Teacher pay proposals from union, district leaders differ by more than $1 million

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Representatives of the Lawrence school district and teachers union left a contract negotiations meeting Thursday with more than $1 million separating their respective salary proposals.

The most recent proposal from the Lawrence Education Association, the district’s teachers union, calls for a $1,600 increase to base pay for teachers. The district is proposing one of two options, either a $460 or $500 increase to base pay, depending on whether district retirement contributions and pay for supplemental positions, such as coaching, are increased.

The difference between the LEA’s proposal and the district’s proposals is about $1.07 million, said David Cunningham, the district’s human resources director and chief legal counselor.

“We are still a long ways apart,” said Cunningham, who is also a member of the district’s negotiation team.

Additional money needed to fund the proposals

LEA request: $1,600 base pay increase, for a total cost of $2.17 million.

District offer A: $460 base pay increase, for a total cost of $1.05 million.

District offer B: $500 base pay increase, for a total cost of $1.092 million.

Source: Lawrence school district

Like other districts in the state, the Lawrence district will be receiving additional state dollars next school year. The district plans to use a significant portion of the new funding to rebuild the district’s reserve funds, a decision the union disagrees with. David Reber, chief negotiator for the union, said he doesn’t think people expect that their taxes will go into a reserve fund.

“I think they need to be spending that money educating students, and that means competitive teacher salaries,” Reber said.

The union’s current proposal would bring starting pay for teachers to $41,640 per year. The district and union have already agreed to fund the teachers’ current salary schedule, which includes raises for additional years of service and education achievements. That schedule calls for a starting pay of $40,040, and automatically increases a teacher’s salary each year to a maximum of $47,915 without any educational achievements beyond a bachelor’s degree, according to the pay schedule.

The district benefited from about $4.8 million in new state funding from the school finance formula the Kansas Legislature passed this spring, which increased base state aid per pupil from $4,006 to $4,165. Last month, the Lawrence school board approved a 2018-2019 budget for publication that reduces the district’s property tax rate by 1.324 mills.

Cunningham noted that the district used some of the additional state funding to add staff positions, such as guidance counselors, but that some needed to be used to replenish the district’s reserve and contingency funds. He said the district made a decision years ago, due to legislative pressure, to spend down reserve balances.

“We are now at a point where several fund balances are at zero and contingency is getting dangerously low,” Cunningham said. “So think of our contingency as a savings account for emergencies, so with the infusion of money this year from the Legislature, the board chose to use some of that money to begin to offset that deficit spending.”

Originally, the union proposed an approximately 5.5 percent increase to the base pay. Other sticking points in the negotiations include a provision regarding staffing for art, music and physical education and a provision about student discipline.

The next contract negotiations meeting between the district and the Lawrence Education Association will be Aug. 29. Once both parties agree to a contract, it will go before the school board for consideration.


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