Wichita teachers approve tentative contract

WICHITA — Wichita teachers have approved a tentative contract that calls for a two-year salary freeze and possible health insurance premiums in exchange for fewer training hours, teachers union officials announced this morning.

Of the 2,379 votes returned to the United Teachers of Wichita office — about half of the district's 4,000 teachers — 76 percent voted to accept the contract.

The Board of Education will vote on the agreement Monday.

Union president Larry Landwehr said in a written statement that the results of the vote, including the low turnout, are not surprising.

"Teachers didn't find much in this agreement to get excited about, and probably chose to express their dissatisfaction by not voting," Landwehr said.

"Teachers have shown that they are willing to do their part in these tough economic times, but many have increased expenses in cost of living and additional education costs to be concerned with."

The tentative contract gives teachers a day off on Dec. 22, which was planned as an in-service training day. Time teachers spend before school once a week to confer with colleagues — known as Professional Learning Communities — would be cut in half next school year, to about 11 hours a year.

The new agreement extends a salary freeze to two years, and it stops additional pay teachers receive for experience and education.

Wichita teachers started the school year without a contract after voting down a tentative agreement for a one-year contract in August.

Remaining in the agreement from August is a $20 monthly health insurance premium that can be waived if the teacher completes four wellness events outlined by the district. Currently, teachers pay no insurance premium.