Shawnee Mission teachers declare impasse after contract negotiations get hung up on pay

The NEA-SM negotiating team at a session with district administrators earlier this summer.

Negotiations between the Shawnee Mission School District administration and the National Education Association – Shawnee Mission, the union representing district teachers, broke down Tuesday after the parties could not come to terms on teacher pay for the 2019-20 school year.

The main sticking point, said NEA-Shawnee Mission president Linda Sieck, was how much of the new money Shawnee Mission will be receiving under the K-12 finance plan approved by the Supreme Court should be allocated to teacher compensation. The district proposed a 1% base salary increase and a $45 per teacher per month contribution toward health insurance premiums. Teachers had countered by requesting a $2,750 raise per cell on the step-and-column salary schedule.

Teacher movement along the salary schedule — which provides extra compensation for teachers who earn advanced degrees and rack up additional years of service — will cost $1.6 million for the 2019-20 school year regardless of any base salary increases. Coupled with the proposed $2,750 per cell raise, the teachers’ proposed package would have represented a 6.2% total compensation increase, district officials said. The district’s compensation package proposal would have amounted to a 3.2% total compensation increase.

The step-and-column schedule for Shawnee Mission teachers for 2018-19 is available here.

Shawnee Mission has historically offered the highest pay for teachers among its immediate peer districts – though the work load for many teachers here is higher than in Olathe and Blue Valley.

Shawnee Mission is projected to receive about $9.8 million in new funding under the K-12 funding bill signed by Gov. Laura Kelly in April, a bill deemed constitutional by the State Supreme Court in June.

The district says items like increased utilities costs, transportation costs, health insurance costs, and supplies and services costs will eat up a good portion of that revenue. Combined with plans to hire 28.44 full time equivalent positions — social workers, instructional coaches, paraeducators and teachers — nearly $5 million of the new money is already allocated.

But, says Sieck, that spending plan fails to provide teachers with a meaningful compensation boost even after they have gone through lean years during the protracted K-12 funding battles in the legislature. Teachers who were not eligible for a pay increase on the step-and-column schedule received a one-time stipend equal to a 1% percent raise last year. So the 1% base salary raise proposed by the district this year would effectively hold pay the same for many teachers. With health insurance costs projected to increase 6 to 9% for many district employees this year, take home pay for teachers who wouldn’t see a step-and-column salary increase would be lower under the district’s proposal for this year than what they took home last year.

“The $45 per month in health insurance premiums they proposed wouldn’t cover half of what the costs are going up this year for many people,” Sieck said.

She said it was frustrating that the district’s proposal didn’t allocate more money to improving teacher pay and lowering classroom sizes.

“It’s disappointing because the legislature worked really hard to get new money for the districts in Kansas,” Sieck said. “That money was intended to help improve teacher salaries and hire additional staff to address class sizes…Ultimately we knew our members would say no [to the district’s proposal]. We want to bring our members a contract they can support, and we knew they wouldn’t go for this.”

With the teachers declaring impasse, the groups will now engage a mediator to attempt to reconcile the parties’ respective positions and finalize a new contract. Teachers will begin the year under the terms of the contract approved last summer. The last time Shawnee Mission administrators and teachers declared impasse was 2016.

Though the negotiations broke down over compensation, the teams had agreed in principle to a handful of non-compensation related items over the course of their five sessions. These include:

  • A day during the school year will be allocated for daytime parent-teacher conferences.
  • Teachers who attend summer training sessions to get accredited to teach AP and IB course will receive a $100 per day stipend.
  • Teachers who work toward the certifications necessary to teach College Now curriculum will be reimbursed for those costs.