Mukilteo teachers want new state funds used for salaries

The district turned down the union’s demand to bargain. “Our position is we’ve got a closed contract.”

MUKILTEO — Teachers and administrators in the Mukilteo School District are at odds on how to deal with a coming surge in state funding.

The Mukilteo Education Association, which represents teachers, sent district leaders a formal demand to bargain last month. The union wants to renegotiate its contract, which runs through August 2019, to secure those incoming state dollars for salaries.

But Assistant Superintendent Bruce Hobert turned them down, saying 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,” a less formal process for appending terms and conditions of a contract.

“Our position is we’ve got a closed contract,” district spokesman Andy Muntz said. “But we’ve reached out. We want to talk to them. We want to talk with them about compensation.”

On Monday, teachers are expected to press their case directly to the district Board of Education in its 6 p.m. meeting.

“The Mukilteo School Board’s refusal to negotiate fair pay with teachers is offensive and out of touch,” wrote Dana Wiebe, president of the Mukilteo Education Association, in an email.

Not putting those dollars into salaries “is going to put our district at a competitive disadvantage,” she wrote. “Other districts will hire and steal the great teachers our students deserve.”

And Wiebe said teachers “are organized and standing strong, and we’re going to fight for what’s right,” including possible job actions in the final weeks of the current school year.

The tension is a product of 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.

Some of the money will go to boost the annual salary for first-year teachers to a minimum of $40,000 starting with the 2018-19 school year. It is currently around $36,500 for new teachers.

And some will be used to increase the 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.

Earnings of most teachers in Snohomish County are already above the new state benchmarks because their districts use local levy collections to pay higher salaries.

In Mukilteo, a new teacher with a bachelor of arts degree will make $51,856 while an instructor with at least 25 years of experience and a doctorate will earn at least $99,949. Roughly a third of a veteran teacher salary now comes from local dollars.

Lawmakers didn’t just add money for salaries this year. They also eliminated the state salary schedule spelling out what teachers would earn with additional years of experience and post-secondary education. And they also capped what districts can raise through their own levies and limited how those dollars are spent.

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.

Muntz said they are willing to talk about compensation and other changes such as the adding of a professional development day. Reopening the entire contract is not required, he said.

Wiebe contends Mukilteo is the only district taking this stance.

“That’s outrageous and unreasonable, and the district’s excuses are bogus,” she said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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