Shawnee Mission teachers hopeful Kan. lawmakers come up with plan to fund schools

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Teachers in the Shawnee Mission school district are trying to hash out their contract for the school year, but the contract remains in limbo because Kansas lawmakers have to re-write the state's education funding plan.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that lawmakers are adequately or fairly funding schools, ordering them to come up with more money for the budget.

There's no word yet if schools in the state will be funded by June 30, but teacher contract negotiations are moving forward in the Shawnee Mission school district.

Those teachers are hopeful Kansas lawmakers will come up with a plan to fund the state's 286 school districts by the fiscal year beginning July 1.

"Right now, we are kind of in limbo because we're not certain what's going to happen in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, so we're not able to talk money at all," Linda Siek with the National Education Association said.

The state Supreme Court rejected the formula Kansas lawmakers came up with to fund education, saying it was unfair to poor districts.

With no word on how much the school district will receive, the president of the teacher's association said those teachers' contracts are up in the air.

Teacher say class sizes, benefits, and pay are big concerns for them because they say the school district wants to change how pay raises are scheduled.

"An ideal package would be just a little bit of a raise," said Erin Rivers, a teacher at Shawnee Mission North.

Teachers said larger class sizes are due to teachers who leave or retire, and their positions are not being filled.

"We added another class this year, so we're teaching six hours now instead of five, and it was a big difference this last year in terms of work load," said Linda Raner, Northwest High School teacher.

The teacher's union said the Shawnee Mission school district wants to extend the elementary school day by twenty minutes, so every teacher in the district works 40 hours a week. But teachers say they are already working 50 - 60 hours per week just to grade papers and plan for the next school day.

The Shawnee Mission school district said negotiations have been a collaborative effort, and they're hoping to meet with the teacher's union once again on July 20. The teachers are hoping that Kansas lawmakers come up with a plan by that time that pleases the courts.