Archive for Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Teachers, board continue salary talks

September 21, 2005

Seven weeks into the school year, teachers and school board members have yet to reach an agreement on teacher salaries.

At a negotiation meeting last Wednesday, teachers lowered their request for an annual salary increase from $1,900 to $1,750.

Janet Burnett, spokesperson for the Tonganoxie Education Association, said teachers also wanted to continue their push for an additional $100 for each step teachers reach on their education and years of teaching scale.

School board president Leana Leslie said the board members had upped its salary increase offer from $900 to $1,000.

The teachers and school board have already agreed to the $100 increase in the district's contribution for the teachers who are enrolled in the health insurance plan.

And, teachers and the district continue to talk about the possibility of hiring substitute teachers to cover teachers' duties during in-school planning times, with the district offering to provide this service for one planning time a month for each teacher.

"We'd like to talk about this planning time," Burnett said. "We need to look at how we can include the specials because, at this point, if you're not a classroom teacher you're not included in the planning time."

The "specials" include art teachers, physical education teachers, special reading teachers, librarian and counselor, school superintendent Richard Erickson said.

Leslie said the board was not offering the $100 increase on the education and years of experience scale.

Burnett said it was important that the district make the salary offer more attractive to teachers.

"We want to be competitive with other districts," Burnett said, "and not be like this little isolated pocket in the middle, not keeping up."

Teachers and school district officials agreed to meet again at 6 p.m. Oct. 12 in the junior high library.

Attending Wednesday's meeting was Wade Anderson, director of negotiations for Kansas National Education Association.

Anderson said that of the 300 school districts in Kansas, about two-thirds have settled on salaries.

Settlements are coming in later this year, because of the fact that the Legislature didn't set school funding until July.

And, Anderson said, this year, "teachers are a little bit more firm in their resolve."

The reason for that is two-fold, Anderson said.

"The Legislature put a lot of money in schools," Anderson said. "They upped the funding by about $290 million."

This contrasts with the past three years, in which the Legislature didn't increase funding for schools.

"They (teachers) hadn't had much increase in salaries in the last few years," Anderson said. "Nobody really did because there wasn't any money. ... It got harder and harder to provide teachers with increases."

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