Archive for Thursday, October 27, 2005

Two points settled in latest round of teacher negotiations

October 27, 2005

Money needed to fund the teachers' latest contract offer to Eudora USD 491 might already be in the district's budget.

Bruce Lindskog, a member of the Kansas National Education Association, acquired 2005-2006 budget information from the district office and analyzed it to find possible solutions to contract talks.

According to the Eudora National Education Association's figures, the district currently has a total of $4,351,638 allocated to fund salaries and benefits for teachers, librarians and counselors.

By looking at the cost of the teacher's proposed raise and added benefits in the context of the district's budget, Lindskog felt the district should be able to cover the teacher's needs with $30,000 to spare.

Lindskog figured the difference by looking at line items accounting for teachers' salaries, supplemental salaries and principals' salaries.

Lindskog gave his findings to the Eudora chapter of the NEA who, in turn, presented it to the district along with a new offer during the latest round of contract negotiations Friday.

The district also came prepared with its own offer to the teachers.

Before the board presented its offer, representative Mark Chrislip covered a common theme in the earlier rounds of negotiation.

"As a board we would agree with that statement as a ranking in the state, we agree we've slipped and are not where we'd like to be," said board member Mark Chrislip.

The low ranking wasn't intended by the board or meant to be malicious, Chrislip said.

In the previous rounds of contract negotiations, the teachers compared their pay schedule with other districts.

Although Chrislip said the board agreed with the teachers as far as their place within the state, he also pointed out certain factors might make cross-district comparisons misleading.

For instance Eudora's commitment to small classroom sizes and lack of district fees affect teacher compensation.

After Chrislip covered the issue of comparison, he presented the district's offer.

"The board understands the need to make improvements," Chrislip said.

The board's latest offer didn't raise the teachers' base or benefits, but increased compensation for teachers who gain their National Board Certification.

The board also agreed to give teachers a per diem fee for curriculum work during the summer.

The teachers' offer, down from a staunch 9 percent increase at each step, spread out the increase to fit the district's financial constraints.

The latest ENEA offer would make the starting salary $30,400 for a first-year teacher.

The district's current offer would give teachers a base rate of $30,200.

ENEA President Bob Sailler said the teachers also worked with the district's focus on rewarding teachers who have a master's degree or above.

Once the teachers returned from caucus following the board's proposal, both the per diem wage for summer curriculum work and National Board Certification were taken off the list of contended issues.

Although several issues remain to be negotiated, Matt Bova, a representative of the teachers association said the teachers appreciated Chrislip and the board's willingness to help.

"People heard that in your voice, so we appreciate that," Bova said.

Although making some progress, the board didn't have any comment on the numbers presented from the budget.

"I can't talk to it because you know I need to verify all this stuff," Chrislip said. "We all make errors. I also know we have a lot of other items that are budgeted."

In particular, natural gas prices might be under budgeted for the year, Chrislip said.

Chrislip will take the teacher's latest offer to the board for discussion.

The next round of negotiations is yet to be scheduled.

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