Editorial: Approve teacher contract
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
It’s encouraging that the Lawrence school district and its teachers have finally reached agreement on teacher pay for the 2018-19 school year.
Under the agreement reached Tuesday, teachers in the district will receive a pay increase of $1,200 across the board. The agreement sets the salary for a first-year teacher in Lawrence at $41,240. That’s competitive with starting teacher salaries in the Blue Valley ($42,100), Shawnee-Mission ($42,136), Wichita ($42,177) and Topeka ($41,500) school districts.
Tuesday’s agreement ends a three-month impasse between the district and the Lawrence Education Association. The teachers union had requested a $1,600 increase in base pay, while the district was offering $500.
The agreement isn’t final until the education association members vote to ratify the contract and it is approved by the school board. The teachers union is expected to meet to discuss and vote on the contract next week. If the contract is ratified, it could go before the school board on Dec. 10.
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.
The agreement seems to be a reasonable compromise.
While teachers didn’t get everything they sought, it is important to remember they are coming off a year in which they received a $2,310 pay increase, a bump of 6 percent. The pay increase for 2017-18 cost the district $3.15 million and closed the gap between pay in Lawrence and other top-performing districts in the state.
Under the most recent agreement, the district will continue giving step raises for teachers who complete additional education, such as an advanced degree, LEA President Laurie Folsom said. However, the new contract eliminates step increases the district had granted for additional years of teaching experience. It is the first time in five years that the district hasn’t funded the years-of-experience step raises.
Folsom said nearly half of the teachers — 47 percent — aren’t affected by the lack of step increases for experience since they have already reached the maximum awarded for experience.
Recruiting and retaining quality teachers has to be the top priority in maintaining the quality of Lawrence’s public schools. The contract agreement reached this week, coming on the heels of a 6 percent pay increase last year, appears to achieve that mission and should be approved by the teachers union and the school board.