School is out, but this is a busy time for school districts and educators at the bargaining table. The Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, said this year is particularly active for negotiations because of additional funding from the state legislature to satisfy the McCleary school-funding lawsuit.
The legislature voted to add almost $1 billion in its supplemental budget earlier this year for teacher salaries. That was enough for the state Supreme Court to say the state had met its obligations.
Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, said in a normal year about 150 contracts would be open for negotiation at this time, but because of the additional state funds, there are more than 250 open contracts right now.
“Nearly all of them are either fully opened or have to be reopened because of the new McCleary funding coming from the state and some of the changes in the laws around how teachers are paid,” Wood said.
Educators in some districts, such as Bainbridge Island and Mossyrock, have already reached agreements with school district leadership and negotiated pay increases of 10 to 20 percent, Wood said.
“The legislature and the court were both very clear that that’s what this additional increase in funding is intended to be invested in is high quality educators in all parts of the state for our students,” he said. “Those decisions in terms of how that plays out exactly are made at the local level in each school district.”
Teacher contract negotiations often go right up until the end of summer vacation, so it’s still early in the process.