Comparing teacher salary, class load and planning time among Shawnee Mission, neighboring districts

When the Shawnee Mission School District leadership walked away from the negotiating table and moved forward with issuing a 3-year unilateral contract for teachers Jan. 30, teachers union officials warned that the move would send many Shawnee Mission educators looking for work in neighboring districts where they could get similar pay and have lighter workloads.

To get a better sense of the market and what opportunities Shawnee Mission teachers’ might have in other parts of Johnson County and beyond, the Shawnee Mission Post compared current contracts for area districts on items including compensation, required number of sections taught and allotted planning time.

The overview below summarizes the current contracts within the following school districts (full links to contracts included here):

For context, we’ve also included the Shawnee Mission School District’s 2018-19 contract, under which teachers may choose to continue working if they decline to accept the new terms of the 2019-22 contract recently approved by the board.

Teacher salary

Shawnee Mission has for years touted itself as the highest-paid district for teachers in Kansas. And while, at least by one measure, that’s not the definitively the case under the unilateral contract, Shawnee Mission teachers do remain among the very best paid in the state no matter how you look at it.

For the districts we compared, the highest starting salary now goes to teachers at Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools — though Shawnee Mission is not far behind. First year KCKPS teachers earn a salary of $42,661. First-year SMSD teachers earn a salary about $100 less, putting the district in second:

First Year Salaries

  • KCKPS: $42,661
  • Shawnee Mission (2019-20): $42,557
  • USD 232: $42,500
  • Shawnee Mission (2018-19): $42,136
  • Blue Valley: $42,100
  • Olathe: $42,086

During the negotiating process, the district stressed that its salary schedule is arranged to allow teachers to reach their “career salary” — the highest level of pay they’ll get based on their education level — more quickly than in other districts. And the top cell on the salary schedule in Shawnee Mission remains the highest in the state. However, only a handful of the district’s more than 2,000 teachers qualify for that top level, which requires a PhD and more than two decades of teaching experience. The National Education Association-Shawnee Mission says the vast majority of its teachers earn a salary of less than $65,000 per year.

Here are the maximum possible salaries on the schedules for the districts whose contracts we reviewed:

Maximum possible salary

  • Shawnee Mission (2019-20): $85,186
  • Shawnee Mission (2018-19): $84,343
  • Olathe: $84,204
  • Blue Valley: $78,425
  • USD 232: $74,900
  • KCKPS: $74,806.39

Of note when considering how the unilateral contract might be considered by individual teachers: The 1% base salary increase in the 2019-20 contract combined with step-and-column movement along the salary schedule — the mechanism by which teachers earn more based on experience and advanced degrees — will cost the district about $3.4 million. Coupled with an additional $545,616 in health insurance contributions to teachers, the district calculates that the total compensation package in the 2019-20 contract represents a 3.22% increase over last year.

But that figure doesn’t translate directly to individual teachers, many of whom will end up taking home less money under the 2019-20 contract than they did last year.

As part of the 2018-19 contract, the district issued a one-time stipend equal to 1% of their salary to teachers who wouldn’t see a pay increase from step-and-column movement otherwise. For teachers in these so-called “dead zones” on the salary schedule, who haven’t added enough years of experience to move to a new cell, the 1% base salary increase for 2019-20 just gets them back to the pay level they were at in 2018-19. Health insurance premiums have outpaced the district’s additional per-teacher contributions in some cases, meaning some teachers’ take home pay will be lower under this year’s contract than it was for last year’s.

Number of teaching periods

Workload issues dominated the discussion in the late stages of the negotiating process, with the teachers union pointing out that Shawnee Mission has the bulk of its secondary teachers instructing six out of seven sections per day instead of the five section loads common in other districts. Many teachers told the board that this workload was leading to burnout and inefficient instruction. After negotiations broke down, NEA-Shawnee Mission President Linda Sieck said secondary teachers may be tempted to look at jobs in neighboring districts where, although they may earn slightly less, they would only have to teach five sections per day instead of six.

