Teachers in the Lawrence school district would like to see a $3,250 raise next year.
That was the offer made Wednesday night by members of the teachers’ union, the Lawrence Education Association. The union asked that the school district keep in place the one-time, $1,000 bonus given to teachers last year and add another $2,250 to that amount.
David Reber, the union’s lead negotiator, said that salaries in the Lawrence district continue to be lower than those of surrounding districts, such as Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission.
“It has been quite some time since there has been significant new money added to the (base salaries),” Reber said.
Last year, the school district agreed to boost teachers’ base salaries by $250 and then add a one-time payment of $1,000.
At the very least, Reber said, the teachers would like to see the $1,000 in their paychecks this year, or else they would be taking a pay cut.
To cover the estimated $3 million needed for the increase, the district can draw upon its special reserve fund, Reber said. The fund, which can be used only for health-related expenses, has a balance of $7.8 million and has grown by $2.7 million in three years.
To provide perspective on how teacher salaries compare with the rest of the world, the negotiating team highlighted the positions on the pay scale below $42,643, the threshold for which a family of four qualifies for the free or reduced lunch program. Currently, one-third of the Lawrence teachers’ salaries fall in this range.
In coming years, Reber said, the union would like to re-examine the teacher pay scale, which is based on a teacher’s level of education and years of service. The scale could be a “little smoother” and not have so many “discrepancies,” he said.
Also Wednesday, the teachers’ negotiating team asked that the district prohibit “bullying of one professional employee by another.” The request was in response to an incident in which a group of teachers attended a meeting and provided feedback, which a district administrator was unhappy with and reported back to the teachers’ principal.
Negotiating team member Elizabeth Gabel said there have been too many incidents where teachers have been reprimanded for giving their opinions and have lost trust with the administration as a result.
“Who do they trust to tell?” Gabel asked. “That is the problem. Who can they trust?”
Members of the district’s negotiating team balked at putting such language in the contract. School board member Bob Byers said it is not the first time he has heard of such a complaint, but no one ever provides the specifics needed to take action. But he agreed discussions need to start about putting a process in place to address such issues.
“It does color negotiations,” Byers said. “It always comes up in some way, shape or form.”