Contract negotiations for Shawnee Mission teachers hit another bump

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. File photo.

The most recent effort to broker an agreement for a new contract for Shawnee Mission School District teachers suffered a setback Friday when both the teachers union and administration representatives announced the parties had completed a professionally led mediation process without coming to an agreement.

Negotiations that had taken place over the summer in the lead up to the current school year resulted in impasse after teachers rejected the district’s proposed salary schedule adjustment, which would have amounted to a total teacher compensation increase of 3.2% from last year to this year.

After impasse, the mediated negotiations went behind closed doors, and have not been visible to the public. According to information released by the administration on Friday, however, Shawnee Mission had offered teacher a two-year contract that would have included a 3.22% total compensation increase in year one and a 3.65% increase in year two. The teachers representatives rejected that offer.

Under state statute, the parties now move to what is known as “fact finding,” where a individual or board is tasked with investigating the issues at the heart of the stalled negotiations and making recommendations about a resolution.

Without a new agreement in place, teachers have been operating under last year’s contract as the 2019-2020 has gotten underway. Because that contract included a one-time stipend for many teachers, around one-third of all certified staff are currently earning less money this year than they were last year, according to the National Education Association-Shawnee Mission.

Linda Sieck, president of the National Education Association-Shawnee Mission, said in a statement that the district’s last offer left the negotiating team “speechless” and that it differed only minimally from an offer the district had put on the table in early September. She noted that, in addition to concerns about pay, teachers have raised persistent issues about class size and teaching load that are not addressed in the offer. Secondary teachers in Shawnee Mission instruct six sections per day compared to five sections per day for neighboring districts.

“NEA SM informed the Board of Education’s team that our team could not take this offer to members confident that it would be rejected outright,” Sieck said. “We believe the Board of Education’s offer is a slap in the face to the professionals who work the closest with students every day, and who will ultimately be held accountable for the implementation of the Strategic Plan.”

Shawnee Mission Chief Communications Officer David Smith said in a statement that the district “remains committed to honoring the hard work and dedication of our teachers.” The district noted that the two-year offer it put on the table would have provided it the ability stabilize health care costs for employees.

“The Board is committed to expeditiously reaching an agreement which continues to place SMSD educators at or near the top of state compensation levels while continuing to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars,” he said.

The complete term sheet that was on the table is embedded below.

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