Before making a proposal on teachers’ salaries, the Lawrence school district wants to see how much money it will receive from the state.
The Lawrence Education Association and school district continued negotiating teachers’ pay and benefits Wednesday. At the previous meeting, the teachers’ union asked that the school district keep in place the one-time, $1,000 payment given to teachers last year and add another $2,250 to that amount.
But Kyle Hayden, the district’s chief operations officer, said he wasn’t comfortable talking about big money items until the state legislative session wraps up this month.
“We’d be really wasting our time if we didn’t have a clear picture of what next year is going to look like,” Hayden said.
This spring, state legislators have discussed raising the cap on the percentage of the budget that school districts could raise locally.
And there has been a proposal to boost the amount of money the state gives schools for each student by almost $75. While the boost could mean more than $800,000 in the district’s coffers, it wouldn’t come close to covering the salary increase requested by staff. The $2,250 pay increase is about $3 million above what was paid to teachers last year.
“With our current financial situation, that isn’t going to happen,” Hayden said about what would be about a 10 percent increase in compensation.
David Reber, a biology teacher at Free State High School and lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Association, believes the district has money to spare, pointing to the nearly $2 million the board spent on new programs a week ago.
“We still think they have the money to do it if they choose to make teacher compensation a priority,” Reber said. “They think it is a matter of resources, and we think it is a matter of priorities.”
As the negotiating teams wait for a decision from the Legislature, there is still plenty more to discuss. At their next meeting May 9, they plan to tackle payroll deductions, duty days and planning time for teachers.