Education

UPDATED: Wichita teachers union wants district to rectify years of salary freezes

The Wichita school board is offering a compensation package for teachers that would total a 4.7 percent increase to salaries, benefits and other forms of compensation.
The Wichita school board is offering a compensation package for teachers that would total a 4.7 percent increase to salaries, benefits and other forms of compensation. File photo

Wichita teachers could see their second straight boost in pay — one of the largest in recent years — according to a district proposal presented during contract negotiations last week.

Teachers union leaders said the offer is a good start, but they’re seeking additional pay for teachers affected by years of salary freezes.

The Wichita school board is offering a compensation package for teachers that would total a 4.7 percent increase to salaries, benefits and other forms of compensation, according to a joint statement released by the negotiation team.

Representatives for the district and United Teachers of Wichita, the local teachers union, met Monday morning but did not agree on a compensation package. The team plans to meet again Wednesday.

The district’s offer includes:

  • A 3.5 percent salary increase

  • One step on the salary schedule for years of experience

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

  • Longevity bonuses for teachers who qualify for them

  • No increase in insurance premiums

District officials said the price tag of the proposal is about $12.1 million — an amount that has been factored into the proposed 2018-19 budget. It would account for the bulk of a projected $18 million in additional state funding the district will get this year under a new school finance plan.

Last year, Wichita teachers received a 3.95 percent raise and other benefits. More than half of Wichita teachers saw their compensation increase by more than 8 percent last year, according to district officials.

That boost followed several years of teacher salary freezes or raises of 1 to 2 percent, as Wichita and other school districts struggled with massive program cuts.

Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said his team is “not displeased” with the district’s offer. But the union wants at least one catch-up step on the salary schedule to make up for several years of pay freezes.

“By our estimates, provided by the district, we have 1,600 teachers who are not where they should be because of the freezes that were enacted,” Wentz said. “That’s the part that I’m a little upset about.

“One of the things that we pushed the district on is to come up with a plan to make teachers whole who have lost out.”

Wentz said that would be be an additional .7 percent boost for some teachers, which would cost the district an additional $1.3 million.

Teachers most affected by the salary freezes are those who started with the district around 2007, just before a nationwide recession led to cuts in education funding and a years-long series of budget cuts. Some Wichita teachers lost more than $31,000 in income that had been promised in their contract, Wentz said.

“On Thursday, 500 new teachers will be in front of the district . . . and they’re going to be told, ‘Look, if you do this and stay this many years and get this education, this is where you’ll be (on the salary schedule),’” he said. “That’s exactly what people are told every year when they come, and we turned around and we froze their wages and don’t give it to them.”

Wentz said he was surprised and disappointed that the district’s proposed budget includes a slight cut to mill levy.

“As somebody who advocates for teacher pay, there’s untapped possibilities there that I think at some point we’re going to have to take a deep breath and look at,” he said.

One mill generates about $2.8 million for Wichita schools, according to Susan Willis, chief financial officer for the district. A proposed reduction in the tax rate — .118 mill — would total about $330,400.

Willis said, however, that the proposed cut to the mill levy shouldn’t mean less revenue for the district next year, because property valuations have been “on the uptick,” increasing by about 2.5 percent a year.

  Comments