June 29, 2013

Wichita school district, teachers reach tentative contract agreement

Wichita teachers will receive a pay raise under an agreement reached between the United Teachers of Wichita and the Wichita Board of Education.

Wichita teachers will receive a pay raise under an agreement reached between the United Teachers of Wichita and the Wichita Board of Education.

Highlights of the tentative one-year contract agreement reached Friday include:

• A one-time, 1 percent increase that will be prorated over a 12-month period
• One step on the salary schedule for years of experience
• Elimination of weekly 40-minute Professional Learning Community meeting times
• Health benefits that will remain the same.

The agreement also creates one format for lesson plans to be used by teachers, allows movement on the longevity schedule, and provides for an adjustment in salary based on additional education.

The total package represents a 2.4 percent increase in value for teachers. The agreement is subject to ratification by teachers in August and approval by the board.

The United Teachers of Wichita, which represents the district’s 4,000 teachers, initially had proposed a 2 percent raise. Last year, board members approved a contract that amounted to a 4 percent increase in salary, benefits and reduced work time, at a cost of about $8.6 million.

Superintendent John Allison praised both sides for working collaboratively on the agreement.

Randy Mousley, president of the teachers union, said the two sides “did a great job of working toward finding solutions to each other’s concerns.”

“As for salary,” Mousley said, “I believe the board agrees it is not nearly what the teachers deserve; however, as long as the governor and the majority party are going to extreme ends to give money to the wealthiest citizens of this state at the expense of the children and school employees, this kind of regression will continue.”

“We tried to do as much as we could with our limited resources,” said BOE President Lynn Rogers. “The teachers do a vast majority of our work, and we wanted to reward and recognize them for all that they do.”

“Despite the underfunding of public education by our Legislature,” Rogers said, “we know the teachers go about their job day in and day out and do the right thing for kids.”

Rogers said an agreement with the Service Employees International Union reached in May will be reopened in light of the new teachers agreement. The two-year agreement with the service employees froze their salaries, but a clause called for a pay increase if compensation paid to teachers was increased.

District employees not represented by a union will be offered a similar package.

Negotiations with the teachers union have been under way since April, but negotiators wanted to wait to see what the Legislature would do. The tax bill approved in Topeka kept funding levels flat for K-12 education.

Mousley said there were no major sticking points during negotiations. The final day involved unresolved issues concerning the elimination of early arrival for Professional Learning Community meetings, longevity pay and lesson plan framework language, he said.

Allison said that when the two sides were close to an agreement, they just had to work through specific language and how some of the aspects will be implemented.

“It just takes time,” Allison said.

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