Lawrence teachers union proposes adding 5 positions; negotiators defer salary discussion
At Monday’s first meeting between teams from the Lawrence Education Association and a Lawrence school district group to negotiate a teachers’ contract for the upcoming school year, teachers union representatives presented a proposal that would add five teaching positions at a cost of $275,000.
The teams deferred discussion on the nitty-gritty issue of 2018-2019 teachers’ salaries, pending a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on whether the latest K-12 education formula meets constitutional muster.
In April, the Kansas Legislature passed a new school finance formula that will provide $500 million in additional state aid to public school districts over the next five years. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June 30 on whether that added money satisfies its demand that the state adequately fund K-12 education as the state constitution demands.
In absence of discussion on the central issue of salaries, the teams presented amendments to the current teachers’ agreement. Among those was an LEA 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.
Megan Epperson, a music teacher at Broken Arrow and Woodlawn elementaries, said the proposal would address an equity issue of eastside elementary schools sharing special teachers with other schools. Because of that practice, the part-time special teachers in the eastside schools, which have a higher percentage of students from lower-income families, are frequently transferred and fail to build the relationships that help inspire students.
“Kennedy Elementary has had nine different music teachers in nine years,” Epperson said. “Woodlawn has not had a single, full-time music teacher assignment for nine years, and the supplies and classroom materials are severely inadequate as compared to other buildings that have had a teacher dedicated to teaching the whole building.”
The LEA proposal would place a music, art and physical education teacher in each of the district’s elementary schools and define a full-time special teacher as one who teaches 20 45-minute sections in a three-day rotation, Epperson said. Those special teachers in eastside schools without the enrollment to necessitate the 20-section full-time employment level would have their choice of signing part-time contracts, adding sections at elementary schools needing more than one full-time special teacher or taking on enough academic or emotional support duties at their schools to qualify as full time.
Epperson estimated the proposal would require the hiring of two additional art teachers, two music teachers and one physical education teacher at a cost to the district of $275,000.
Lawrence school board Vice President Jessica Beeson, who serves on the district negotiating team, said district staff would make a report on the proposal for the negotiating team to consider. The Supreme Court ruling also would be a consideration for what was an added funding request, she said.
The LEA also proposed adding an additional elementary teacher plan day during the winter months to supplement fall and winter plan days. LEA head negotiator David Reber said the added plan day could be accommodated without adding to the school year because the district had more than enough elementary hours built into the schedule to meet state requirements.
Finally, the teachers union requested the district add more days to the contracts of district library media specialists at the beginning and end of the school year to handle the workload associated with checking textbooks and iPads in and out and taking inventory, Reber said.
The school district also presented the LEA with proposed changes that streamlined the teacher evaluation form and process.
The negotiating teams considered canceling a second negotiations session scheduled for June 18 because of the continued school finance uncertainty, but agreed to defer that decision until June 15.