With addition of stipend for 800 teachers, district, union reach agreement in principle on 2018-19 contract

Negotiating teams came to an agreement in principle on a 2018-19 teachers contract a day before school started.

Just hours before the 2018-19 school year officially got under way, negotiating teams from the Shawnee Mission School District and the district’s teachers union came to a tentative agreement on a teachers contract for the year.

Teachers had initially requested a 2 percent across the board raise, but lowered their request to a 1 percent across the board raise after district officials said they didn’t have the resources to fund the original request. But the district said even a 1 percent raise would force it to dip into reserves, refusing to agree to the union’s proposal at a July negotiating session.

On Thursday afternoon, the negotiating parties convened for the first time in three weeks, and eventually came to terms on a plan that would provide step-and-column movement for all eligible teachers and a one-time stipend equivalent to a 1 percent raise to approximately 800 teachers frozen on the salary schedule who would not have seen any raise otherwise.

NEA-Shawnee Mission negotiating team member Karen Johnson told district negotiators that seeing new money added to the compensation package for every teacher was vital.

“I can tell you that we’ve surveyed our people, and overwhelmingly they are telling us that they would not ratify a contract that leaves 800 people without new money,” Johnson said during Thursday’s session.

District finance head Russell Knapp told the parties that the stipend for the 800 teachers would have a budget impact of approximately $600,000. Step-and-column movement on the salary schedule would amount to about $2 million more in teacher compensation that last year. Overall, the package would represent a year-over-year increase of 2.33 percent in the teacher compensation pool.

“The board felt it important to offer this additional compensation for the coming school year and is pleased to once again offer a competitive pay schedule for valued employees,” said board of education president Brad Stratton in a statement after the negotiations concluded.

The contract agreement will go before teachers union members for a vote in the coming weeks. To be ratified, more than 50 percent of union members must participate in the vote, and more than 50 percent of the voters must vote in favor of ratification. The board of education must also formally vote to approve the contract.

As part of the tentative agreement, this year’s contract would allow up to 12 weeks of leave for all professional employees after the birth or adoption of a child.