Lawrence school district, teachers union reach tentative agreement on contract
photo by: Elvyn Jones
The Lawrence school district and the local teachers union ended a three-month impasse Tuesday with a tentative agreement on a 2018-2019 contract that will give all teachers in the district a $1,200-a-year raise.
David Cunningham, the district’s legal counsel and executive director of human resources, said the agreement would increase the district’s total annual payroll for teachers by 2.64 percent. Under the agreement, the district’s base pay for first-year teachers with no prior teaching experience would increase to $41,240, up from the current figure of $40,040.
The tentative agreement was reached after negotiation teams from the district and the Lawrence Education Association had a second session with a federal mediator on Nov. 19. The Lawrence school board considered the progress made at that session during an executive session Monday night, and the district’s negotiating team presented the new offer to the union negotiators on Tuesday, Cunningham said.
In the agreement, the district agrees to continue giving step raises for teachers who complete additional education, such as an advanced degree, LEA President Laurie Folsom said. However, she said the new contract will eliminate the step raises the district had granted for additional years of teaching experience. It was the first time in five years that the district hasn’t funded the years-of-experience step raises.
Teachers who would have received an experience step raise for 2018-2019 will lose out under the agreement, but Folsom said the healthy $1,200 overall salary increase helps compensate for the absence of the step raises. She added that the change isn’t an issue for 47 percent of the district’s faculty because they had already received the maximum possible number of experience step raises.
The union will explain the contract to teachers before scheduling a vote to ratify the contract in the middle of next week, Folsom said. If the contract is ratified, the Lawrence school board will consider approving the contract at its Dec. 10 meeting.
With no agreement in place, teachers have been paid at 2017-2018 contract levels for September, October and November. Cunningham said teachers would probably receive the extra pay they were owed for those months sometime in December, either with their monthly paychecks or in a separate check.
The union and district reached an impasse in August on salary differences. The union was originally requesting a $1,600 increase to base pay, and the school board countered with a $500 offer.
The district also approved of contract language that provides elementary teachers an additional plan day before Tuesday’s tentative agreement. Cunningham said parents already have been sent notice that there will be no school on that plan day, Jan. 8.