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Two teacher strikes in southwest WA delay start of school for 24,000 students

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(The Center Square) – More than 24,000 students in two school districts in southwestern Washington state are having the start of school delayed as teacher strikes have begun.

The Camas Education Association and the Evergreen Education Association are seeking new collective bargaining agreements that include more competitive pay and more support for students.

On Sunday, the Camas School District proposed a two-year contract to the Camas Education Association. The proposal included a raise of 5.7% for the 2023-24 school year. This means the average teacher salary in year one would be $110,032, according to the district. The salary would increase 5.9% in the following school year. The proposal was not accepted by the Camas Education Association.

“I remain optimistic that we can get to an agreement and start school on [Sept. 5],” Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone said in a statement. “If negotiations have not yet concluded, we will send an announcement no later than 4 PM on [Sept. 4] regarding school closures.”

The Camas School District had 1,969 students enrolled in the 2022-23 school year. According to data from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 59.2% of students met math standards and 68.9% met science standards.

On Tuesday, Evergreen Public Schools proposed a three-year contract to the Evergreen Education Association that includes a raise of 5.2% for the 2023-24 school year. The offer also includes an increase for paid time outside the classroom for things like parent-teacher conferences, grading papers and staff meetings, as well as incentive pay from 8.8% to 9.6%.

The proposed average teacher salary for Evergreen Education Association teachers would increase to $105,387. The compensation range for teachers would be $65,008 to $119,568 in year one. The teachers’ union declined the proposed contract.

The Evergreen Education Association states on its website that agreeing to the district’s proposal would ultimately lead to a pay cut since the Consumer Price Index is higher than the Implicit Price Deflator, which measures the changes in prices for all the goods and services produced in the economy.

The teacher’s union claims the district got a “bit of a break” for the past two years when CPI was lower than the IPD, and now thinks the district wants to reverse how wage increases are structured.

“The district management wants to switch — but they probably won’t want to switch back when things are the other way around,” the Evergreen Education Association stated on its website. “Saying yes to this would be an effective pay cut, even though the state legislature funding would cover it and the district has healthy reserves.”

Evergreen Public Schools had approximately 22,833 students in the 2022-23 school year. Test scores throughout the district were poor with only 25% meeting math standards and 35.6% meeting science standards, according to the OSPI.

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