Mukilteo School District and teachers are now talking

With an infusion of state money coming, the teachers union wants to reopen a three-year contract.

MUKILTEO — Teachers and school district leaders plan to sit down this week to talk about how an infusion of state dollars can be put into salaries, officials said Monday.

Teachers have packed school board meetings and held lunchtime pickets after issuing a formal demand to bargain over compensation to district leaders in early April. Their request was rejected.

The district and union are at odds on how to handle an increase in state funding coming as a result of the landmark school funding lawsuit known as McCleary.

“The fact we are at the table is very encouraging,” said Dana Wiebe, president of the Mukilteo Education Association, which represents the teachers. “We have always wanted to make sure the district funds are sustainable.”

Wiebe said the district has “expressed sincere interest in reaching an agreement that increases compensation for teachers.”

“We are happy that we are talking,” said district spokesman Andy Muntz. “That’s progress.”

District officials and school board members rejected the demand to bargain. The union wants to reopen the three-year contract that runs through August 2019. Instead, district leaders offered to “meet and confer” — a less formal process for appending contracts.

The union declined that offer. Wiebe said the group wanted the legal protections formal negotiations bring.

District leaders said lawmakers did not intend to impair existing contracts when they added funding and made other changes earlier this year.

Muntz said the district remains opposed to reopening the contract.

“It has always been our position that we don’t need to reopen the contract,” Muntz said.

The agreement to enter into good faith negotiations over salaries came Friday, when the union’s bargaining team met with district representatives to discuss other issues. Two memorandums of agreement were signed during that meeting.

The district’s willingness to negotiate those agreements was an encouraging sign to reaching a formal agreement over salaries, Wiebe said.

Muntz declined to say if the district was willing to sign a memorandum of agreement over teacher compensation.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again Friday.

“I feel good about the parameters we are moving forward on,” Wiebe said.

In the McCleary court case, parents and teachers successfully sued to force the state to amply fund basic education, including wages of school employees. Since the 2012 decision, lawmakers have boosted school funding by roughly $9 billion, including $1 billion this year and $1 billion last year for educator salaries.

Herald writer Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior

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