Wichita teachers vote to accept contract

Wichita teachers have overwhelmingly approved a tentative contract that includes the first raise for teachers in four years, union officials announced Monday.

Of the 2,626 votes returned to the United Teachers of Wichita office – about two-thirds of the district’s 4,000 teachers – 88 percent voted to accept the contract.

The Wichita school board will vote on the agreement Monday night.

District and union officials announced terms of the tentative one-year contract last month. Highlights include:

•  A 1 percent increase to the salary schedule

•  One step on the salary schedule for years of experience

•  Adjustment on the schedule based on additional education, known as tracks

•  Teachers would move to the appropriate place on the longevity schedule, but will not receive back pay

•  An agreement on professional dress for teachers

•  No changes to the employee health plan. As before, employee premiums are waived if they participate in a certain number of wellness activities.

•  Converting one teacher in-service day to a classroom work day before school starts in August

•  Early dismissal for teachers on end-of-semester and end-of-year grading days if grades are submitted by noon

•  Two study committees comprising teachers and administrators — one to focus on professional development and another on teacher evaluations

Superintendent John Allison said the agreement amounts to a 4 percent increase in salary, benefits and reduced work time. Its price tag – about $8.6 million – has already been factored into the district’s budget, which school board members will discuss during their meeting Monday night.

Union president Randy Mousley said teachers “accepted it, but a little grudgingly. … Of course, everyone wishes it could have been more.”

Mousley said the somewhat low turnout on the contract vote shows that teachers are “happy about the 1 percent, steps and tracks, and longevity.

“But they’ve sacrificed a lot and their families have sacrificed a lot in the last four years,” he said. “They’ve kept doing an outstanding job. Test scores have been increasing, and they’ve stayed with it.”

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