Editorial: Significant raise for teachers

Research shows that the No. 1 factor in education quality is the effectiveness of the classroom teacher. Against that backdrop, competing to hire and retain the best teachers available should be the top priority for the Lawrence school district year in and year out.

For that reason, the school board gets the benefit of the doubt for its decision Monday to award Lawrence teachers their largest pay increase in recent history. On Monday night, the board approved a new agreement with the Lawrence Education Association that gives teachers an average 6 percent pay raise that will cost the district an estimated $3.15 million.

Teachers will receive a base salary increase of $2,310 on top of the step increases teachers receive for their years of service. The total averages out to a pay increase of $3,195 annually for each of the district’s 986 teachers.

By comparison, last year, Lawrence teachers received a 1.5 percent pay increase that cost the district $712,000. In fact, in the past six years, the largest teacher pay increase in Lawrence was $1.8 million for an average increase of $1,381 per teacher in 2013.

The bump in pay gets starting teacher salaries above $40,000 and makes the district more competitive with districts in Johnson County like Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission. Both are noteworthy accomplishments.

“It’s gratifying to have a year we can give our teachers a real raise,” Board president Shannon Kimball said. “It has been awhile since we have had the state funding to do that.”

Lawrence Education Association members overwhelmingly approved the offer, voting 587-8 in favor of the salary increase that was negotiated between the school board and the association.

Association President Laurie Folsom said the new contract would go “a long way” toward closing the gap in teacher pay between Lawrence and Johnson County districts.

For the 2016-17 school year, the first step on the Lawrence salary schedule was $37,730. That compared with $38,834 in Olathe, $39,700 in Blue Valley and $40,515 in Shawnee Mission. With the new contract, the first step on the Lawrence pay scale will move to $40,040. In effect, this year’s higher than normal increase allows the district to “catch up” on teacher salaries, which should take pressure off negotiations in future years.

The Lawrence Education Association and the school board have produced an agreement that makes Lawrence teacher salaries competitive with any school district in the state. That’s a win for teachers, students and parents.