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News / Clark County News

Clark County school districts, teachers continue contract talks

Hundreds attend meeting for Vancouver educators

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: August 16, 2018, 8:52pm

Tensions between school districts and unions are still high with summer coming to a close, and big crowds are coming out to meetings to show their support for teachers.

Hundreds of Evergreen Public Schools teachers union members and supporters attended a school board meeting Tuesday night to demonstrate in favor of higher wages. On Thursday night, Vancouver Education Association’s general membership meeting drew a crowd of 400 to 500 members, according to Rick Wilson, executive director of the teachers union.

Wilson said the bargaining team went over the latest offer from Vancouver Public Schools, and said they couldn’t recommend it to members. They have a bargaining session planned for noon today, where the union will make a counteroffer. Wilson said the district offered a three-year deal with about a 9 percent pay increase this year and smaller increases in the next two years.

“The numbers didn’t work with us,” Wilson said. “We don’t think we’re going to agree to anything more than a two-year (deal). There’s still a state of flux with where settlements are going to go.”

The union also opened up a vote Thursday night to ask members if they are willing to start the school year without a new contract. The electronic vote will run until about midday Monday.

In the meantime, Wilson said the Vancouver bargaining team is telling teachers to get ready for the start of the school year as normal.

“We want our people to go to staff developments, get in classrooms and get them ready,” he said. “Our sincere hope is that school is going to open on time.”

Beyond today’s meeting, the district and union have multiple other bargaining sessions scheduled between now and Aug. 27, when an all-day session is planned. That day is also the last scheduled bargaining day. The first day of school in Vancouver is scheduled for Aug. 29.

Evergreen update

Also on Thursday, Evergreen Public Schools administrators sent out a news release highlighting their offer, what they call “an average 8.33 percent increase in compensation” for the 2018-2019 school year. In most cases, teachers would see a 7.7 percent raise from last year’s pay, although more experienced teachers would see a 9.9 percent increase thanks to a longevity bump to help ensure the district retains its most senior teachers. About 600 teachers could be eligible for the extra 2.2 percent increase, according to Gail Spolar, district spokeswoman.

The starting salary for a new teacher in the district would be $50,687, while the most experienced teacher would receive $96,045, which includes that additional 2 percent longevity increase, according to the release. The average salary for Evergreen teachers would be roughly $79,000 plus full benefits, the release said. The proposal also adds three paid professional training days for a total of seven.

That’s closer than the district has come previously to the union’s proposed pay range of $56,631 to $96,893. Evergreen Education Association members have a general membership meeting Thursday, where they’re expected to vote on a contract settlement or potentially to strike.

The school year is scheduled to start Aug. 28 in Evergreen.

Districts around the state are negotiating new teacher pay schedules thanks to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which determined Washington was failing to fully fund basic education. After allocating $7.3 billion to the state school system last year, the Legislature added nearly another $1 billion for teacher salaries this year.

Thanks to the additional money, the Washington Education Association, the state teachers union, is pushing local unions to bargain for 15 percent raises for teachers.

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Columbian Staff Writer