Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2007

Teacher negoatiations progressing

May 24, 2007

As teacher negotiations ramp up for the 2007-2008 school year, district officials enter into talks without a significant cost of living increase to offer.

Last year, the Kansas Legislature voted to allow districts in high-cost areas to levy one mill of tax revenue to specifically fund teacher salaries as a way to keep up with the price of living.

While the additional mill of taxing authority brings in more money in larger districts like Shawnee Mission or Olathe, the cost-of-living adjustment isn't significant enough to pursue locally, Eudora USD 491 Superintendent Marty Kobza said.

The district could only raise about one-tenth of 1 percent of the total currently raised in taxes through the increase, Kobza said.

Should the district want to use the additional authority, any increase would have to be approved by voters, Kobza said.

"The COLA really isn't feasible for us. It wouldn't produce enough money in the grand scheme of things," Kobza said.

Instead the district needs to focus on the revenue it currently has to provide everything possible for the staff, Kobza said.

The cost-of-living funds haven't been a factor in negotiations thus far because everyone has realized it isn't a viable option in Eudora, he said.

The COLA represents another challenge to smaller districts in terms of school funding, Kobza said.

"This is just another example of how inequitable things truly are," he said. "Across the county line, there are literally millions of dollars difference between the sources of revenue that are available."

The cost-of-living adjustment hasn't come up in discussion among the teachers either, Eudora National Educators Association President Bob Sailler said.

After two meetings, the ENEA has yet to put a formal salary proposal before the board of education.

The group has made several requests, Sailler said.

Among them is the establishment of a mentoring program for new teachers to the district, Sailler said.

Any new teacher arriving to the district should be paired up with a more experienced teacher in their same subject area, he said.

The more experienced teachers would serve as a "subject matter expert," Sailler said.

It's important to get the system in place because of the entry of new teachers into the district, Sailler said.

Other current requests include full single health coverage and higher tuition reimbursement, Sailler said.

"There has been tentative agreement on a few issues," Sailler said.

The group is also asking for the declassification of vacation time from sick days and personal days to general off time, Sailler said.

"We're very optimistic we will be able to come to agreement on all issues," Sailler said.

The ENEA should have a salary proposal prepared by Thursday's negotiation session, he said.

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