Districts throughout the strike maintained it was the result of inequities in the McCleary legislation, which last year injected $7.3 billion in new state funding for schools to be spread over four years, followed by another $1 billion this year for teacher salaries. The funding relies on a levy swap, which hiked state school property tax rates while capping local levy rates. Property-poor districts like Battle Ground Public Schools and Evergreen Public Schools, that have historically relied heavily on local levies for school funding, argued that when the cap goes into effect next year, their revenues will decline significantly, with long-term budget deficits projected within four years.
Wood, however, doesn’t buy that.
“The vast, vast majority of school districts were able to negotiate competitive pay raises without teachers going on strike,” Wood said. “That was by far the norm. What we did see in many of the districts where teachers did go on strike was an incredible lack of respect for teachers and their students from school board members.”
The state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, offered a more tempered suggestion.
The McCleary legislation includes increases for allocated dollars depending on where districts are located, called the regionalization factor. Schools in the Puget Sound area, for example, received an 18 percent boost to their allocation due to high housing costs in the region. Most Clark County schools, meanwhile, saw a regionalization factor of only 6 percent. With the nearby Portland housing market, that may have been an underestimation of the support districts need to pay teachers, and of the salaries teachers need to afford housing, Reykdal suggested. That needs to be addressed in coming legislative sessions, he said.