Shawnee Mission attorneys’ brief in teacher contract dispute says district can’t keep deficit spending

Teachers gathered outside the Center for Academic Achievement prior to a board of education meeting last month.

The salary proposal put forth by the National Education Association – Shawnee Mission would force the district to dip into reserves and leave it with less than a month’s worth of operating expenses on hand after three years, according to the attorneys representing the district administration in its contract dispute with teachers.

In a pre-conference brief filed with the Kansas Department of Labor last week, the attorneys lay out the district’s arguments for the two-year contract offer it had on the table when mediated negotiations broke down in September.

That offer included a 1% base salary increase for all district teachers for 2019-20 and a 1.25% base salary increase in 2020-21 in addition to “step-and-column” movement along the salary schedule — the mechanism through which teachers get paid more for additional years of experience and education. Along with a stipend to help offset increased health insurance costs, the district says, that package represented a $3.9 million increase in total compensation for teachers.

The brief also details where the district has allocated the approximately $9.6 million in new state funding it received under the updated K-12 funding formula. That breakdown is as follows:

  • Classified staff compensation increases: $961,076
  • Teacher compensation: professional growth column movement at $500,000;
  • Teacher compensation: additional employees purchasing health insurance with a district match expense of $675,154;
  • Buses: contractually obligated additional increases to transportation of $346,576;
  • Electricity: contractually obligated utility rate increases of $1,209,674;
  • Resources: increased expenditures for supplies and services of $1,484,519; and
  • Teacher workload: 28.44 additional full-time employee positions at $1,673,450.

Teachers have pushed back on the notion that the district has earmarked a significant amount of that money for transportation, supplies and utilities. But, the district’s attorneys argue, it would be irresponsible to continue to dip into reserves to address such costs increases. Under the compensation proposal put forth by the NEA-SM, the district would be dipping into reserves and leaving a fund balance of $10.4 million after three years — a level significantly below the target of having one month’s operating expenses on hand at all times.

“The District feels that it is critically important to cease deficit spending and begin slowly returning operating fund balances to the appropriate level,” reads the brief. “In the event of any future crisis, the District must have the ability to cover expenses (including payroll) for at least one month.”

The teachers’ negotiating team is expected to strongly contest the assertions laid out by the district. In a response to a board member posting the brief on Twitter, NEA-SM President Linda Sieck categorized the document as only “one side of the story.” Sieck said the teachers union would file its own pre-conference brief this Thursday.

Teachers have packed the board of education chambers the past four meetings lobbying for the administration to bring the contract negotiations to a close.

The parties have the in-person conference in the matter set for Jan. 9.

The full brief posted on the district’s Information Central page is embedded below:

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