Teacher pay increase offer much lower than requested

The Lawrence school district is willing to pump up teachers’ salaries by $1.5 million, far less than what teachers had requested.

For more than three hours Wednesday evening, district representatives and teachers from the Lawrence Education Association hashed out language that would be part of next year’s teacher contract.

More than a month ago, the teachers union asked for a $3,250 pay raise. The request would have kept in place the one-time $1,000 bonus given to teachers last year and added another $2,250 to that amount.

Instead, the district offered to give a permanent increase of $750 to all teachers and to allow teachers to move higher on the pay scale based on their years of service.

For those teachers who can still move up, the increase could range between $400 to $1,700. For teachers who have reached their maximum level on the pay scale, which is about 50 percent of them, there wouldn’t be any additional increase.

Lead negotiator David Reber, a Free State High School science teacher, said the boost is an improvement from what the district had offered earlier in the night.

“It’s getting better. But I don’t think we are there yet,” he said.  

The initial offer was to give teachers $750 across the board and then a one-time payment of $250. But it wouldn’t have allowed teachers to jump to the next level on the pay scale.

Under that scenario, the teachers union negotiating team said the pay increase was actually no increase all because it would only replace the $1,000 one-time payment teachers received last year.

“It means everyone is static,” said Elizabeth Gabel, a member of the negotiation team and a teacher at Southwest Middle School.

But school board member Bob Byers reminded the teachers that the district agreed to just that one-time payment last year.

“I hesitate on issues of one-time money because I know if we do it one time, it becomes permanent. One time was one time,” he said.

Reber told the board a contract that didn’t allow employees to move up on the pay scale would make it a hard sell to teachers.

“They see it as automatic and get pretty indignant when it doesn’t happen,” Reber said.  

After that conversation, the negotiation team returned with an offer that would allow teachers to move up the pay scale but take away the $250 one-time payment all teachers would receive.

The district’s proposal also would cover insurance premiums at a slightly higher rate, costing about $181,000 a year more, and include about $43,000 more for teachers who take on additional assignments or duties.  

Negotiations will resume June 6.