A bitter labor dispute that delayed the start of school in Tacoma by more than a week may have now come to an end.
The Tacoma Education Association, which represents more than 2,400 teachers, librarians, office professionals and other school staff, has reached a tentative agreement with the school district over salaries. Teachers are scheduled to vote on the deal Friday at 11:00 am.
On Twitter and Facebook, Tacoma teachers voiced relief. One wrote that it felt like Christmas Eve.
“I squealed like a girl,” said Nate Bowling, who teaches government at Lincoln High School and was the Washington teacher of the year in 2016. “My wife and I stopped and were just like, `Thank you.’ Because in the big scheme of things, this is all a waste. Whatever they’re giving us now, they could have given us on day one and this didn’t need to happen. It’s taken me away from what I love to do.”
The district said school will start on Monday if teachers vote to approve the agreement. This year has brought a record number of teacher strikes in Washington and educators are still on strike in Tumwater and Battle Ground. Unions have been bargaining over pay increases after the legislature approved almost $1 billion for school employee salaries earlier this year to comply with a state Supreme Court order.
The Tacoma school district had argued that it was disproportionately hurt by the state’s new education funding system, which raised the state property tax and set a limit on local tax levies. That has hurt districts with lower property values such as Tacoma, according to the League of Education Voters, a research organization.
At the same time, teachers said the district’s problems were of its own making and that it’s overinvested in central administration positions.