Wichita teachers vote to approve tentative contract

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Wichita teachers have overwhelmingly approved a tentative contract, likely ending negotiations that lasted several months and required help from a federal mediator.

Of the 2,929 votes returned to the United Teachers of Wichita office Friday afternoon, nearly 80 percent voted to accept the contract, union leaders said in a news release.

“This proposed contract was not good for teachers, but UTW believes it was the best we could get considering all of the negative financial issues confronting the district,” the union said in its statement.

“We are committed to having a much bigger impact on the district’s decision making processes in the near future. Negotiations next Spring will be very different than any we have had in Wichita in a long time.”

The Wichita school board is expected to vote on the contract Monday.

District and union officials announced terms of the tentative contract last month. They include:

▪ One step on the salary schedule for years of experience.

▪ Adjustment on the salary schedule based on additional education, known as tracks.

▪ A one-time bonus in November that is either $500 or an amount equal to a teacher’s longevity payment. (Longevity — the annual raises teachers are supposed to receive beginning in their 15th year — will remain frozen.)

▪ An additional $100-per-employee district contribution to the health plan reserve, from $590 to $690 per month.

▪ A base health insurance plan with no premium and two “buy up” plans with monthly premiums but lower deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. Yearly deductibles on the base plan range from $4,500 for an individual in-network to $18,000 for a family out-of-network.

District officials said the price tag of the agreement is about $11 million — an amount that already has been factored into the district’s $662 million budget.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias