Teachers, administration set to make case before fact finder in Shawnee Mission contract dispute this week

Board of Education President Brad Stratton (left) and Superintendent Mike Fulton (right).

Shawnee Mission students return to class today from winter break. And, later this week, teachers and the administration will return to the negotiating table.

Representatives of the Shawnee Mission School District administration as well as the National Education Association-Shawnee Mission, the union representing the district’s teachers, will make arguments in person before a state-assigned fact finder as they work to resolve a labor dispute that’s had educators working without a new contract since the start of the school year.

The parties have both indicated they’d hoped to get the issue resolved much sooner, but scheduling issues pushed the date of the in-person meeting to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9. The meeting will be held at the Center for Academic Achievement and is open to the public.

Dispute over how much of new money under K-12 formula is going to teacher pay

More than 200 teachers and supporters, many clad in red, packed the Shawnee Mission board chambers in November to lobby for a new contract.

Teachers have shown up in force at board meetings since October to put pressure on the board of education to acknowledge their complaints about working conditions and pay. Teachers, particularly those at the secondary level, have shared stories about increasing work load and class sizes that they say make it difficult to provide the individualized learning experiences the administration has set as a goal for students here. They also say that the district is not allocating enough of the new money it received under the updated K-12 funding formula to teacher pay — which was one of the goals of the bill.

The district has pushed back on the teachers’ calls for salary increases above the offers it’s put on the table, saying additional increases to the salary schedule would force the district to dip into reserves and hamper its financial stability. In a brief filed with the Kansas Department of Labor, the district laid out how increasing costs for supplies, utilities and transportation had eaten in to much of the new money the district received this year. The last offer the district had on the negotiating table would have provided 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. That package, which also includes a stipend to help offset increase health insurance costs, would have represented an increase of $3.9 million in teacher compensation from 2018-19. Shawnee Mission teachers are among the highest paid in the state of Kansas.

The NEA-Shawnee Mission last month also posted the information it provided to the fact finder in preparation for this week’s in person hearing, a document that provides comparisons between Shawnee Mission’s pay structure for teachers and those in neighboring districts. The document also notes the rise in upper-level administrative salaries in the district, with the amount spent on cabinet-level personnel rising from $1.3 million the year Jim Hinson became superintendent to nearly $2.4 million this year.

“Our main point [is that] the district received nearly $10 million from the state. The district needs to direct at least half that money to hiring more teachers and making sure no teachers are making less money than they did last year,” said NEA-Shawnee Mission President Linda Sieck.