Everett teachers OK contract with nearly 8% pay raise

EVERETT — Teachers in the Everett School District voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to accept a new contract that will boost their salaries by nearly 8 percent in the next three years.

The agreement was approved at a meeting of 800 teachers in the Everett Civic Auditorium. It now goes to the Everett School Board for its expected approval Sept. 8 with the first day of classes scheduled the following day.

“We’re very excited about this contract,” said Jared Kink, president of the Everett Education Association. “So much has changed about education in the last three years and this contract addresses those changes.”

Union and district negotiators held 14 negotiating sessions before striking a tentative deal at 10:30 p.m. Friday. Both sides agreed to not release any details of the agreement until teachers voted. Kink said it passed with 98 percent support.

Salary aside, there are important provisions improving how the union and school district interact on the teacher evaluation process and implementation of the Common Core curriculum, Kink said.

But most attention will be on the pay hike. Everett teachers already enjoy the highest base salaries in Washington and the new deal should cement their hold on the top spot.

The contract, which runs through Aug. 31, 2018, provides annual across-the-board increases of 2.25 percent, 2.5 percent and 3 percent.

That is in addition to a 4.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment the state will pay teachers in the next two years. That will be paid in increments of 3 percent this year and 1.8 percent next year.

Combined, the increases will give first-year teachers a starting salary of $46,938 and those with 15 years experience and a Master’s degree will earn $94,815, according to figures provided by the district.

“Everett very much values what teachers are doing. They prioritize attracting and retaining good teachers,” Kink said.

Everett schools Superintendent Gary Cohn said the district has “a very long and rich history of very competitive teacher compensation. This agreement is consistent with the history and expectation of the community.”

An infusion of state money will enable districts around the state, such as Everett, to pay for the raises.

Lawmakers are under a Supreme Court order to fully fund public schools by the 2017-18 school year. That order, handed down in the McCleary case, also requires the state to shoulder the cost of compensation for teachers and to ease school districts’ reliance on local property taxes to pay salaries and operating expenses.

Toward that end, lawmakers agreed this year to put an additional $1.3 billion in the state budget for public schools. Some of those dollars will pay for materials, supplies and other classroom expenses that districts like Everett have been paying with revenue collected from local property taxes.

Those local dollars are now freed up for other district uses such as compensation for teachers. It should not surprise legislators that districts would use them to make up for the state’s underfunding of school personnel, Cohn said.

“What (Executive Director) Jeff (Moore) and I have been telling legislators is that the McCleary decision made clear that teacher compensation is part of basic education and the state therefore shouldn’t be relying on local levies” to support teacher pay, he said. But that’s the structure that’s been in place for 30 years and that districts must work within as they seek to hire and retain talented teachers, he said.

Kink staunchly defended the raises won by the union.

“All teachers in Washington should be compensated at the level that Everett teachers are,” he said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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