About 150 teachers and other staff packed the meeting of the Mukilteo School Board on Monday to demand renegotiation of their contract. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

About 150 teachers and other staff packed the meeting of the Mukilteo School Board on Monday to demand renegotiation of their contract. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Mukilteo teachers pack meeting, demand renegotiated contract

Their union submitted a formal demand to bargain more than a year before the current contract expires.

MUKILTEO — Teachers made a demand to renegotiate their contract directly to the Mukilteo School Board Monday.

And they did so en masse.

Roughly 150 classroom instructors and other staff packed the board’s meeting as several teachers called on the elected leaders of the Mukilteo School District to reopen the contract to ensure an increase in state funding is put into salaries for the next school year. The overflow crowd could not fit into board chambers and streamed down the hallway.

Many instructors wore red “I Teach Washington” T-shirts.

School board members listened but made no guarantees.

Teachers are working under a three-year contract which runs through August 2019. They want to reopen the contract for the purpose of discussing a variety of items related to compensation including raises.

The Mukilteo Education Association, which represents the certificated teachers, submitted a formal demand to bargain in early April.

Assistant Superintendent Bruce Hobert said last week that lawmakers “did not intend to impair existing contracts” when they added funding and made other changes earlier this year. He offered instead to “meet and confer” on legislative issues which would cover compensation.

Teachers are not taking kindly to the rejection. The leader of the union has indicated they might take some kind of public action to demonstrate their displeasure.

The school board got an earful Monday night.

Board President John Gahagan thanked everyone for attending and expressing their views. “We support our teachers… We must comply with state law, be a good steward of taxpayer money and make commitments that are sustainable over time.”

He said the district will prepare a response in the next several days.

Susan Cedar, a Mariner High School math teacher, hoped for more. “I’m disappointed,” she said. “He said kind of that classic ‘We appreciate you … but.’”

She added: “I love this district, but it was disingenuous.”

Teachers walked into and left the meeting chanting “1-2-3-4, we won’t take it anymore; 5-6-7-8 we want to negotiate.”

Paige Johnson, who has five children in district schools and sometimes subs, attended Monday’s meeting to back the teachers.

“I feel like the district is not supporting our teachers and that worries me,” she said. “I want the district to know that parents are standing behind our teachers and they should really get anything they need because it is vital for our kids … ”

Anna Guy, a special education teacher at Voyager Middle School, was heartened by Monday’s big showing.

“I am excited about the turnout. This is really energizing and exciting’,” said Guy, who has taught 14 years with the district. “I have faith in our district. We will sit down and at end of the day they’ll do the right thing. There’s always give and take. It’s not just teachers. It’s paraeducators and support staff. Their wages are incredibly low. I am here for them as well. They are left out of the conversation. A lot of times it’s teachers, teachers, teachers. Our education support staff do so much for us.”

Lawmakers are putting more state dollars into public schools — and educator salaries in particular — because of a lawsuit. Teachers want to make sure part of it goes into salaries starting next school year.

The two sides in Mukilteo don’t agree on how to start talking about spending the money.

Around the state, most districts are dealing with the changes as part of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement with their teachers. Mukilteo is one of the few districts in the state with a multi-year contract and thus is in a different situation.

Reopening the entire contract is not required.

Earnings of most Snohomish County teachers are already above the new state benchmarks because their districts use local levy collections to pay higher salaries. Lawmakers capped what districts can raise through their own levies and limited how those dollars are spent.

Some funds will be used to increase state funding to ensure a statewide average salary for teachers to $71,711, for classified staff to $51,437 and for administrators to $106,473. There is also money for a cost-of-living increase for all teachers.

The tension results from actions taken by lawmakers in response to the landmark school funding lawsuit known as McCleary. In the 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.

Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.

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