District, teachers still in pay talks
Although school began Tuesday, Tonganoxie teachers don't know yet how much they'll be paid this year.
That's because negotiators for the Tonganoxie Education Association and the school district have not agreed on teachers' salaries.
Monday night, Tonganoxie Education Association members met with school Superintendent Richard Erickson and school board members Darlyn Hansen and Leana Leslie.
Janet Burnett, TEA representative, said Tuesday, "The board made an offer that we will review. We want to check figures at the board office, particularly enrollment figures, and then we'll make a decision."
Wade Anderson, negotiations and research program director for the Kansas National Education Association said Tonganoxie is not alone.
Of the 300 school districts in Kansas, only about 75 have settled, Anderson said.
In January, the Kansas Supreme Court said the Legislature had failed to adequately fund public education. The court gave lawmakers until April 12 to increase school funding. At that time the state was distributing about $2.7 billion in state aid to public schools.
These are Tonganoxie school district administrators' salaries for recent years
Administrator, position 2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006
Richard Erickson, superintendent $91,023 $93,936 $96,753
Tatia Shelton, high school principal NA $70,000 $73,499
Mike Bogart, retired high school principal $78,584 NA NA
Steve Woolf, junior high principal $72,829 $75,233 $76,316
Jerry Daskoski, elementary school principal $68,729 $70,998 $74,546
Brent Smith, high school $57,206 $61,794 $65,899
Darren Neas, junior high school $60,814 $62,761 $62,957
Tammie George, elementary school $59,891 $61,868 $64,960
During this year's regular legislative session, legislators approved an additional $142 million to fund schools. But that wasn't enough to satisfy the court, which ordered legislators back into a special session to come up with another $143 million. The Legislators did so, and on July 8, the court approved the Legislators' plan, which increases school funding by another $148.4 million.
"It's because of the special session," Anderson said. "Usually we know what's going on by the first of May, but because we didn't really have any idea what the school finance was going to look like till the middle of July, that kind of pushed things back."
Not only are about two-thirds of the state's school districts still negotiating, five of those districts have declared impasse, Anderson said.
Lily Kober, KNEA field representative, said when agreement can't be reached, one or both parties -- a school district or teachers group -- can file impasse papers.
"They list the topics in which they're not in agreement and get that information to the state department of labor," Kober said. "Once the department of labor receives those papers, they contact the federal mediation and conciliation service, a federal agency supplied through taxpayer dollars."
At that point, a mediator works with both parties to reach agreement.
As an example, Anderson said the Manhattan school district recently reached impasse, which since has been resolved.
"They had been at impasse with the board offering 5 percent and the teachers demanding 10 percent," Anderson said. "They settled at 7.1 percent."
Shawnee Mission and Salina are among the other school districts at impasse, Anderson said.
Burnett, who described Monday's meeting with the superintendent and board members as "matter of fact and professional," said that the last time Tonganoxie teachers and the school district reached impasse was 1989.
"We're not even close to that," said Burnett. "... We've done that before and we really don't want to go there. It's a lengthy process. It's not conducive to a positive working environment."
Burnett said the next negotiation session has been set for 6 p.m. Aug. 29.
Tonganoxie school board president Leana Leslie said Tuesday that she thought the teachers and district could reach an agreement.
"I think that the doors of communication are wide open between us and the teachers," Leslie said. "As long as everybody's still willing to keep negotiating and talking back and forth -- I think it's a positive thing."
Leslie said the district is being cautious in regard to finances.
"A lot of this is just everybody trying to understand how all this is coming down through the Legislature," Leslie said. "... You don't want to commit to money you don't have, or you don't want to miss budget money that is coming to you."