Lawrence union asks for new contract that would give all teachers at least $2,200 raise

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Teachers in the Lawrence school district are seeking about a 5.5 percent increase to their base salary that would give every teacher at least a $2,200 raise for the year.

The Lawrence Education Association, the union for the district’s teachers, presented the Lawrence school district with the salary request as part of 2018-2019 contract negotiations that resumed Monday.

The teachers union’s request would add $2,200 to the district’s current $40,040 base for first-year teachers, and teachers also would be eligible for “step” increases based on experience and additional education, LEA President Laurie Folsom said.

The 2018-2019 contract negotiations between the district and the LEA started June 4 but were suspended after one meeting as both sides awaited the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the five-year, $522 million school funding bill the Legislature passed this spring. The court ruled June 25 that the plan didn’t meet the state constitutional requirement of adequately funding education, but said the shortfall could be addressed in the 2019 legislative session.

David Cunningham, the district’s human resources director and chief legal counselor, as well as a member of the district’s negotiation team, said the district has not yet put a dollar figure to how much the LEA’s salary increase request would cost for the coming school year.

The LEA also requested a compensation increase from $13 an hour to $15 an hour for voluntary extra-duty assignments and an increase from $21 an hour to $25 an hour for taking on added professional duties, such as covering a classroom for another teacher, Cunningham said. Finally, the union asked for a $5 monthly increase to teachers’ retirement plans.

At June’s opening negotiation session, the LEA representatives presented a proposal that would add five teaching positions by placing at least one teacher for the three special areas of music, art and physical education in each of the district’s 13 elementary schools. The LEA estimated the five positions would cost the district $275,000 in 2018-2019.

Cunningham said the Lawrence school board would now determine how the LEA’s requests fit with other priorities.

“Certainly, salaries are always a priority, but in terms of what our counteroffer might be, we haven’t decided that,” he said.

Cunningham anticipated the board’s counteroffer would be put on the table at the next scheduled negotiation session. That meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 31 at the district office, 110 McDonald Drive.

Cunningham said the district and the LEA could reach a tentative agreement at the next meeting, which the union could take to its membership for ratification.

The 5.5 percent increase to the district’s base salary that the LEA has requested for 2018-2019 is in line with a 6 percent increase that the school board approved for the 2017-2018 school year. Last fall, the board approved a salary schedule that gave every teacher a $2,310 raise and increased the base entry-level salary from $37,750 to $40,040.

For years, union and district leaders have expressed concern that teacher salaries need to rise to keep pace with other large districts in the area. The 2017-2018 increase did do much to bring Lawrence closer to area districts or, in some cases, pass those districts. The Journal-World reported last month that data from area school districts showed that the average base salary for a starting teacher in Johnson County school districts was $40,914, compared to Lawrence’s $40,400. The average in Shawnee County was $36,813.

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