Teachers deserve better

In the days leading up to the start of the 2018-19 school year, teacher contract negotiations were still underway between the Shawnee Mission School District and the National Education Association (NEA). One of the most contentious issues: raises for teachers.

The NEA, the labor union that advocates for teachers across the country, and SMSD leaders began contract negotiations on June 25. While some parts of the negotiations were quickly settled, the most disputed topic was salary increase for teachers across the district. The NEA originally requested a 2 percent across-the-board raise for teachers; that request was later dropped to 1 percent. Even so, the district said that it did not have the money in the budget to fund a 1 percent pay increase for the 2018-19 school year. Eventually, the NEA negotiated step-and-column movement along the pay scale for most teachers, while those not be affected by step-and-column would receive a one-time 1 percent stipend.

This is unacceptable.

The teachers, at a minimum, were asking for a 1 percent raise. An across-the-board 1 percent raise would have cost the district an estimated $1.7 million, less than half of the $4.3 million in additional funding SMSD received from the state for the 2018-19 school year. Based on these projected figures, the district could have easily given teachers a raise. Instead, most teachers received only the pay increase they earned from step-and-column movement. Those who did receive a 1 percent pay increase will not be guarantee that money next year; the pay increase is simply a one-time bonus.

This is not enough to keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living, much less show teachers that their hard work and dedication are actually appreciated by those in charge.

According to teacher.org, the average teacher salary in SMSD is around $50,100 per year. Using this estimate, a 1 percent raise for the average teacher would be $501. Assuming the school year is about 192 days long and teachers are required to be at school eight hours a day, the average teacher works 1,536 hours per year. Dividing these hours out of the $501 raise the average teacher would get, the teacher would receive an extra 32 cents per hour.

By denying teachers an across-the-board 1 percent raise, the district is telling our teachers that they are not worth the extra 32 cents an hour.

That estimate does not include the extra hours teachers put in sponsoring a club, offering after-school tutoring or responding to parent and student emails in the evenings. It does not include the money that comes out of teachers’ own pockets to stock their classrooms with necessary supplies. It does not include the cost some teachers bring on themselves by keeping snacks in the classroom for kids who might not otherwise have food.

The district does not talk about those teachers.

The extra time, money and dedication they put into their job is not acknowledged. Instead, teachers are told that even a 1% raise is too much to ask. If there’s no return on investment for these teachers who give so much of themselves to their job, what motivation do they have to continue to go above and beyond?