Teachers, district at odds over salaries

South Whidbey teachers distressed about contract negotiations with the district are taking their argument to the school board Wednesday.

“We will make our presence known,” said Becky Ward, co-president of the South Whidbey Education Association.

Ward said teachers are becoming increasingly concerned because they don’t have a contract with the district yet and the start of the school year is not far away.

The disagreement holding up a contract is how to spend $3 million the district received due to the resolution of the McCleary case in which the state Supreme County instructed lawmakers to fully fund public education, according to the union.

Ward said lawmakers intended the funds to be used as a “salary correction” for teachers across the state. The district is offering a 3.1 percent salary increase for teachers; Ward said it’s simply not enough.

“Districts across the state are settling for double-digit increases,” she said, adding that the union is willing to negotiate.

Superintendent Jo Moccia said the district continues to bargain with teachers in good faith. She urges people to come to Wednesday’s board meeting to learn about district finances.

In Bellevue and Othello the salary increase for teachers is more than 17 percent. Bainbridge Island and South Kitsap school districts agreed on an increase of over 21 percent, according to the union.

Ward pointed out that a beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree applying for an elementary position in South Whidbey would be offered starting pay of $45,844 a year. In contrast, a first-year teacher in Edmonds will be earning about $63,000.

“The money from the McCleary settlement coming into the South Whidbey School District is intended to be used to increase pay to attract and retain high quality teachers here in our district,” she said in an email.

In addition to the issue of a salary increase, the teachers aren’t happy that the district is only offering a one-year contract “as opposed to other districts who are offering multi-year contracts,” according to a press release from the union.

Ward said she doesn’t know what will happen if teachers don’t have a contract when school begins.

“Teachers wonder why the district is choosing a pathway toward conflict instead of recognizing this once in a lifetime opportunity for a long overdue and Supreme Court sanctioned salary correction,” the press release states.

The school board is scheduled to go into executive session at 4 p.m. and then hold the business meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the community room at South Whidbey Elementary School.

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