for the coming year."

Looking at the salary matrix, it appears that the increases for horizontal movement run in the $600 to $1,500 range. Even if all 39 teachers were in the top-earning spots, the total dollar amount would be less than $60,000. For those 39 teachers to cost the district $125K to $150K, they would have to have raises of nearly $4000 each. Nowhere on the salary scale would horizontal movement reach that amount.


bigd399 7 years ago

How did you learn to write this article? How did study groups learn to analyze the money it would cost the city? How did we learn to read this article? The answer to it all is teachers. Pay them more money. I don't care if my taxes go up or if I have to pay $10 to the city every month so that it can go to the teachers, pay them. I'm a soldier, not a rich man and I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for school.

Hwy50 7 years ago

"free health insurance for city employees"

By that logic, do city employees get free money on payday?

notanota 7 years ago

I can name several private sector jobs that offer that benefit, but private sector jobs deserve to retain quality employees while public sector jobs just get the workers who can't find good paying jobs, right?

notanota 7 years ago

Ah yes, my tap water looks like mud, the unpaved streets are lined with trash, the neighbor's house burned down, and a gang of prostitutes has started turning tricks across the street. I see what you mean.

Hwy50 7 years ago

In reading the articles about teacher contract negotiations, apparently USD497.

Again though, why does it matter that they're public employees? Are public employees not worth as much as their private counterparts?

KSManimal 7 years ago

Good question!

It always amuses me how some folks bash public employees from the comfort of their home - with their clean running water and flush toilets.

And if it were really about public vs. private sector, why aren't those same people out bashing our fine US Military? Those folks are public-sector workers, too.....

KSManimal 7 years ago

Yes and no.

The board pays the full premium for the employees for the base plan ($2,500 deductible, $7,500 ded. for family). If you're a single employee with no health issues, its a pretty good deal. Not so much if you have family and/or medical needs.

The board pays nothing for spouse/kids of employees. That is all out-of-pocket for the employees.

Employees can "buy-up" for better insurance, also out-of-pocket. Employees with families and who choose a deductible less than $7,500 pay nearly $1,000 per month out-of-pocket to insure their families.

At the starting salary of $34,780, a teacher with a family would spend close to 35% of their income on health insurance.

Scott Morgan 7 years ago

KR, there are plenty, but you are correct in what I assume is your point.

I happened and was fortunate to work decades for a company stressing benefits as part of the compensation package.

Make no mistake they made it clear the benefits were compensation. Now, take the government employees groups. They seem to hide facts regarding the benefits given.

When you and I actually have significant bucks taken out of our checks for health insurance that is a tangible part of the pay.

Starting off with more than 3 weeks paid vacation like state employees receive is another.

notanota 7 years ago

I'm sorry you and many other workers apparently have lousy jobs. That's no reason to move everyone to the lowest common denominator.

Scott Morgan 7 years ago

The job I had gave me so much I thank God everyday. They were wonderful.

kugrad 7 years ago

Teachers contribute to their own insurance, it is part of their compensation package. It is bogus to say that they don't contribute when it is part of their pay. In some districts, such as some KC area districts, the district gives the money to the employee and then deducts it again to pay the insurance. Either way the result is the same, the employee EARNED the money to pay for the insurance. It isn't free. It is part of the compensation.

drewsmith84 7 years ago

Low pay encourages quality teachers to leave our district for higher paying districts elsewhere, and discourages people who would be quality educators from entering the field.

kugrad 7 years ago

Paladkid The State of Kansas did a post-spending-audit when they were court=ordered to raise the funding of schools. What the Republican controlled government audit found was that there was a one-to-one correspondence between increased funding and increased test scores. In other words, spending more on education did, in FACT, lead to improved student achievement.

brutus 7 years ago

What about the 800 or so classified employees who haven't had a raise in two years? As usual, the teachers want ALL of any money available.

kugrad 7 years ago

Teachers want them to have a raise as well, but the union cannot negotiate for classified employees, so it is not in the control of the union.

windex 7 years ago

The wage situation for classified employees is indeed abysmal. Even in this lousy economy usd497 has a hard time filling many of its classified positions and keeping good employees.

Scott Morgan 7 years ago

I chat with a district para from time to time. Her hubby works as a carpenter and her job pays for the insurance for both of them and family. Great, correct. Wrong. Just think, a person getting a few bucks in her paycheck and doing draining work. She works essentially for the insurance.

She isn't complaining, but misses the following.

She used to earn extra duty by taking tickets to ball games. This was the gravy for the family, the few bucks they could do a little of fun with. Now this has been cut too.

In thinking about all the chat about teachers pay, I do believe they are a very unique profession. The same as firemen. To take modern society kids in 2011 and actually succeed in teaching them something. Not something I could do. We need to quit bugging these great public servants, and I do mean servants and thank them.

If we look at teaching as a unique vocation, then we need to think how they are paid as unique too. I never hear anybody bleating about college or trade school instructors hours. Nor politicians, and a number of public funded positions.

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