Camas Education Association members voted to approve a potential strike Monday night, with 95.7 percent of the 393 members in attendance at a general membership meeting voting in favor.
The strike will only start if there is no new salary schedule for teachers in place by the first day of school, scheduled for Sept. 4. Mark Gardner, lead negotiator for the district, was optimistic the two sides could reach a deal before the start of the school year.
“We’re not very far apart in terms of the total package cost,” he said.
There are more than 7,000 students in the district, according to the most recent numbers from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Teachers were told to continue preparing for the school year as though it will start on time, and Gardner said back to school night and other similar events will go on as planned.
Unions and school districts across Washington are negotiating new salary schedules for teachers after the Legislature addressed the 2012 McCleary decision.
Last year, the Legislature approved $7.3 billion in allocations to schools over four years, and this year added another nearly $1 billion for teacher salaries, meeting the Supreme Court’s order to fully fund basic education.
According to information from the district, the district’s latest two-year proposal would make the average salary for a teacher in the district $78,803 in 2018-19 and $80,632 the following year. The first-year salary ranges from $48,866 to $92,104, and from $50,000 to $94,242 in year two. Currently, the average salary for teachers in the district is $74,553, with a salary range of $46,558 to $86,869.
Gardner said the union is hoping for a two-year deal, but the union’s offer has a bigger jump in salary for the first year of the deal.
“The influx of funding is in the first year, not the second,” Gardner said. “Ours levels. Our proposals have a bigger increase in the first year and a nominal increase the second.”
Gardner said the bottom of the salary range in the union’s offer is close to the second year of the district’s offer at $50,000. Where the bigger difference comes is in the higher end of the salary range, where the union offer is somewhere in the middle to upper $90,000 range.
“The district is being understandably conservative in their long-range planning,” he said. “We think they’re being excessively conservative.”
Camas joins most other districts in the county in voting to strike. So far, Woodland has a new deal in place, while Evergreen, Vancouver, Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Washougal and Hockinson have voted to approve strikes. On Tuesday, strikes are expected to start in Evergreen and Washougal.
The two sides will continue to work toward a new deal until the start of the school year.
“We were hopeful to get an agreement, but unfortunately we followed the same path as other districts in the region,” Superintendent Jeff Snell said in a release. “This means we have more work to do.”