Shawnee Mission administration, teachers union declare impasse after clashing on teacher pay

Negotiations between the teachers union and the district ended in impasse on Wednesday.
Negotiations between the teachers union and the district ended in impasse on Wednesday.

Hours of negotiations between Shawnee Mission School District administrators and representatives from the local National Education Association chapter on a new teachers contract for 2016-17 ended in stalemate on Wednesday, with the parties declaring an impasse that will necessitate the involvement of a federal mediator.

At issue were two items related to teacher compensation. Union leaders had requested the removal of two steps on the teacher salary schedule that would have meant increased pay for dozens of district teachers. Union representatives had also requested the district expand a proposal that had been initiated by the district to provide a $1,350 stipend to teachers with a master’s degree or higher who would not have seen a pay increase on the salary schedule otherwise. The union had countered that the stipend offer should be extended to teachers with a bachelor’s degree as well.

Shawnee Mission NEA President Linda Sieck estimated that the two items together would have cost the district approximately $300,000. Sieck said “compensation definitely stopped us” in the negotiations.

“I think we’re frustrated because everybody likes to be able to start the school year with a contract and be able to move forward,” she said. “I do think we were making progress on things. It’s just unfortunate that it all kind of grinds to a halt until that mediator can come in.”

The school district issued the following statement on the impasse:

At the end of today’s negotiation session, representatives for the Shawnee Mission Board of Education and NEA-Shawnee Mission were unable to reach agreement on a contract for the 2016-2017 school year. While discussions throughout the negotiations process were productive and resulted in three signed tentative agreements, agreement regarding compensation could not be reached. Both parties agreed they were at impasse in the negotiations. The teams will now move forward through the impasse process. The district remains hopeful that through the process a successful agreement may be reached.

 

The district and teachers’ union had already met three times prior to Wednesday’s session to work toward an agreement for the coming school year. During those previous meetings, the parties had agreed to three changes:

  • The district would pay the $17 increase per month on health insurance premium for the district employee (but not increase premium costs for family members insured by the district).
  • Four early release days that had been reserved for grading before progress reports would be shifted to one normal school day and three professional development days.
  • Minor changes to the district’s extended leave policy, changing the language setting out when teachers can request extended leave and for how long it can last.

Those agreements will remain in place when negotiations restart after the mediator gets involved. But Sieck said it could be weeks before the groups are able to schedule time for all members of the negotiating parties and the mediator to be in the same place.

Under Kansas law, the declaration of impasse means teachers will begin the 2016-17 school year operating under the previous year’s contract. Sieck said the last time the district and the union declared impasse was four years ago.

The district’s tentative budget for the 2016-17 school year shows expenditures of $216.5 million on projected revenue of $214.6 million, meaning the district was already projecting a need to dip into reserves by nearly $2 million. But the $300,000 at issue in the teacher’s compensation requests represents just .14 percent of total projected expenditures for the year. In the summer of 2015, the school board approved raises for five cabinet level administrators that totaled approximately $75,000 per year. Around the time the board approved those administrator contracts last June, the district had rejected the teachers union’s request for a 1.5 percent across-the-board salary schedule increase citing uncertain state funding.