Shawnee Mission teachers are planning to gather outside of the Center for Academic Achievement tonight to demonstrate as the board of education meets to discuss a possible unilateral three-year contract strongly opposed by the teachers union.
“There is no time for ambivalence…SHOW UP! Bring signs! Wear red,” reads the notice teachers posted on Facebook Wednesday. “Grab your friends and family and SHOW UP at the CAA. Make every board member look you in the eye when they vote AGAINST YOU!”
The district posted official notice Wednesday morning for a special meeting to be held at 6 p.m. this evening. The board will immediately move into executive session after convening “to discuss negotiations pursuant to the exception for employer-employee negotiations under Kansas Open Meetings Act.” That move followed a final negotiations session between the National Education Association-Shawnee Mission and the district’s administration on Tuesday that ended without an agreement, and with the attorney representing the district indicating that the administration planned to move forward with a three-year unilateral contract — an unprecedented move that union leaders said they weren’t sure was permitted under Kansas law.
The administration says that the offers it put on the table for the union to consider would have allocated the vast majority of the new money that the district is likely to receive under the new K-12 funding formula to teacher pay, and that it can’t commit to larger teacher base salary increases without harming the fiscal health of the operation at large.
Henry Cox, the fact finder assigned to review negotiations between the parties and make recommendations about a possible agreement, largely agreed with the district’s assertions on that front, saying that the 2% base salary increase teachers had proposed for this year would necessitate “deficit spending and the creation of a sub-standard fund balance.”
However, Cox had suggested the district put an offer on the table for the current year that was “relatively, slightly more than the District left on the negotiating table at impasse” and encouraged the parties to work toward a two-year agreement. The district never moved from the proposed 1% base salary increase it had on the table for the current year in any of its subsequent offers, and only put three-year offers on the table Tuesday.
Kansas Families for Education issues statement in support of teachers
The district’s move toward a unilateral contract prompted a reaction from Kansas Families for Education, a non-partisan group that works to support the state’s public school system.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Chris Cindric, the KFE board president and a former Shawnee Mission employee, said the move “will have long term consequences and devastating effects to a community built around its schools.”
“Our members couldn’t be more discouraged,” Cindric said of the development. “As a former educator for 31 years in Shawnee Mission there has never been a 3-year unilateral contract enacted by the Board of Education of which I am aware. It’s a decision that says it’s our way or the highway.”
Cindric also said that the district needed to move to address the fact that secondary teachers have a workload of six sections per day as opposed to the five sections standard in other Johnson County districts.
“We ask our members and the patrons of the district to continue to let their board members know their disappointment in the process and the result,” said Cindric. “We may not have a vote tonight, but if necessary, we all have votes to change course in the next election.”