USD 259 teacher contract negotiations start today

Wichita Public Schools (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita teachers and the school district enter contract negotiations today.

The president of the United Teachers of Wichita said compensation was the main priority when coming up with a contract proposal.

Steve Wentz added that the union is a little more hopeful this year because of the increase in state funding. Under the new school funding formula,  the Wichita school district should receive about $17 million more.

Therefore, the union is asking the school board for a salary raise, as well as a salary schedule that rewards teachers with additional experience or education.

“Teachers have had their wages frozen for a number of years. We haven’t had raises,” said Wentz. “We’ve been stuck at steps and tracks and longevity for the last five or six or eight years, and it’s time for that to change.”

The union proposal also includes creating a safe work place. According to Wentz, there’s data that shows the district has seen an increase in behavior problems.

Wichita teachers also want to change the teacher evaluation process. In addition, there are a number of items related to teacher workload.

According to Wentz, he knows there will be pushback from the school district.

“The destination is the same,” he said. “We want to have the best school district around. We want to have the best teachers around, but how we get there is sometimes where there’s some disagreement.”

However, Wentz said he knows both groups are willing to work with one another to reach an agreement.

The school district’s contract proposal is one page with three items, in addition to workload and teacher pay.

Board members also proposed charging employees and their spouses on the district’ s health plan and $100 monthly premium, unless they test negative for tobacco use during an annual physical or district sponsored testing. According to the proposal, the district would cover testing costs.

The school board also wants tougher attendance standards for teachers, saying excessive absences are impacting student achievement.

Lastly, the district wants to see changes to the observations process of underperforming teachers, and make it a requirement for lesson plants to follow the Marzano Teacher Evaluation model.

Wentz would not share what the union will be pushing back on, but he said he will advocate for compensation and teacher workload.

KSN reached out to the Wichita school district for comment on contract negotiations, but we have not heard back from them.

Contract negotiations start at 8:30 a.m. at the new AMAC building, located at 903 S Edgemoor.

Negotiations are open to the public.