Shawnee Mission teachers union calls for increased pay, hiring more classroom teachers

Members of the Kansas National Education Association – Shawnee Mission’s negotiating team sat down with administration officials in late May for the first sessions of the year.

As negotiations between the Shawnee Mission School District administration and the teachers union for the coming school year proceed, the Kansas National Education Association is making a push to get school boards to use the influx of new funds approved by the legislature to increase teacher pay.

“We’re calling on every district to invest in teachers and those staff members who work most closely with our students,” said Mark Farr, Kansas NEA president. “We have funding certainty, and our educators deserve to be compensated for their dedication to our students and the profession. Teachers are professionals who shouldn’t need to work two, and sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.”

The statewide organization’s message is echoed at the local level. Linda Sieck, president of the Kansas NEA – Shawnee Mission chapter, said the union’s negotiating team will be looking to secure funding for increased pay as well as the hiring of more teachers.

“We believe the priority for spending the new money allocated by the legislature should be on improving teacher salaries and hiring more classroom teachers to reduce class sizes,” Sieck said. “Although salaries have increased over the past five years, they have not kept pace with the cost of living. We want our educators to be able to afford to live in the district where they work.”

Under the K-12 funding bill signed by Gov. Laura Kelly in April, Shawnee Mission looks to gain $9.8 million in general fund revenue for the coming school year — an increase of about 4.2 percent from the past year.

Shawnee Mission’s pay scale for teachers is the highest among its peer districts in Johnson County. But workload and class size have sent a number of teachers to lower-paying jobs in neighboring districts in recent years. At the last board of education meeting, two high school teachers said the district’s schedule that has secondary teachers instructing six sections a day instead of the standard load of five sections used in other Johnson County districts has led to high levels of stress and burnout.

Sieck said that while a pay increase appears to be on the table as part of this year’s negotiations, it looks unlikely that the administration will approve expanding the ranks of classroom teachers. Sieck said the proposed budget presented to the negotiating team called for the addition of a handful of special education teachers and two social workers, but no additional regular classroom teachers.

The negotiating teams from the district and the teachers union have met three times so far this year. They will meet next on Monday, June 24 at 11 a.m. at the Center for Academic Achievement.