The union predicted it: Teacher pay is rising statewide

So far, it’s happening on Vashon, in Edmonds, Omak, Othello and Bellevue, to name a few

  • Wednesday, August 8, 2018 10:46am
  • Opinion
Jerry Cornfield

Jerry Cornfield

Editor’s note: This column first appeared last week in the Everett Herald, a sister paper to The Beachcomber. The issue is relevant across the state, including on Vashon, and we are sharing it, with minor edits, for Vashon-Maury readers.

Teacher salaries are soaring as the Washington Education Association predicted they would.

Leaders of the statewide teacher union declared in March that a surge in state funding due to the McCleary lawsuit meant classroom instructors could win pay raises of double-digit percent at the bargaining table.

It happened for teachers in Edmonds public schools last week. The local union reached a deal with the school district to boost starting pay for a first-year teacher by nearly 19 percent and to hike earnings for veteran instructors by up to 20 percent. Before them, teachers achieved agreements to push up salaries by an average of 13.5 percent in Omak, 17.2 percent in Othello, 17.3 percent in Bellevue and 12.2 percent in Lake Washington, to name a few.

Some lawmakers want to know how these are possible as they thought laws passed the past two years prevented super-sized wage escalation. Other lawmakers are glad it is happening and insist it is exactly what they intended.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal recently offered an explanation along with a broader look at the salary-setting landscape.

But one of the first points he makes in his July 26 letter is the difficulty of providing school districts guidance when lawmakers themselves are not on the same page.

“What is clear to me is that you do not all agree on what you passed or what was meant by one aspect of a policy or another,” he wrote. Their approach to salary-related matters is setting the tone, and inciting tension, in negotiations between teachers and districts, he said.

Lawmakers treat salary setting differently for superintendents and administrators than for certificated teachers and classified staff, he noted. For the former, pay increases are limited to 3.1 percent, which is the rate of inflation.

For the latter, that same percentage is essentially the base on which can be stacked increases in up to six other categories. “In short, I believe you adopted a wide-open collective bargaining framework,” he wrote, in spite of a desire of some members to limit compensation in the 2018–19 school year.

Reykdal said lawmakers’ attempt at achieving fairness in funding is creating new inequities that will inhibit some districts from giving teachers the kind of salary increases negotiated in Edmonds and elsewhere.

For example, lawmakers agreed districts with lots of veteran teachers positioned at the top of the pay chart will get a few extra state dollars. And lawmakers decided to use a “regionalization factor” to funnel additional money to districts where the cost of living is higher, the reliance of local levies greater, or salary scales grandfathered in at a level above their neighbors.

“Unfortunately, there are massive differences in opportunities across the state for compensation changes,” Reykdal wrote. “Some districts have the resources to give substantial increases within the parameters you set. While others (sometimes neighboring districts) got none of the resources described above and do not have the ability to match the increases of some of their peer districts.

“The confluence of inconsistent compensation models paired with open bargaining language will continue to create difficult and often contentious relationships at the local collective bargaining table,” he wrote.

Contract deals reached so far are in districts where there are resources. Negotiations are continuing in roughly 200 other districts with agreements sought before Sept. 1 to avert any impact on the school year. As they did in March, WEA leaders urged on their members. “Don’t accept excuses from your school board or superintendent – or anyone else,” they posted online Tuesday. “Thanks to McCleary, the money is there.”

As salaries rise in some districts, tension will be climbing in others.

Jerry Cornfield is the political reporter for the Daily Herald in Everett. His column runs periodically in several Sound Publishing papers: jcornfield@herald net.com.

More in Opinion

EDITORIAL: Looking for comfort in trying times

It’s been a hard few weeks. I have been thinking about the… Continue reading

COMMENTARY: Climate change — Now is the time to act

Remember when climate change was described as a problem of the future?… Continue reading

COMMENTARY: To benefit salmon, choose ‘green’ gardening alternatives

Goin’ home, goin’ home, by the riverside I will rest my bones,… Continue reading

LETTER: Braddock is better for Vashon

We have two Democratic candidates running to replace Sharon Nelson in the… Continue reading

LETTER: Rein in a growing population

Here on Vashon, we have a number of progressive NGOs (non-government organizations).… Continue reading

GUEST EDITORIAL: Difficult weeks point to need for change

This has been a hard few weeks. As the Executive Director at… Continue reading

COMMENTARY: PIE enriches island education for students and teachers

Vashon Partners in Education (PIE) continues its support of teachers and students… Continue reading

LETTER: Pendulum schedule can be adjusted

Alternative Facts: In last week’s Beachcomber, WSF’s spokesperson Hadley Rodero is quoted… Continue reading

LETTER: We face loss of life’s most precious gifts

Our rights and freedoms depend on the persistence and quality of our… Continue reading

Most Read