Now is the time to negotiate competitive, professional pay
In its McCleary decision, the Washington Supreme Court ordered legislators to amply fund basic education, including competitive, professional salaries to attract and keep the qualified, committed, caring certificated and support staff our students need to be successful.
WEA members had to fight hard for years to make it happen, but the Legislature has increased state funding for public schools by billions, including $2 billion to increase educator salaries in the 2018-19 school year.
WEA members in dozens of school districts across the state have negotiated double-digit percentage pay raises this year. Education support professionals in several districts continue to negotiate pay raises this fall.
The public is on our side. Polling consistently shows that an overwhelming majority of voters support increasing pay for school employees. There’s a well-documented shortage of qualified educators, and educator pay lags far behind comparable professions.
'They're not going to give it to us unless we fight for it.'
“The excuses are gone,” said Shannon McCann, president of the Federal Way Education Association and a WEA Board member. “There is a billion dollars for salaries coming to our local bargaining tables, and it's our job to negotiate that.
“It's going to take hard work. It's going to take courage. It's going to take organizing. But we must negotiate fair salaries for all WEA members.”
In response to the Supreme Court's McCleary order, the Washington Legislature has approved billions of dollars in new state funding specifically to increase K-12 salaries for certificated educators and classified education support professionals.
"This billion dollars is targeted to go to salaries," said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, a legislator and Everett school counselor.
Ortiz Self and other legislators were clear when they approved the state's new school funding plan in March: the new school funding is for educator pay. In a previous McCleary ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that "nothing is more basic than adequate pay."
Predictably, some school administrators and corporate-funded anti-union political groups like the Freedom Foundation tried to argue that educators shouldn't get pay raises this year. They said teacher and support staff salary increases should be limited to a minimal cost-of-living adjustment based on inflation. That argument -- besides being illogical -- flies in the face of the facts and is out of touch with reality:
- Washington's public schools are facing a severe shortage of qualified teachers and support staff.
- Washington's job market is booming, and educators can earn substantially more in other professions.
- Washington's housing costs are skyrocketing, and student debt has tripled in recent years.
- Washington's educators have fallen further behind peers in other professions -- and many of us are falling out of the middle class.
Professional, competitive compensation is needed to attract and keep qualified, caring and committed educators for our students.
This is what the Learning Policy Center announced in a recent report on educator salaries:
- Despite the evidence that salaries influence teachers’ decisions to stay in the profession (and the quality of teachers attracted to the profession), teachers’ salaries are not competitive in many labor markets.
- Even after adjusting for the shorter work year in teaching, beginning teachers nationally earn about 20 percent less than individuals with college degrees in other fields—a wage gap that widens to 30 percent by mid-career.
- The difference between teachers’ compensation as compared to other workers with a college degree has grown larger over time. In 1994, public school teachers earned a similar compensation (including salary, health benefits, and pension) as other workers with a college degree. In 2015, teachers earned 11 percent less in total compensation (including benefits)."
Here's what OSPI says about the need: "... the implementation of full-day kindergarten and K–3 class size reduction, along with teacher retirements, increasing attrition, and student enrollment growth, will require hiring approximately 10,000 new K–3 teachers..."
Here’s what Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal wrote in an April 17 memo to school district superintendents. “At the end of the day, this is a local collective bargaining state and where you get to at the local table is likely the most appropriate answer for your district and your local community. (We) will not weigh in or make judgments about the details or considerations of local bargaining proposals.”
Watch this TV story featuring WEA leaders Jared Kink and Shannon McCann: