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Jan. 29, 2023

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Negotiations continue in Evergreen, Battle Ground, Washougal

Districts’ schools still on strike

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Battle Ground teachers and supporters rally at the corner of 149th Street and Highway 503 in Battle Ground on Tuesday morning during the district’s fourth day of its strike.
Battle Ground teachers and supporters rally at the corner of 149th Street and Highway 503 in Battle Ground on Tuesday morning during the district’s fourth day of its strike. Nathan Howard/The Columbian Photo Gallery

The chips are falling in most teacher salary negotiations around Clark County, but a few — and notable — districts remain at the picket lines.

Teachers remain on strike in Evergreen, Battle Ground and Washougal, continuing to delay classes for tens of thousands of Clark County students. Districts and their unions across Washington are at odds over the additional money allocated by two years of McCleary legislation. The Legislature allocated $7.3 billion over four years toward basic education during the 2017 session, then put another $1 billion toward teacher salaries this year.

The district and teachers union were not negotiating Tuesday because the state-appointed mediator was in Centralia, Evergreen Education Association President Bill Beville said. Both sides plan to return to the bargaining table Wednesday.

“We’re just taking it day by day with what we know in front of us and working through it,” district spokeswoman Gail Spolar said. “I know it’s frustrating for families. It’s frustrating for the staff, it’s frustrating for anyone working and connected with the districts.”

After a period of not posting information to the district’s website on the advice of the state mediator, the district is again posting its latest contract proposals online. The latest proposal from the district would start teachers at $51,288, which includes five days of professional development, topping out for the most experienced teachers at $98,279. The following year, that range would increase to $52,263 to $100,090.

Battle Ground Public Schools continued bargaining on Tuesday. Linda Peterson, president of the Battle Ground Education Association, said bargaining teams met until after 11 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and negotiators were ready to do so again.

She said the district and union remain “far apart” in terms of their agreement.

Peterson said teachers in the district remain energized. The union hosted what it branded as a “March to the Middle,” with teachers marching from several school sites in the district to the district offices. About 600 people participated, she said.

“Today was a sign of solidarity,” Peterson said.

Battle Ground’s latest proposal, announced late Tuesday, would increase teacher salaries by 11 percent in the first year, and 20.3 percent over three years.

In the first year of the agreement, new teachers would start at $47,482, while the most experienced teachers would top out at $91,269. By 2020-2021, the range would increase to $50,177 to $96,449.

“The pressure hasn’t changed for the district, because we want our students in school,” district spokeswoman Rita Sanders said of other districts settling in the region.

Battle Ground schools will be closed Thursday.

The Washougal Association of Educators and Washougal School District continued to bargain Tuesday. According to the district’s Facebook page, the two sides bargained from 8 a.m. Monday to 1 a.m. Tuesday.

“We remain committed to working with the association to reach an agreement so that we can all get back to serving the children in our community,” district officials wrote.

Students in Camas, Ridgefield and Hockinson returned to school Tuesday. Wednesday will be the first day of schools for Vancouver Public Schools students.

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Columbian Education Reporter