Contract would give Wichita teachers a 2 percent raise

07/24/2014 6:55 PM

07/24/2014 6:56 PM

Wichita teachers will receive a 2 percent salary increase under a tentative agreement between the school district and its teachers union, superintendent John Allison announced Thursday.

The tentative one-year contract follows an agreement to use modified traditional bargaining – a method of bargaining focused more on problem solving than opposition, said Randy Mousley, president of the United Teachers of Wichita.

The union, which represents nearly 4,000 teachers in Wichita public schools, is “very pleased” with the agreement, Mousley said.

“It became apparent to us that with the continued attacks on public education from extremists in Kansas and across the country that we needed to work more collaboratively with the Board of Education to get the best possible solution for our students’ learning conditions and our teachers’ working conditions,” Mousley said.

In addition to the 2 percent salary increase, the new contract includes the elimination of the Jan. 2, 2015, inservice day – with no loss of pay – so that employees will work 189 days in the school year instead of 190.

Eligibility for the district’s health plan will now be for employees who work at least 30 hours a week and are hired after July 31. Current part-time employees will be grandfathered into the health plan, Allison said.

The agreement also created a review committee for teachers’ lesson plans, which will hold its first meeting Sept. 25. The district hopes for “more in-depth” lesson plans, said Susan Arensman, a spokeswoman for USD 259. The review committee is to make sure the district “is headed in the right direction,” she said.

Teachers with more years of experience and additional education – known as the steps and tracks system – can expect to see an additional salary increase, Arensman said.

“This is very good news,” Sheril Logan, president of the Wichita school board, said of the agreement. “I think what we have to keep continually remembering is our teachers are our lifeblood of what we do in our district. And we want to keep rewarding them however we can, as much as we can.”

It’s too early, Allison said, to make any provisions regarding the due process protocol involving teachers following the recent change in state legislation. Mousley and Allison both agreed they were happy with the current system before the change.

“There are more questions than answers with what that means and how that might be applied,” Allison said of the new law. “We thought we had a very positive system that was working for both of us, and now is not the time to make changes.”

The total value of compensation and benefit package increase is 3.49 percent, a news release said.

Teachers will vote on the contract next month and the Board of Education will take action following that vote.

Reach Shelby Reynolds at 316-268-6419 or sreynolds@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @_shelbyreynolds.

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