In teachers contract negotiations, parties agree on policy change related to parental leave, but at odds over compensation

Attorney Curt Tideman discussed provisions of an update on paid parental leave with members of the NEA-Shawnee Mission’s negotiating team Tuesday.

Two days of negotiations have yielded agreements that will impact district policy on paid parental leave, but teachers and the school district administration are at odds over compensation for a 2018-19 teachers contract.

The National Education Association – Shawnee Mission and school district administration held their first negotiating sessions on next year’s teachers contract Monday and Tuesday. June is later than contract negotiations typically begin, but the parties agreed to the later start date in hopes of having more clarity by this point on the likely future of the K-12 funding formula.

That clarity came Monday afternoon when the Supreme Court issued its ruling saying the current plan is still constitutionally inadequate, but that it will allow the funding scheme to go into effect for the coming school year. That means Shawnee Mission will receive about $4.3 million in additional funding next year — but not any more, as the administration had hoped.

Compensation is the reliable sticking point in the contract negotiations, and the parties walked away from the table Tuesday without seeing eye-to-eye on a way forward.

The union’s negotiating team first proposed a 2 percent increase to the salary base in addition to movement along the step-and-column salary schedule. The district countered by saying it could agree to movement along the step-and-column schedule, but could not agree to additional money on the base. After a break, the teachers put forward a plan that asked for a 1 percent increase on the base. The district said it could not commit to that request.

The parties broke and set a next negotiations sessions for Tuesday, July 17 at 9 a.m. at the Center for Academic Achievement.

Before the parties began discussing compensation, they delved into a number of issues related to teacher workload, scheduling and leave time.

The union representatives noted that teacher work load has increased in recent years, and asked the district to consider agreeing to moving toward scheduling in the next couple of years that had high school teachers instructing five classes per day instead of six, as is the case now for many. The district’s negotiating team said it could not agree to that request in part because of the transition in district leadership, indicating it wasn’t prepared to discuss that policy shift before new superintendent Michael Fulton was on board.

The parties did agree in principle to a policy changes on paid parent leave, however.

The district agreed to allow parents who are both employed by the district to each take up to 12 weeks of parental leave, unpaid or paid. The leave must occur within a calendar year of the birth or adoption of the child. It can be taken concurrently or consecutively. Parents can request leave schedules that would have the employees out intermittently, but those requests must be approved by the superintendents office.