Story by Mark Fagan, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World
Eudora teachers say they deserve more money.
The Eudora school district maintains it doesn’t have any to spare.
A federal mediator is coming to town Thursday to help the two sides break an impasse declared after months of negotiations toward a new work agreement.
“We want to be able to help everyone,” said Belinda Rehmer, a member of the Eudora school board. “We have some amazing teachers and would love to give them everything they want, but we have a budget.
“They think we have more money than we do, and somebody’s got to come in and help us figure it all out.”
Mediation begins Thursday evening, with a negotiations session that starts at 6:30 p.m. in the library at Eudora Middle School.
The teachers, represented by the Eudora Education Association, are pushing for:
– All 108 licensed professionals — teachers, librarians, counselors and others — to receive a $125 increase to their annual base salary, plus an ability to pick up “step” raises on the district’s salary schedule based on education and years of experience. Overall, the association says, such educators typically would receive raises of 1 percent.
– The district to provide another $20 a month for employee health insurance.
– Licensed educators to be able to “sell back” accumulated leave to the district at each educator’s full daily wage, provided the educator had been with the district for at least 15 years. Currently, the sell-back rate for such educators is $50 per day.
Dick Powers, a member of the association’s negotiating team and a second-grade teacher in his 15th year at Eudora Elementary School, said that the district ended the past school year with an extra $1.5 million in ending fund balance, and that the teachers’ requests would not come close to accounting for all of that money.
“We’re just asking for a paltry sum,” Powers said. “A paltry amount, a small amount. They have the money to cover it.”
Added Bob Sailler, who is chairman of the association, teaches eighth grade at Eudora Middle School and is in his 26th year teaching in the district: “It’s a matter of priorities.”
Rehmer counters that the district is coming off a year of budget cuts, and heading into another year facing the likelihood of more from the state.
The district cut $1 million from its budget this past spring, and for a district whose overall budget is little more than $10 million that’s no small task, said Kristin Magette, a district spokeswoman.
“It’s just a matter of school districts are in a period of constricting resources, and our board is just trying to be mindful of how those resources are used,” she said.
The district’s licensed professionals continue to work under terms of last year’s contract, which had granted teachers the ability to move on the salary schedule. But such movement would not happen again, unless and until it was included in a new agreement, the one being worked on now.
“We have a very modest proposal,” Sailler said. “We are not that far apart. We are hopeful we can get it settled.”