Staff editorial: Teachers deserve more in new contracts

Board of Education should include a salary increase and fair dismissal policy in new teacher contracts

JagWire staff

StaffEdCartoonIllustration by Jason Chen

The De Soto Teachers Association negotiations team has been discussing teacher contracts for this school year with the Board of Education since February. Currently, De Soto teachers have contracts based on the 2013-14 school year. The negotiations team is requesting higher salaries and a fair dismissal policy to be included in new teacher contracts. The JagWire believes these are two imperative issues to consider during negotiations.

The average contracted teacher salary last school year, without benefits and supplements, was $48,034. In contrast, teachers in the Blue Valley school district were contracted to be paid $53,999 and those in the Shawnee Mission school district were contracted to be paid $58,536. De Soto teachers consistently get paid lower than teachers in other area districts, but they are doing the same work. This gives these other districts a competitive edge in hiring. If De Soto wishes to continue to hire the most qualified teachers and keep those who are experienced, an increase in salaries would be necessary.

A cost of living increase should also be factored into the salary decision. With the current salary schedule, a teacher must have a masters degree and have worked in the district for at least 13 years in order to support himself or herself and two children in Johnson County. This would mean that a majority of De Soto teachers are not currently making enough to support him or herself or their families, which can be financially detrimental. Cost of living is ever-rising, especially in today’s economy. In the past, teacher’s salaries have only increased about one percent. The salaries of our teachers should keep up with these expenses.

Last spring, the Kansas state legislature voted to get rid of tenure (something given to teachers who have been teaching in the district for a certain amount of time that guarantees they will be given a reason for their firing) and due process for teachers. This means that teachers can be fired more easily, without a hearing to give them explicit reasons for the decision. After taking away due process, the state legislature recommended that individual districts add a fair dismissal policy into their contracts, allowing teachers to have a hearing telling them what they can improve before being fired. This has not yet been added to De Soto teacher contracts. This is crucial to add to contracts, as it would give our teachers better job security and provide them with more rights throughout the termination process.

While the JagWire understands that compromise will be necessary in order to draft a contract that benefits both the teachers and the Board, these compromises should not be made at the expense of our teachers. The De Soto school district has many great teachers, and it’s time they be given benefits to reflect that.

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