Tentative contract for Lawrence school district teachers provides raises for all, stipend for SPED teachers

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Post updated at 12:38 p.m. Thursday, June 15:

All teachers in the Lawrence school district will receive raises next year under a tentative agreement between the district and its teachers union. The contract will also catch up teachers who did not receive raises in past years and provide additional financial support to special education teachers.

Lawrence Education Association (LEA), the district’s union for certified staff, met on Wednesday evening to continue the contract negotiating process.

The tentative contract the union and the district agreed upon provides raises to all teachers, averaging around $3,500, in addition to an $1,800 stipend for certified special education teachers. It prioritizes both vertical and horizontal movement, which entail pay increases based on years of experience and levels of certification, respectively.

Kelly Jones, school board member, reported during the meeting that the board on Monday had authorized LEA’s previous request to move up one more step on the salary matrix — 24 steps total. That would allow teachers to reach their top career earnings in less time. 

Jones said the board, Superintendent Anthony Lewis, and other district leaders “fully supported” the union’s requests. Committee members clapped in excitement at the news, and LEA President Emerson Hoffzales expressed gratitude to the board.

“First off, thank you, from at least our team and teachers,” Hoffzales said. “It means a lot. It’s great to hear that we’re gonna be able to start next year on the same step and moving forward, so thank you.”

Maya Hodison/Lawrence Times

The school board over the last few months has approved a budget cut package for next year, which included closing two elementary schools, cutting around 50 full-time teachers at the middle and high school levels, switching from laptops to iPads for high school students and more. Administrators have said their ultimate goal with the cuts is to achieve competitive staff wages by increasing employees’ salaries. Last week, members of PAL-CWA, the district’s classified staff union, tentatively agreed to $2.12 base hourly wage increases.

Step 13 is the current max for vertical movement on the salary matrix, and with the additional steps added, staff with “greater than 13 years of qualifying experience would be set on a higher level and at higher pay,” district spokesperson Julie Boyle said via email Thursday morning.

Raises will depend on individual teachers’ placements on the salary schedule, Boyle said in the email. If the tentative contract is approved, staff who are in their first 13 years of teaching would see one to two years of vertical movement, which would range from $400 to $1,700 per year of vertical movement, Boyle said. That’s $400 to $4,500 in total increases per teacher via vertical movement.

A different approach would apply to staff with 14 years or more of teaching experience if the tentative contract is approved. Those with a bachelor’s degree or with a bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience – but with no additional graduate credit – would not move up a step, Boyle said. Rather, they would only see a pay increase if they are eligible for horizontal movement. Those with bachelor degrees plus 20 years of experience or more could see an increase of $1,000 to $11,000, depending on their years of experience teaching in public schools, Boyle said.

Proposed-C24-Salary-Matrix-c2

Boyle added that the year teachers were hired also plays a part. Those hired for the 2022-2023 school year will be eligible for one year of vertical movement, and those hired for the 2021-2022 year will be eligible for two years of vertical movement. Teachers hired in or prior to the 2020-2021 year will be eligible for up to three years of vertical movement. Each step of vertical movement ranges from $600 to $1,000, depending on the location within the matrix, she said.

Approximately $500,000 that LEA requested to catch up teachers who are behind in raises due to the district’s ongoing budget constraints has been added to the amount the board previously agreed to, which would have provided all teachers approximately $3,000 average raises.

If the tentative agreement becomes the ratified contract, approximately $3.8 million of the district’s budget would be allotted to teacher raises and SPED stipends next year.

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“I absolutely wanted to see the vertical movement where we’re at right now,” Jones said. “And I’m also hopeful that your union sees the impact of ratifying this particular contract and the changes you’ve been able to make to the salary matrix.”

Sarah Rossillon, LEA’s bargaining team lead and an elementary school teaching interventionist, said she is heading into her 11th year with the district. That means last year she should’ve been on step 10 of the matrix, but she was stuck on step 8. If the tentative agreement is ratified, Rossillon will receive raises she missed in both steps 9 and 10, landing her back on track with the raise schedule.

“It’s gonna do so much for morale in general, just to know that, ‘Hey, I’m kind of back where I’m supposed to be,’” Rossillon said. “Just to have that weight go away, it’s really good.”

According to Hoffzales, the union will next send the tentative agreement to its bargaining unit, which includes non-members, via email in hopes of ratifying the contract. The email will be sent out on Monday, June 19 and the vote will remain open through June 30.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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