WEA members still stand united in the fight for competitive educator salaries
WEA members across the state are in contract negotiations with their districts, and just like last year, competitive compensation is a top priority.
And just like last year, some administrators are falsely claiming they can’t provide the pay raises needed to attract and keep qualified, caring teachers and support staff for their students – despite record increases in state funding for public schools and healthy budget reserves.
For example, Seattle School District administrators have budgeted an inadequate 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment.
“Seattle has a high cost of living, and nearby school districts offer teachers and staff higher pay,” said Michael Tamayo, Seattle Education Association vice president and an elementary teacher. “Without competitive compensation, Seattle will continue losing quality educators to other districts that pay more and where housing costs less. If educators cannot afford to live and work in Seattle, they will leave our community and our students.”
SEA represents certificated staff, paraeducators, substitute teachers and office support professionals.
Meanwhile, members of the Mukilteo Education Association recently ratified a new three-year deal that raises their maximum pay to more than $120,000 – and that’s following a significant pay raise last year. Vashon Education Association members ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that includes a 13 percent pay raise this year, after negotiating a 10 percent increase in 2018.
“We are extremely happy with our settlement,” said VEA President Glenda Berliner.
Most WEA locals haven’t settled new contracts yet, however. Many school district administrators and school boards have been reluctant to make competitive salaries a budget priority – which means WEA members must organize, stand united and fight for fair pay.
In La Center, Kennewick and Toutle Lake, local WEA members have voted to strike if their district administrators refuse to negotiate fair contract settlements by the start of school.
La Center Education Association members began informational picketing Aug. 16 after voting overwhelmingly to strike when school starts, unless their district administration stops fudging on its budget numbers and passes through the McCleary money for salaries that administrators last year wrongly claimed wasn't available. La Center is in Clark County, where WEA members in six local unions won double-digit percentage pay raises after going on strike in 2018.
Competitive pay isn’t just an issue at bargaining tables in Western Washington. WEA members in Eastern Washington also are fighting for the pay raises they deserve.
Ellensburg Education Association members say they’re losing teachers to nearby districts that pay more – the same problem Seattle EA is facing.
“There is enough money in our reserves to find a fair and equitable compromise. Our district currently has more than 17 percent in their reserves – far more than the 3 to 5 percent “norm” for what districts need to have,” said Donna Grassel, EEA president. “Our district is not a bank – the money needs to go toward our students’ success and student success is measured by the quality of the educators who interact with them daily. This district needs to put students ahead of budget reserves.”
WEA members are clear that all school employees need and deserve competitive, professional pay – not just certificated staff, but education support professionals as well.
“The Sumner-Bonney Lake School District has a stated goal of a 100 percent student graduation rate by 2020,” said Shannon Mott, a member of the Sumner Paraeducator Association Bargaining Team. “The district administration acknowledges that paraeducators play a crucial role in obtaining this goal, especially with our most vulnerable students. It’s past time for administrators to show they value us by investing in a fair and living wage comparable to our peers in surrounding districts.”