UPDATE: Wichita teachers approve contract ahead of BOE vote

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WICHITA, Kan. -- The United Teachers of Wichita and Wichita Public Schools have reached a tentative agreement on a proposed contract.

The agreement contains a salary improvement of two percent, step & track movement, along with longevity, plus a one day reduction of contract days from 190 to 189.

4,249 teachers were eligible to vote with 2642 casting ballots. 2,528 or 96% voted to approve the contract.

The Board of Education will vote on the contract at a board meeting Monday evening.

Previous story:

The Wichita Schools proposed budget for the upcoming school year could mean good news for teachers and property taxes.

Wichita School Board members said a new state funding is finally kicking in after more than 5 years and teachers could be where the overdue change begins.

Katherine Laske is a teacher at Kensler Elementary School getting ready for the start of the school year that's only days away. She's been teaching in Wichita for nine years. She saw this year's proposed budget and likes what she sees.

"I hope the contract passes," said Laske. "I think it's a very fair contract."

The proposal includes a 3.5 percent pay and benefits increase for teachers, including a 2 percent raise. Lynn Rogers of the school board said it's long overdue.

"Last year was a one percent bonus, a one time bonus and the last couple years before that we didn't really do a whole lot," said Rogers.

"There were several years where we were frozen and we didn't get a raise," Laske added. "I think it was four years where we didn't move or anything."

The overall budget for the 2014-2015 school year is $683 million dollars, that's about $60 million more than last year's.

"Really, it's the first time in about 5 years the state has finally come up with the money that they are supposed to," said Rogers.

Rogers said the state is coming up with money for equalization. It will allow Wichita's total mill levy to go down, moving money from its general fund to capital outlay. Which is money to be spent on repairs or upgrades.

"So while the budget is going up, the local tax payers are not going to be paying anything additional," added Rogers.

The proposal also hopes to boost the districts technology, renovations and per student funding to name a few. Laske said that plus the teacher incentives will help keep Wichita's best educators in the district.

"In order to attract high quality teachers that we need to pay teachers like professionals," said Laske.

Board members are set to vote to publish the proposed budget Monday night. A final vote and public hearing will be held on August 25.

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