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.