Archive for Thursday, July 14, 2005

School board approves pay increases

Teachers given 6.36 percent, while classified employees receive 10.4

July 14, 2005

Administrators and educators across Kansas breathed a collective sigh of relief last week as the Kansas Legislature and state Supreme Court, after months of wrangling, got on the same page and agreed to an increased funding package for the public school system.

The new money totals approximately $290 million.

For Basehor-Linwood, approximately $880,000 more will be funneled into the schools; the base aid per pupil will now be raised from $3,863 per student to $4,257, an increase of $394.

The increased funding paid immediate dividends for the school district Monday night as administrators and employees agreed to increases in salaries and benefits. The Basehor-Linwood school board unanimously approved, 7-0, increases for all school district employees.

Basehor-Linwood Superintendent Jill Hackett said the increases could not have been met without the Legislature increasing public school funding.

"The only way we could have done this was with the help of the Legislature and the Supreme Court," Hackett said. "Without that assistance we wouldn't have been able to."

School board president Kerry Mueller said improving salaries and benefits for all district employees has been a goal of the board and administrative team.

"The board wants all employees to know how much they are valued and appreciated," Mueller said. "With the funding bill passed by the Kansas Legislature, we are finally able to adjust salaries of teachers and support staff to be equitable with other school districts in our area."

Negotiations between administrators and teachers stalled in recent weeks. Both sides, while generally in agreement on many issues, were forced to wait on finalizing a new deal until the Legislature and Supreme Court concluded their debate on increased funding.

On Monday night, those negotiations were drawn to a close. In salaries and benefits, all teachers received a 6.36 percent increase. Classified personnel -- secretaries, custodians, food service and maintenance workers and teacher assistants -- were given a 10.4 percent increase.

School district teachers lobbied administrators and the school board for a substantial increase for classified personnel, administrators said.

Administrators themselves received the lowest of all salary/benefit increases, 6.07 percent.

Hackett said the increased packages for employees brings the district closer with those offered in larger districts in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Ideally, it will help the school district retain quality staff, a high priority for administrators and members of the District Advisory Council.

"We don't want our quality staff recruited away to other school districts," she said.

Before the Legislature approved the additional funding, it was a nervous time in Basehor-Linwood, like most Kansas schools. The Supreme Court had threatened to shut off state aid payments to schools until a remedy to a court-perceived flaw in the state's funding model could be agreed upon.

Essentially, the court threatened to close schools until the Legislature acted.

"The entire state," Hackett said. "It would have shut us all down.

"It was not a very comfortable situation to be in, but I fully understand why the Supreme Court exercised their authority."

In an opinion handed down last week, the court said it viewed the Legislature's increased funding package as an adequate remedy for the upcoming school year, but a short-term solution overall.

Hackett, like most administrators in the state, agree that further improvements in education funding need to be made.

"This is the beginning of where we need to go ... but I'm grateful for the outcome," she said.

"This is what the Supreme Court gave us the authority to move forward with and we're delighted."

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