Lawrence school district and union reps agree to $3.6M to increase teacher salaries

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Representatives of the Lawrence Education Association and the Lawrence school district meet for contract negotiations on June 14, 2023.

Story updated at 9:37 p.m. Wednesday, June 14:

The Lawrence school board has agreed to a proposal that would provide about $3.6 million to increase teacher pay — amounting to an average raise of more than $3,600. The additional dollars will provide raises for virtually all teachers and also catch up teachers who missed raises in recent years due to the district’s budget challenges.

The school board came to agreement on the salary proposal during a closed executive session at its meeting Monday evening, a development that was relayed to representatives of the Lawrence Education Association, the district’s teachers union, during a contract negotiations meeting Wednesday evening. After board member Kelly Jones, one of the board’s representatives in contract negotiations, told union representatives the news, a round of applause went around the table.

Jones said that the board found the union’s request — which included additional dollars to fully make up two years of raises for increased years of service that teachers did not receive — quite reasonable.

“(We) are glad that we are able to correct what has been a difficult couple of years,” Jones said.

The board previously agreed to a proposal to provide about $3 million for raises, which would have provided an average raise of about $3,000 but only made up for one of two years of missed raises. The union then requested an additional $500,000 to fund the last of the missed raises.

Sarah Rossillon, LEA negotiations chair, said she thought the two catch-up raises would do a lot for teacher morale, as teachers will know they are getting paid in accordance with their years of experience instead of lagging behind the salary schedule.

“That is going to, I think, do just so much for morale in general just to know that, ‘Hey, I am back where I’m supposed to be,'” Rossillon said.

The catch-up steps are part of a larger proposal that revamps the district’s pay schedule for teachers. As the Journal-World reported in May, union and district representatives agreed to put forward a new salary schedule meant to address places where the district’s schedule is significantly out of step with comparable districts. A committee formed last year to study the issue previously said that the district has been losing teachers at particular times in their careers due to the schedule’s structure, which maxes out after 13 years of service.

The new schedule includes 24 steps instead of 13, increasing the earning potential for the district’s most experienced teachers and addressing other problematic areas. The $3.6 million works out to an average raise of about $3,675; however, individual raises will vary significantly based on where employees are at in the schedule and whether they are due missed raises from past years. There are some areas in the pay schedule that will not see a raise under certain scenarios. In addition to the $3.6 million for salary increases, district and union representatives also agreed to a $270,000 proposal to provide stipends to special education teachers.

photo by: USD 497

The current salary schedule for teachers and other certified staff for 2022-2023 school year.

photo by: contributed

A proposed new salary schedule would increase pay for teachers and other certified staff.

Pay increases for both the district’s teachers and staff are being funded in part by recent budget cuts, including the elimination of 48 teaching positions and two school closures, a fact that was also acknowledged during the meeting. Marcia Riggins, a teacher in the district’s virtual school, said it was a huge relief to be able to change the narrative into something more positive.

“I know there was a price that everyone’s going to pay, but we are going to see some of that back,” Riggins said.

Following the meeting, LEA President Emerson Hoffzales said the salary proposal provides raises for early-career teachers all the way to veteran teachers. Hoffzales said the changes work to address areas in the schedule where Lawrence’s pay is not competitive with other districts and set the district up to build on those efforts.

“It really helps provide support for our teachers that have done a lot of work over the last few years,” Hoffzales said. “We’re very excited, we’re thankful, and honestly this would not have happened without the work of the team.”

Under the district’s 2022-2023 schedule, those with a bachelor’s degree receive a starting salary of $42,583 per year, a master’s degree a starting salary of $45,233 per year, and a doctorate a starting salary of $51,833 per year. Currently the schedule maxes out after 13 years of service, at $50,458 per year for those with a bachelor’s degree, $56,483 for a master’s degree, and $66,633 for a doctorate. Teachers who have more than 13 years of experience in the district currently only receive a raise when the district and the union agree to make a general wage increase that affects the entire salary schedule. The newly proposed schedule would increase the maximum pay for those who are working toward or have attained higher degrees to between $52,658 and $77,633, and also increases pay in other areas of the schedule.

Union and district representatives came to a tentative agreement on the proposed contract for next year, including the salary proposal. The next step is for all certified employees to vote on the proposed contract, after which it will go to the Lawrence school board for consideration. Certified staff will be voting on whether to ratify the contract via an electronic ballot from June 19-30.

The district also recently came to a tentative agreement regarding wage increases with the union that represents the district’s classified staff. Representatives for the district and the Personnel Association of Lawrence-Communication Workers of America, the union representing paraeducators, food service employees, custodians and other non-certified staff, agreed on June 8 to a proposal that would provide $2.58 million toward wage increases for classified staff.

The raises are being funded through a combination of savings from recent budget cuts and additional state funding. The Lawrence school district will have about $7.8 million more in funding for the upcoming school year — about half from budget cuts and half from additional state funding — with the possibility of adding another $1.2 million to that figure.

Correction: This story has been corrected to indicate that not necessarily all teachers will receive a raise under the proposal. If there are teachers in the first two columns of the pay schedule, which represent those with a bachelor’s degree and those with 10-19 credit hours toward a master’s degree, who also have 13 or more years of experience and will not advance horizontally on the schedule due to additional education, then those teachers would not receive a raise. District spokesperson Julie Boyle said the district “anticipate(s) that there will be a few” teachers in that scenario.


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