Wichita Public School teachers are receiving a more than a 3.5 percent increase in salary. In Topeka, the increase is nearly 8 percent, that district's largest in 26 years.
School districts across Kansas are raising salaries, restoring cut positions and adding new jobs.
That follows the phasing in of $500 million in additional school funding approved by the Kansas Legislature last spring under pressure from the Kansas Supreme Court to improve education funding.
In a survey conducted by the Kansas State Department of Education in 2017, districts said if they received $200 million in additional funding, about a third would go toward teacher salaries.
That mimics what happened last year when districts raised salaries after lawmakers allocated about $200 million to school funding. That helped improve Kansas' rankings for teacher compensation to 40th out of the 50 states in 2018.
"Normally, you wouldn't be excited about 40th, except we are moving in the right direction," said Craig Neuenswander, the school finance team director at KSDE.
The state's teacher shortage has often been blamed on low pay. Districts are hoping to improve recruitment and retainment with the salary increases.
"We know that being able to recruit and retain teachers will lead to the best learning outcomes for students," said Misty Kruger, the director of communications at Topeka Public Schools.
Districts have also been restoring previously cut positions. And some school districts have added new positions that better reflect their changing needs. Hays Public Schools, for instance, hired a business teacher to teach the classes the district wanted.
"Wherever they had to make cuts, they're going to have to make decisions about if simply bringing back positions is as good as creating positions they want to," said Mark Tallman, the associate director of the Kansas Association of School Boards.
Many districts have used the opportunity to hire more school counselors to address growing issues with student discipline and mental health. Those positions were some of the first to go when cuts had to be made, said Tracy Kaiser, the executive director of finance at Hays Public Schools.
"When we had to cut because everything was so tight, that was probably the easiest position to cut," Kaiser said. "They're also the most needed at this point."
Stephan Bisaha reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha.
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