Here’s a look at the contract language related to teaching load that’s on the books in Shawnee Mission and its neighboring districts:

  • Shawnee Mission (2019-22): Secondary teachers can be scheduled up to 6 teaching periods out of 7 possible each semester. (In the text of the agreement, the district affirmed a commitment to address this issue starting in the 2021-22 school year. Teacher will not be able to formally negotiate on the issue until the end of the three-year unilateral contract, though.) Secondary teachers are to work an 8-hour day, elementary teachers 7 hours and 40 minutes.
  • USD 232: Secondary teachers can be scheduled up to 6 out of 8 sections to teach each semester. This is done over a block schedule of 90 minutes each. Over the course of two days, high school teachers will teach 6 out of 8 blocks. Middle school teachers are assigned to teach 6 out of 8 periods each day. All teachers are to work an 8-hour day.
  • Blue Valley: High school teachers are assigned at least 5 out of 7 class periods per semester and are also assigned 1 supervisory period. Monday, Tuesday and Friday are 7-section days, and Wednesday and Thursday are block schedule days. Middle school teachers are required to teach at least 6 out of 9 class periods and are assigned 1 supervisory period. All teachers are to work 7 hours and 45 minutes each school day.
  • Olathe: High school teachers are assigned at least 5 out of 7 class periods per semester and are also assigned 1 supervisory period and 1 seminar period. Class schedules alternate between 7-section and 4-block days. Similarly, middle school teachers are assigned at least 5 periods, 1 supervisory or team duty period and 1 academic extension period. All teachers are to work an 8-hour day.
  • KCKPS: Secondary teachers can be assigned to teach at least 6 out of 7 class periods per semester, although the contract notes that school administrators will determine the number of class periods secondary teachers are required to teach. Teachers are to work an 8-hour day.

Planning time

Elementary teachers in Shawnee Mission have less guaranteed planning time than any of their neighbors in Kansas except KCKPS.

Planning time was also a frequent point of contention, with Shawnee Mission educators arguing that rising class sizes and the 6:7 teaching load made it harder and harder to effectively plan for the growing number of students assigned to secondary teachers in particular.

In the contracts we reviewed, secondary teachers get one period of blocked-off planning time per day, regardless of their teaching workload. For elementary teachers, planning time throughout the week varies across school districts from a minimum of 225 minutes in KCKPS to a minimum of 270 minutes in Olathe. Shawnee Mission elementary teachers had the second lowest amount of planning time among the contracts we reviewed.

  • Shawnee Mission (2019-22): Secondary teachers (grades 7-12) get at least 1 period each day for planning. Elementary teachers (grades K-6) get at least 230 minutes per week within the regular school day, excluding recess, for planning. This is the same contract language that was on the books for 2018-19.
  • USD 232: Secondary teachers (grades 6-12) get at least 1 class period each day for planning (this is not spelled out in the contract but equates to about 85-90 minutes a day for high school teachers based on their block schedule, and 42-45 minutes a day for middle school teachers). Elementary teachers (grades K-5) get at least 250 minutes per week for planning (at least 30 minutes uninterrupted a day).
  • Blue Valley: Planning time for high school teachers is either 1 class period for the day or at least 45 minutes of uninterrupted time, depending on the day’s schedule. Middle school teachers get 1 class period for planning time. Elementary teachers (grades K-5) get at least 265 minutes per week for planning time.
  • Olathe: Secondary teachers (grades 6-12) get at least 1 period of individual plan time (each week, that’s 232 minutes for high school teachers and 250 minutes for middle school teachers). Elementary teachers get a minimum of 270 minutes per week of plan time.
  • KCKPS: All teachers get at least 225 minutes each week for planning time. For all teachers except elementary teachers, all planning time is to be done during the day. For elementary teachers, at least 180 minutes of planning time must take place during the day.

Shawnee Mission School District teachers have until Friday to decide whether to accept the terms of the unilateral contract, to continue working under the 2018-19 as they have been all year, or to resign without penalty.