Lawrence school district, teachers union will try to narrow $1 million compensation gap

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

The Lawrence school district and the Lawrence teachers union will attempt to close a more than $1 million gap when their representatives meet Wednesday for the next round of contract negotiations.

Negotiators for the union, known as the Lawrence Education Association, and district representatives will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the district office, 110 McDonald Drive. It will be the first negotiation session since the district presented a contract counteroffer that provided $1.07 million less in total teacher compensation than what the union had previously requested.

In July, the union requested a 5.5 percent salary increase, which would give all teachers at least a $2,200 raise for this school year. The union’s proposal would increase the base pay for inexperienced first-year teachers from $40,040 to $42,240 a year.

The district presented a counteroffer Aug. 9 that gave the union the options of a $460 or a $500 base-pay increase, depending on district retirement contributions and compensation for coaches and other supplemental positions.

School board President Jessica Beeson said at Monday’s school board meeting that the board was aware that nearby districts were offering more than Lawrence, but she noted that the board approved a 6 percent salary increase a year ago. That action increased the district’s base pay from $37,750 to $40,040 annually. The board was offering what it thought it could afford under present circumstances, Beeson said.

Laurie Folsom, the union president, said the board took admirable actions this budget year with the hiring of two new middle school behavioral health interventionists and three additional elementary school special education teachers. She said, however, that the board was turning away from the progress made last year in making the district’s teacher salaries more competitive with those in Johnson County districts.

“Teachers thought last year’s salary increases signaled a change in our board’s philosophy on attracting and retaining, emphasis on retaining, quality teachers,” she said. “Unfortunately, the $500 increase puts us right back where we started.”

Salary is not the only unresolved issue. The union also is asking that teachers be given more information on problem students and a greater voice in how they are disciplined, Folsom said. Specifically, the union is requesting that a student’s history of behavioral issues be shared with the teachers before that student is enrolled in the classroom.

The union also is calling for changes in disciplinary policies regarding the placement of students back in classrooms from which they have been removed for disruptive or violent behaviors, Folsom said. The union is requesting that a student who was removed from a classroom for disruptive behavior not return for the remainder of that day unless the classroom teacher and building principal mutually agree to allow the return. The union further proposes that a student who threatens, assaults or harms a teacher or classmates be removed permanently from that teacher’s classroom unless the teacher and building principal agree that the student can return. The district has not responded to the union’s requests concerning disciplinary issues.

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