'It's going to take hard work. It's going to take courage.'
Look for WEA's WE 2.0 magazine in your home mail – it's one of the benefits of being a union member. This issue is packed with information about our McCleary school funding victory and the need to negotiate big pay raises for ALL WEA members.
Double-digit pay raises are possible for all of Washington’s K-12 public school employees – but only if we get active in our local union contract negotiations and fight for the fair pay we deserve.
“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.”
School districts have the money. After intense lobbying from WEA members, in March the Legislature approved another $1 billion for K-12 salaries – on top of billions already allocated for educator pay in last year’s budget. And the Washington Supreme Court has repeatedly highlighted the need to increase educator salaries in rulings related to the McCleary school funding case.
Even so, some legislators and school district administrators want to limit educator pay increases to a minimal cost-of-living adjustment.
After years of underfunding and falling behind, arbitrarily restricting educator pay is not acceptable, said WEA President Kim Mead.
'They're not going to give it to us unless we fight for it.'
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."
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:
- 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.
Here'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..."
Watch this recent TV story featuring WEA leaders Jared Kink and Shannon McCann: