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Friday, July 11, 2014

Wichita teachers plan to rally before school board meeting

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle

Wichita teachers are planning a second rally outside North High School on Monday to demonstrate their commitment to a more favorable contract.

Organizers say as many as 300 people could participate.

“We believe that this rally will help convince (school board) members that Wichita teachers have sacrificed more than their share these last four years,” said Larry Smith, a teacher at East High School and member of United Teachers of Wichita.

Teachers are seeking a contract that “ends the freeze on compensation, restores some lost pay and … does not impose more workload requirements that have no impact on student learning,” Smith said.

More than a month ago, public negotiations between the district and the local teachers union ended. Since then, the sides met for more than two days of closed-door sessions with a federal mediator, but that has not yielded a contract agreement.

A new contract for the district’s 4,000 teachers is set to begin Aug. 1.

In early proposals, teachers union officials asked for a 3 percent salary increase and a return to raises — plus back pay — for additional education or experience, known as steps and tracks. They also want fewer work hours outside the classroom and more teacher input on professional development.

District officials have proposed freezing teacher pay at 2008 levels. They also want to require more detailed lesson plans, guidelines for professional dress, regular contact with each student’s parent or guardian, and new disciplinary actions for teachers who are chronically absent.

Last week district officials announced they had reached a tentative contract agreement with the Service Employees International Union Local 513, which represents more than 1,800 service workers such as custodians, clerical staff and paraprofessionals.

That agreement includes a 3.5 percent increase to the salary schedule as well as raises for additional education, licenses or certificates. Union members are scheduled to vote on the tentative agreement Saturday.

The tentative contract with service workers would cost the district about $2.8 million in additional salaries and benefits, district officials said. A 3 percent raise for teachers — without back pay or steps and tracks — would cost about $7.2 million, they said.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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