It is an oft-repeated phrase that to choose to teach is to take a vow of poverty. Teachers are and historically have been grossly underpaid. As the family of a local teacher, we know how hard teachers work and how many hours they put in outside of class time. We also know how much they spend out of their own pockets on basic supplies for their students.
The recent action by the legislature to fulfill their obligation to fully fund basic education is a one-time opportunity to rectify this long-standing injustice. Last school year, South Whidbey schools operated, as required, on a balanced budget. In the 2018-19 school year, the district will receive almost $3 million in new money from the state, and just over $3 million the year after that. Despite this infusion of new money and the fact that districts across the Puget Sound are negotiating raises of 12-22 percent for their teachers, you are offering a 3.1 percent raise. It’s time to discard the hardline rhetoric of the hired negotiators and embrace the opinion of the state superintendent that this represents “a wide open collective bargaining framework.”
If you do not take this opportunity to pay teachers what they deserve, you will not only perpetuate this injustice, but you will harm the quality of education in our district. If a teacher can make $10,000 a year more working on the mainland, why would they choose to work in this district? The best teachers will gravitate to the best salaries and we will get lower-quality instruction for our children. Your mandate is to provide the best possible education for our children. You cannot fulfill that mandate unless you offer competitive salaries to recruit and retain the best teachers.
Blake, Lynn and Brook Willeford