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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Washougal School District, union at odds on talks

Dueling messages follow bargaining over teacher pay

By , Columbian Staff Writer, and
, Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

School districts and teachers unions continue to work on new contracts this summer, and billions of dollars in state money are hanging over the increasingly heated negotiations, most recently in Washougal.

After the McCleary decision, a Supreme Court case that determined Washington was failing to fully fund basic education, $7.3 billion was allocated to the state school system last year. The Legislature added nearly another $1 billion for teacher salaries this year.

In Clark County and around the state, teachers unions are volleying for significant raises in light of the increased funding. The Washington Education Association is pushing its membership to ask for 15 percent raises for certified teachers, and 37 percent raises for the classified support staff represented by some teachers unions.

In Washougal, the Washougal Association of Educators and Washougal School District are coming out of recent bargaining sessions with different reactions.

The district sent out a release on Tuesday about bargaining sessions that took place on Wednesday and Thursday, quoting Marian Young, the district’s human resources director, as saying that “the district’s proposal results in significant compensation increases for Washougal teachers.”

District’s statement

The district’s release says the two sides are discussing an increase of 15 percent from the 2017-18 school year in professional salary combining the previous base salary with pay for responsibility and incentive pay, or TRI pay.

Union representatives did not return messages for comment Tuesday. A statement posted Friday on the union’s Facebook page questioned the district’s message.

“You might hear of a ’15 percent raise’ in pay offered by the district,” the statement read. “In reality, (Washougal School District) is offering (Washougal Association of Educators) a 2.9-percent raise added to the (approximately) 13 percent compensation that teachers currently receive in Time, Resource, and Incentive funds.”

The union statement continued, saying that “redefining the use of funds already received as a pay ‘raise’ is disingenuous at best” and called it “a gross misrepresentation.”

According to a bargaining update on the district’s website, the “proposal would give teachers at the top of the pay scale an increase of $11,718, and the average teacher a $9,134 pay raise compared to 2017-2018.”

“The district proposal also includes $1,000 per teacher per year for professional development as a reimbursable amount,” Young said in the release. “Previously, this amount was provided as part of payroll. Also, the new salary would result in increased rates for time-driven activities, such as professional development days in August.”

The two sides are scheduled to negotiate again on Friday.

The contentious negotiations between the two sides date back to last year, when negotiating a contract for the 2017-2018 school year. In 2017, union members voted against ratifying a new contract before the start of the school year. They came to an agreement a few weeks later.

In June, the union sent out a letter expressing a “vote of no confidence” for outgoing Superintendent Mike Stromme, who stepped down as superintendent after the most recent school year to return to Vancouver Public Schools, where he will become the associate superintendent for administrative services.

Clark County’s largest school district, Evergreen Public Schools, has a bargaining session scheduled for Thursday. The Evergreen Education Association has already threatened a strike vote come August if “a reasonable and appropriate salary schedule isn’t set.” Average pay in Evergreen Public Schools, including TRI pay, is currently $71,598, according to the district.

“This is meant for salaries,” EEA President Bill Beville said of the additional funds. “We feel this is time for us to make sure we don’t leave any of that money on the table.”

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Columbian Staff Writer
Columbian Education Reporter