Extra-Curricular and Fairness

Over the years the Evergreen School District has had very successful extra-curricular programs ranging from athletic state championship teams to the cultivating of a student’s love for government and civic involvement via ASB participation. Most of us owe a great deal to our teachers in the classroom for our education, but the ones we often times remember most are the coaches and advisors we worked closely with in our extra-curricular activities, making us feel like we had a unique skill and something to offer to society in the future. At this time, the coaches and extra-curricular advisors in Evergreen Public Schools have failed to reach an agreement with the district for a contract, even after negotiating since December of 2014. The major sticking points: Safety, equal access to success for all, and appropriate compensation.
Safety: During the great recession, like most school districts, cuts took place in the extra-curricular arena. Many sports found themselves without an assistant coach, resulting in some sub-varsity teams being cut. Even worse, some sports were expected to continue with “business as usual,” such as track, all while having implements like javelins, discusses, and shot puts, flying through the air. The EEA was never comfortable with this risk, but now there is no excuse for it.

Many think of sports when they think of extra-curricular activities, but let us not forget the ones that often times do not get the large scale public accolades. The Evergreen Public Schools has produced outstanding and award winning drama productions, but these productions do not happen without help. During the recession the district cut the Drama assistant position, forcing schools to fundraise simply to have an extra set of eyes for a large group of kids, let alone choreograph musicals, do lighting, or design sets and costumes.
Equal Access to success for all: The Evergreen Public Schools has faced equal access problems before with respect to Title IX. This is why it is baffling to the Evergreen Education Association that the district cut the Dance Team assistant. There have been state champion and national contending dance teams in our district, but somehow one coach is expected to supervise and coach fifty dancers. As a result, some schools are considering creating a “cut program” where they tell girls who have not had the money to be part of dancing clubs throughout their childhood, sorry young lady, you are not good enough to participate on our team. In a district with over 49% of its students living in poverty, that is unacceptable. In addition to teams now considering limiting access, it is also safety issue. We would never ask a PE teacher to supervise 50 kids in a gym.

Appropriate Compensation: Every coach will tell you they love what they do and that it is like a hobby. The reality is through, as the profession of teaching becomes more and more demanding, time for “hobbies” start to disappear. These coaches and advisors need to be able to justify to their spouse and their children why they are not coming home until 8:00pm that night because they held the extra-long prep session or practice to get his/her competitors ready for that big competition. These coaches need to be able to justify to their spouses why they have to run the fundraiser over the weekend in order for the team to be able to afford to compete at the next competition. These coaches need to be able to justify to their spouses and children why they are gone for the next week at summer camp to prep their team for next year. It might be a fun hobby to the coach, but it is not a fun hobby for his/her family.
Inflation has been above 13% over the last seven years, yet over this same time period the district has increased extra-curricular salaries by only 1.9%. The EEA’s ask of an average of about $72 to be added to each coach/advisor’s annual paycheck each of the next three years does not seem like an unreasonable ask.

The patrons of Evergreen Public Schools have unwavering support for our levies and we look forward to their vote of support in our request for a replacement levy this February. Don’t forget however, these extra-curricular activities are what levy dollars are supposed to pay for. The EEA asks you to e-mail the school board at board.directors@evergreenps.org and ask them to support safety for our students, equal access for all, and respect for our coaches and advisors by settling a fair contract now!

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WEA Locals Take Action

What does Seattle, Spokane, Prosser, Pasco, and Kelso all have in common? It’s not their demographics. It’s not their size. It’s not their geography. It’s the fact that all five of these school districts have WEA members who voted for, or is considering voting for, a strike this fall. There are also a couple other common denominators: 1.) They were all failed by their representatives in the legislature to appropriately fund educator salaries and to lower class sizes, as ordered by the Supreme Court. 2.) All these districts received significant funding from the state in other areas such as Materials and Supplies for which they were already paying and therefore they can now afford to more closely pay educators what they deserve.

In the case of Kelso, the district is receiving, from the state, $3.9 million more this year than last, which is an increase of about 12.7%. The district’s statement with respect to why they don’t see the need to appropriately raise salaries, even though the neighboring Longview School district teachers make between two and three thousand more dollars a year was:
“There are lots of factors that go into why teachers teach where they teach. … We don’t think our teachers are seeking to be the highest paid.”

Translation — if you want to be treated as a professional, you don’t get to be paid like one.
In Spokane, the district is receiving, from the state, $23.3 Million more [11.6% increase]. The WEA represents not only Spokane teachers, but also janitors, bus drivers, office workers, and others. Many of these people cannot make ends meet, but the district seems to have little interest in talking about the real money everyone in Spokane deserves.

Furthermore, guess who got an 11.2% pay increase this biennium? That’s right, our state legislators. So why would anyone be surprised when the Pasco Association of Educators demanded that they too receive an 11.2% pay increase? Legislators are quick to point out that they had no choice in getting their 11.2% raise, the law requires a citizen commission to set the salary. Where does this citizen commission get its logic and rationale? They get it by looking at the inflation rate over the years and the time it takes to do the job. The state has fallen about 12% behind inflation over the past six years with respect to teacher salary and any teacher can tell you that the time it takes to do the job has increased significantly over the past half a decade. So for what reason could anyone question Pasco’s demand for a pay increase on par with the state legislators?

If you think these disputes are only happening somewhere else, you need to know that these same problems are happening locally too. While there has not yet been talk of strike in Clark County, as of today the following educators in local school districts are working without a contract: Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Hockinson, and Washougal. I bring all this up for a couple of reasons: 1.) To educate people that there are educators throughout the state, and here in Clark County too, that need support; 2.) To remind everyone that it is not a coincidence that so many strikes are taking place, or are to take place, throughout our state. It is because the state has yet again failed in its paramount duty to fund education; and 3.) To let everyone know that the Evergreen Education Association will begin its bargain with the Evergreen School District this spring. It is my great hope that we will not have to go through these same great lengths to achieve an appropriate contract that values educators and the students they serve.