La Conner teachers approve contract

August 29, 2018

Teachers in the La Conner School District ratified a two-year contract Tuesday.

That means school will start Wednesday as planned, and it makes them the best paid teachers in Skagit County, according to a news release from their union.

The teachers had voted Monday to strike unless an agreement was reached before the start of school.

The contract raises minimum total pay to $50,633 in the first year with about a $1,000 raise in the second year, according to the release.

It increases the maximum salary to about $106,000 in the first year and $108,000 in the second, according to the release.

The contract must now be approved by the La Conner School Board.

Meanwhile, teachers in the Burlington-Edison School District were to vote on a contract Tuesday. Results of the vote were not available.

La Conner is the second of Skagit County’s seven public school districts to have a contract with its teachers approved heading into the school year.

Earlier this month, the Sedro-Woolley School District reached an agreement with its teachers union to provide an average 17.7 percent increase, bringing the district’s minimum salary to $54,233.

On Monday, the union representing teachers in the Mount Vernon School District voted to strike if a contract agreement is not reached by Sept. 4, according to a news release from the Washington Education Association.

Classes in the Mount Vernon district are set to begin Sept. 5.

Elsewhere in the county, the Conway and Anacortes school districts are continuing to negotiate, and the Concrete School District and its teachers union have agreed to enter into mediation.

“Our goal is to keep our staff,” Concrete School District Superintendent Wayne Barrett said. “If the salaries get too high and we can’t afford it, what’s the next step?”

At issue is millions of dollars in increased funding from the state to each of its 295 school districts as part of the so-called “McCleary Fix” — the state’s response to the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that the state was not adequately funding basic education.

The Supreme Court gave the Legislature until this year to meet its requirements, which the state claims it has mostly complied with now that it has increased the statewide property tax to allow it to pour more money into local school districts and, this year, toward teacher salaries.

In exchange for the increase in state funds, however, districts next year will have to reduce the amount of money they can collect from their local tax bases. In the past, those local dollars have been used, in part, to fund teacher salaries.

Without that money, four-year budget projections show many districts will soon find themselves in the red, therefore making them hesitant to negotiate large salary increases with their respective unions.

Further complicating matters is that as part of the McCleary Fix the state threw out its salary schedule, meaning each of the districts and their teachers unions must now create a new one.

As part of the McCleary Fix, the state has increased the minimum teacher salary to $40,000 statewide.

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