Now is the time to negotiate competitive, professional pay

New map shows educator pay raises by school district

Voters support pay raises infographic

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. Although the money is there, we still need to negotiate pay raises at the local level in each school district.

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.

Legislators in the 38th Legislative District recently wrote this to their constituents: "Our most significant investment in 2018 was $1 billion additional dollars for public schools to fully fund (educator) salaries by the 2018-19 school year as ordered by the Supreme Court."

With the facts and numbers on our side, the WEA Board has set ambitious goals for negotiating pay raises for the upcoming school year. How large of a pay raise will be decided at the local level through negotiations – which is why it’s crucial for WEA members to organize and show that we have power in numbers.

No pay raise is automatic. We have to fight for it, or we won’t get it. Some school administrators already are balking and making excuses for why they don’t want to provide pay increases. Their arguments are simply wrong: Now is the time to negotiate fair and equitable pay increases for all certificated and classified K-12 employees.

WEA members across the state stand united together – let’s organize and negotiate the big pay raises we need and deserve. The court ordered it. The Legislature funded it. Voters support it. Now let’s do it!

'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.

FWEA Fair Contract signsOrtiz 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."

Now WEA members across the state need to organize, stand together and negotiate the substantial pay raises we need and deserve.

"They're not going to give it to us unless we fight for it," says Gina Tookes, a WEA education support professional from Yakima.

Predictably, some school administrators and corporate-funded anti-union political groups like the Freedom Foundation are trying to argue that educators shouldn't get pay raises this year! They say 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:

Spokane_Aug_26_rally_2Here's a basic fact school adminstrators need to understand: 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 recent TV story featuring WEA leaders Jared Kink and Shannon McCann: