The Washington Education Association (WEA) is telling teachers they need to fight and to insist that the state’s new $1 billion in funding for K-12 education go towards 15 percent raises for teachers and 37 percent raises for support staff.
Its website features items like, “Time to negotiate BIG pay raises for all,” “WEA Bargaining Goals for 2018-19,” and “Bargaining for billions.” The union has also prepared a video encouraging, “a spirit of rebellion.”
The Seattle Times editorial board recently has noted this aggressive approach and urged caution:
“Already, the statewide teachers’ union is aggressively touting its intention to turn all the extra money for education into big raises for teachers…The state education budget for the 2018-19 school year is not a big, undefined pot of money for teacher raises…School districts need to focus on their own students’ needs and use their financial flexibility to make sure those needs are met. Districts will have plenty of money left in their purses to give teachers generous pay increases, while designing their budgets to have the maximum impact on their educational priorities.”
WEA’s marketing drive does not mention two critical facts, however.
First, by passing HB 2242 in 2017 (also SB 6362 in 2018), the Legislature prohibited local property tax levy funds from being used for employee raises, as has been done in many school districts. Even Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal shares this understanding of the new law.
Second, the Legislature emphasized its intention to end levy-funded raises by lowering levy collection authority to only $1.50 per thousand assessed value (RCW 84.52.0531). For some districts, this amounts to less than half of their current levy funds.
Despite these limitations, WEA is setting the stage for aggressive actions if its expectations for dramatic salary increases are not met, even if school boards cannot legally and mathematically satisfy the union’s demands.
What will your school board do?
Is your school board aware that WEA is gearing up to do battle and possibly shut down local schools with strikes for “BIG increases” that the district will not be able to provide?
Do journalists in your community understand the issues and are they prepared to report on them in a fair and balanced manner?
Citizen activists have an opportunity to impact the local community and to live out the principles of local control and responsible government. Help make sure your local elected school boards are designing their budgets to have the maximum impact on student services.
Now is the time for transparent collective bargaining.
This year more than ever, school boards will need the community see the whole story rather than just the union propaganda. Local school districts like Tukwilla and Pullman already allow public observation of union bargaining sessions, and the community overwhelmingly supports negotiation transparency. Now is the time for your local school board to adopt the same common-sense practice. Will it?