I-732’s teacher pay hikes are unfair and solve little

In theory, Initiative 732 sounds fine. Give teachers an annual cost of living pay increase to attract and retain quality teachers in our state. In reality, I-732 is too narrowly focused and seriously flawed.

Voters should say no to Initiative 732 because of its flaws.

Many initiatives in our state come to fruition because the Legislature simply ignores the peoples’ wishes or takes too long to act on an issue. Not so in this case. Teachers are hardly an ignored group. They have a strong union to represent them. They have the attention of the state Legislature. In many of the election campaigns this year, political candidates on both sides of the aisle said teacher pay raises are a priority. And the Legislature has been working to rectify teacher pay — but not to the Washington Education Association’s satisfaction. Hence, a sweeping initiative to permanently grant teachers and many other educators annual cost-of-living pay raises.

This matter is best resolved via the legislative process where all interested parties can voice their concerns. And there are plenty of other interested parties. What about the other public employees who are long overdue for a raise? What about social service caseworkers whose loads are so heavy mistakes are made that result in costly lawsuits against the state? What are we going to tell them? "Too bad. We know you need a pay raise. We know your employers are having trouble recruiting, but you’re just not valuable enough." Is that a reasonable message to send to any group of employees?

Public employees can’t expect to all make the same salary no matter what their job title is, but they do have a right to be treated fairly. This initiative goes against that principle.

I-732 proposes to give public school teachers, other school district employees and certain employees of community and technical colleges annual COLA raises, starting in the 2001 academic school year. It is touted as just one solution to the problem, but it is costly for something that doesn’t come close to resolving the real problem. It does nothing to address signing bonuses, better pay for starting teachers, tuition credits, merit pay and other possible solutions to attract and retain teachers. Those issues will still have to be addressed even if I-732 passes.

A rejection of I-732 is not a rejection of teachers or the need to pay them better. We support better pay for teachers — just not in this backward manner that discriminates against other public employees. Teachers and education are the hot topic right now in the political arena. They have plenty of options other than the initiative process.

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