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Washington School Districts And Employees Bargain Over Additional State Funds

Rachel La Corte
AP Photo
Gov. Jay Inslee signs the supplemental state operating budget on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in Olympia. The budget pays for the final piece of a long-running court case on basic education funding.

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.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.