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Legislature approves budget; big changes coming to educator pay and bargaining

06/30/2017
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Olympia
WEA members worked hard to influence the Legislature's school funding plan.

New - Read our Budget FAQ


The new four-year school funding plan the Legislature approved June 30 increases K-12 funding by $7.3 billion, raises educator salaries and changes how we negotiate salaries and health benefits.

The coming changes are huge – equivalent to the changes made in the 1980s, when the Legislature implemented the statewide salary allocation model (SAM) and TRI pay for certificated educators. Under the new plan, the SAM is going away in 2018-19, and the way we bargain TRI pay is going to change dramatically.

It’s clear the role of the local union and collective bargaining will be crucial in determining how certificated staff and education support professionals are paid under the new law.

It’s unclear how many of the changes in school levies and bargaining will affect us, but the major changes don’t take effect for more than a year. In coming months, we’ll be working with Supt. of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, school districts and legislators to ensure the new policies are implemented in ways that benefit students by preserving local control and decision-making in our schools.

Parents, school boards and educators know what their students need to be successful. WEA is committed to protecting local flexibility to meet student needs, including the right to negotiate pay at the local level.

WEA started the legislative session by promoting the Student Bill of Rights, emphasizing that amply funded public schools are a civil right. Senate Republicans responded by passing an education plan filled with bad policies that WEA members opposed.

The final plan doesn’t include the most onerous GOP proposals, such as eliminating teacher certification requirements, expanding charter schools, mandating merit pay, banning strikes or cutting special education funding.

WEA lobbyists and budget experts are analyzing the new state budget plan, which legislators must approve by midnight June 30 to avoid a partial government shutdown. Based on initial review, here are some of the key education issues:

Educator pay

All certificated and classified staff are going to get large state-funded pay raises over the next four years. For 2017-18, the plan funds a 2.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment. In 2018-19, the existing salary allocation model for teachers will disappear. That means local unions and their school districts will have to negotiate new certificated salary schedules. 

The budget also allows districts to pay higher salaries for “educational staff associates or teachers who are teaching in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, math or in the transitional bilingual instruction or special education programs.”

It includes regional pay adjustments ranging from 6 to 18 percent in districts where housing costs are above the state median.

By the third year, state-funded base salaries will range from $40,000 to $90,000, in addition to locally negotiated pay, housing adjustments and other pay enhancements.

The new education law also changes how we negotiate TRI beyond state-funded base salaries, and it includes changes in how levy money can be spent, and it reduces how much levy money districts can collect. WEA is committed to preserving our ability to collectively bargain salaries at the local level to meet local needs.

WEA believes there’s an immediate need for the state to fund competitive and professional base salaries for all school employees. Delaying the state-funded pay increases violates the Supreme Court’s McCleary order to fully fund basic ed by Sept. 1, 2018.

Health care

The budget creates a new state-run health care system for school employees next biennium, eliminating local bargaining over health benefits. The per-employee state health care allocation will increase to the same amount legislators and state employees receive. Beginning in 2020, a coalition of school employee unions will negotiate health benefits with the governors’ office.

Class sizes

The Legislature again delayed full funding for smaller class sizes and support staff as required by Initiative 1351. Instead, they funded smaller class sizes in career and technical programs and a few other specialized areas, and they created a new bureaucratic process to study the issue.

Washington voters and parents expect the Legislature to reduce class sizes for all students – our kids are packed into some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the country.

WEA believes funding smaller class sizes and additional staff support for all students is a critical part of basic education – and the law.

Testing

Separate legislation, House Bill 2224, changes high school graduation requirements involving testing but does not delink state tests from graduation.

Thousands of high school students who successfully passed all other graduation requirements but didn’t pass state tests can get an expedited appeal and receive their high school diplomas – even retroactively. Students from the classes of 2014 to 2018 are or will be eligible.

Students, parents or guardians, and principals may initiate the appeal and provide it to the school district. The district will then send it to OSPI where it will be reviewed and approved. OSPI is creating a simple form for districts to use for this purpose.   

In addition, the biology end-of-course assessment has been removed as a graduation requirement until 2021. No appeal is necessary if students pass all other grad requirements.

WEA supports these changes, which acknowledge that linking tests to graduation is a flawed policy. We’ll continue to advocate for de-linking tests and graduation entirely.

Pro-cert

House Bill 1341 passed.It makes earning teacher professional certification optional. According to a legislative summary, it "Allows teachers and principals to renew their residency certificate in fiveyear intervals by completing ten credits or 100 clock-hours."

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