Everett teachers paid more when classes exceed size limit

EVERETT — A new contract approved by Everett teachers last week included everything that’s usually the subject of labor discussions: compensation, benefits and the school calendar.

This year, there was an addition that brings Everett School District in line with many others in the county.

For the first time, Everett’s elementary school teachers will get additional pay if their class size is larger than limits agreed to in the contract.

Bonuses kick in, for example, when a kindergarten class has more than 24 students in it, or when a fifth-grade class has more than 27.

This school year, up to 150 of the district’s 464 elementary school teachers could qualify for $15 in pay for each day their classes are too big. The crowded classroom bonuses could add up to almost $350,000 this year across the district, according to school district estimates.

A crowded class for the full school year would put about $2,700 more into a teacher’s pocket.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Kim Mead, president of the Everett Education Association. “The hope is that nobody gets paid extra money. It’s an incentive to keep class sizes down.”

The crowded classroom bonus was included in the three-year contract approved by the teachers union last week. The contract, which has yet to be voted on by the school board, also includes 2 percent raises each year.

Everett, which has about 19,000 students and 1,100 teachers, is among the last school districts in Snohomish County to implement extra pay or other incentives for teachers with larger-than-normal class sizes, said Lynn Evans, the school district’s director of human resources.

Mukilteo School District has had what it calls overload relief for all its teachers in place for more than 20 years, said Andy Muntz, school district spokesman.

A teacher has a choice of either receiving extra pay or having an additional hour of paraeducator assistance, each day, he said. Only a small handful of teachers have opted for the extra paraeducator time, he said.

Mukilteo paid out $310,000 in overload relief pay last year.

In Lake Stevens, teachers with larger class sizes have three options: extra pay, more paraeducator time or money for supplies, said Arlene Hulten, school district spokeswoman.

The extra pay can range from $7.30 to $11 per day, she said. Last year, the district paid about $300,000 in class size bonuses.

Similar incentives for teachers who take on extra students have been commonly included in teacher contracts around the state for years, according to the Washington Education Association.

“The caps on class sizes are negotiated on the local level,” said Rich Wood, a WEA spokesman.

He said the group doesn’t have a firm number on exactly how many of the state’s 295 school districts have some type of compensation plan for large classes.

“The real problem is overcrowded classrooms,” he said. “With state budget cuts, we’ve lost money for teaching positions in our state.”

State funding cutbacks led to the adoption of the extra pay program in the Everett School District, Evans said. Class sizes have risen as a result, she said. “It’s impacted all grade levels.”

Everett teachers are not typically assigned a classroom aid, or paraeducator, she said. Schools are allocated a certain number of hours for paraeducators to work. Those hours are used for supervision and instructional purposes, Evans said.

School principals will work with a teacher’s supervisor and the school district’s human resources department to determine which teachers get the extra students, thereby qualifying for the extra pay, she said.

Teachers have seen class sizes rise for the past two to three years, Mead said. “Teachers were very afraid they weren’t serving kids as much as they would like to,” she said.

Kim Guymon, who heads the Everett School Board Project, a citizens advocacy group, said that it’s hard to determine what class size benefits students most.

“I don’t know what the perfect class size is,” she said. “It’s sort of like global warming. What’s the perfect temperature?”

Guymon said she hopes students are not used to pad someone’s pocketbook and then be poorly taught. “Fifteen dollars a day, that adds up,” she said.

Mead said she hasn’t heard much from district parents and taxpayers about the crowded classroom bonus.

“We haven’t heard a lot of public comment about class size unless it’s specific to their school,” Mead said. “We have a lot of parents who are very concerned where their kid is one of 28 and it used to be one of 25 kids. That does make quite a bit of difference.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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