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Union Hopes To Demonstrate How Much Teachers Do Outside Of Mandated Duties

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Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita.

Last week, leaders of the local teacher's union, United Teachers of Wichita, asked members to work only the hours mandated in their contracts on Monday to show unity in the midst of stalled contract negotiations with the district. That means arriving 10 minutes before the school day starts, taking a 40-minute duty-free lunch break and leaving 10 minutes after the day ends.

In response to the request, members of Wichita's Board of Education released a statement praising Wichita teachers as a dedicated group of employees, "many [of whom] often go above and beyond the contract day for the benefit of our students." The board also added that “if teachers want to work within their contract, it is their right to do so."

Steve Wentz, president of the union, says that although talks between the two groups are "hung up on a small amount of money," there's a much larger issue at hand.

"I've always contended that if you're going to treat me poorly, pay me well and if you're going to pay me poorly, treat me well," Wentz says. "And right now teachers aren't getting either."

In a written statement last week, Wichita Public Schools Superintendent John Allison said that the union "continues to make demands for additional money that the district simply doesn't have." The money at issue is a 1 percent bonus for all teachers that union leaders want to be permanent.

Negotiations between the groups started in the beginning of August. A mediation session last week ended without an agreement to resolve contracts for this year.

Wentz says the next step in the negotiations is a fact-finding effort by the state.

"It's kind of like jury selection," Wentz says. "A list is put out and we cross out names we don't want and [the district] crosses off names they don't want."

According to Wentz, the person or persons approved by both United Teachers of Wichita and USD 259 will then "look through the facts and issue a finding." That finding, though, is not binding to the district.

"The district would then decide where to go," Wentz says.

Union leaders say that by asking members to work only their mandated hours, they hope to show how much teachers do, that they really don't have to. Teachers were also asked to attend Mondays's Board of Education meeting.


Follow Abigail Beckman on Twitter @AbigailKMUW.

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