Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Salary talks with Tonganoxie teachers stall

July 27, 2005

Salary negotiations between the Tonganoxie school district and the local teachers association have stalled.

"At this point it's not closed, but the offers are not altogether what they wanted, and they are what we thought we could afford," said school board member Darlyn Hansen.

Hansen said the district offered a 5.9 percent increase to negotiators with the Tonganoxie Education Association. He and TEA spokesperson Janet Burnett declined to say what percentage increase the teachers had requested.

"We are continuing to negotiate," Burnett said. "The teachers association is waiting until after the August 8th board meeting for them (the school board) to offer a counterproposal."

Burnett explained that the percentage increase the board offered is based on an average teacher's salary in Tonganoxie.

However, Burnett, as well as Tonganoxie school Superintendent Richard Erickson, did not say what the average teacher's salary was in the local district.

"It can be analyzed a lot of different ways," Erickson said. "It just depends on the year. There's a lot of issues that are negotiated. I'd rather not discuss any of that until we've finished with negotiations."

Burnett said that usually by this time of year, an agreement would have been reached.

"We want to give the board an opportunity to counter-propose and we want to continue to negotiate," Burnett said. "There is a lot of new money coming from the state."

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.

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.

The superintendent noted the state's additional funding allocates more per-pupil dollars, as well as puts funds in specific areas such as special education.

Burnett said that normally the TEA and the school board come to an agreement during negotiations.

But, she said, in 1989, the district and teachers' association failed to reach an agreement, and went to impasse.

A settlement was reached that December.

However, teachers, under contract as usual, continued to work as scheduled, and back wages were made up after the agreement was reached.

"We do not want to be at impasse," Burnett said. "We are continuing to talk."

Erickson also seemed optimistic.

"We're still discussing and visiting with the teachers and negotiating," Erickson said. "There hasn't been any agreement that has been reached, but my hope is we'll continue to discuss the situation and reach an agreement in the future."

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