After lengthy negotiations, district, NEA settle on 2017-18 contract with 4 percent raise, health insurance payment for teachers

Negotiating teams from the district and the National Education Association - Shawnee Mission met Thursday and settled on a contract for the 2017-18 school year.
Negotiating teams from the district and the National Education Association – Shawnee Mission met Thursday and settled on a contract for the 2017-18 school year.

Months of negotiations came to a close Thursday when Shawnee Mission School District administrators and representatives of the National Education Association – Shawnee Mission came to terms on a teacher contract for the 2017-18 school year.

Under the agreement, Shawnee Mission teachers will receive a 4 percent across-the-board raise as well as $48 per month heath insurance premium payment. The new contract also removes steps 21 and 25 from the salary schedule, contracting the amount of time it will take for some seasoned educators to move to a higher pay grade.

The district and teachers union appeared to be coming close to an impasse after their previous negotiating session, in which the parties indicated that they’d reached positions from which they could not move. The offer on the table from the teachers at the end of the Aug. 9 session was a 4.75 across-the-board raise with the $48 per month health insurance payment. The district had countered with either a 4.5 percent raise and no health insurance payment or a 4 percent raise with the health insurance payment.

The teachers’ negotiating team, which called Thursday’s session, opened the meeting by floating a proposal of a 4.25 percent across-the-board raise for teachers with the health insurance payment. Interim Superintendent Kenny Southwick indicated that the district was unlikely to be able to move from its previous positions. The parties caucused and then returned to the table after 20 minutes, at which point the teachers’ negotiating team indicated that it was prepared to settle with the 4 percent raise plus health insurance payment offer.

The total cost of that package will be approximately $7.69 million, or around 54 percent of the additional $14.2 million the district is set to receive this year in state aid and local option budget revenue under the K-12 finance plan approved by the legislature earlier this year. The additional .25 percent across-the-board raise the teachers proposed at the start of Thursday’s session would have cost the district around $500,000.

Prior to agreeing to the 4 percent raise package, the teachers pressed Southwick on where they district planned to direct additional funds received for the 2017-18 school year that wouldn’t be going toward teacher raises. Most educators in the state expect that the Kansas Supreme Court will order more money injected into the K-12 system when it rules on the constitutionality of the legislature’s most recent funding plan, meaning there is a possibility that Shawnee Mission could see additional revenue this year that it has not budgeted for.

“We just would like to make it clear that if the state gives more money to the district, that that funding would go to lowering class sizes and increasing staff where necessary and providing for those needs that really will help students,” said NEA-SM negotiating team member Lauren Ingraham.

Southwick responded that while he couldn’t provide specifics at this point without details on the funding levels, the district was committed to addressing the at-risk and underperforming students the Supreme Court had cited in previous rulings deeming more K-12 funding was necessary.

“There are some things we can do to support at-risk students, and our commitment is that we are going to drive that money to the classroom,” he said.

NEA-SM President Linda Sieck said the organization would be putting the new contract before membership for a vote online sometime next week. The administration will put the contract before the Board of Education for approval at its meeting next Wednesday.