Seattle's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and More | Seattle, Washington | KING5.com

Washington teachers unions still negotiating contracts as first day of class nears

More than 100 school districts across Washington are still negotiating union contracts. Last year, contract disagreements led to teacher strikes in some districts.

SEATTLE — Teachers in Washington state's largest school districts are still negotiating union contracts, with just a few weeks until the first day of class.

More than 100 school districts statewide are still in negotiations, according to the Washington Education Association.

Teachers in Seattle Public Schools (SPS), the state's largest district, reached a tentative contract with the district Saturday evening. They were asking for another round of pay raises saying they need to keep up with the increasing cost of living in the city.

They also wanted improvements in recruiting and retention of educators of color, as well as more support services for students.

“We have more kids in trauma, we have more kids with anxiety, we really need those supports, family support workers, psychologists, that do more than just testing, an increase in nursing, those are the supports that our kids really need,” said Phyllis Campano, president of the Seattle Education Association (SEA).

The Mukilteo School Board approved a three-year teacher contract Monday night, reducing class sizes and making the district's educators some of the best paid in the state. "Moving forward it keeps us competitive at attracting and retaining the educators that the students and our community deserve," said Mukilteo Education Association President Dana Wiebe.

SEA said it is at the bargaining table with SPS every day this week.

“Things are moving along slowly. I think we're pretty far apart in where we think the district is in their budget,” Campano said.

SPS teachers received a 10.5% salary increase last year. A first-year teacher with a master’s degree earns $69,800 for the school year, according to the district.

“We are actively comparing our salaries to neighboring districts and have every intention of remaining competitive, but we have to balance that against what we can afford and our fiscal responsibility. We must ensure we don’t negatively impact students, especially those furthest from educational justice, with cuts to vital programs and services,” the district said in a statement.

Also see | VERIFY: Are teacher strikes in Washington legal?

Teachers in Tacoma Public Schools are negotiating topics other than pay since compensation is already settled for this year as part of the 2018 deal, the Tacoma Education Association (TEA) said.

Educators are trying to get smaller class sizes and improvements to student safety, such as window blinds to obscure the view of a potential active shooter during a school lockdown.

Tacoma teachers went on strike last year amid an impasse with the district, forcing families to scramble for childcare when the first day of class was delayed.

When asked about the possibility of another strike, TEA President Angel Morton responded that there was “really no likelihood of a strike at all.”

“We’re making good progress,” said district spokesperson Dan Voelpel.

Also see | 4-day school week? This western Washington district is interested