School starts September 5 - negotiations continue
School starts September 5 – negotiations continue
Posted on 08/28/2018

Over the past 15 weeks the Puyallup School District has been participating in good faith bargaining with the Puyallup Education Association with the mutual goal of negotiating a contract which honors educators for their valuable work with Puyallup’s 23,000 students.

“I really want to have a tentative agreement – one that’s sustainable for the district, and also sustainable for us,” says PEA President Karen McNamara.

“The district has offered $8.7 million of new on-going financial commitment in our proposal,” says Superintendent Tim Yeomans.

The PEA negotiating team has not accepted the district’s most recent offer. Instead, on Wednesday, August 29, union members will meet and may conduct a strike vote.

The district has offered additional bargaining dates in hopes of reaching an agreement. Students are scheduled to return to classes on Wednesday, September 5.

Risk factors

There are 295 school districts across Washington State. Puyallup School District is one of 22 that have been identified by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as having financial limitations on their ability to provide salary increases consistent with various settled collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in other Washington State school districts.

According to State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, “There are some contracts that are coming out and really significant increases for teachers and the districts have resources. There are other districts who just simply didn’t get that kind of resource and it’s going to get a little bit tense over the next couple weeks as that becomes a reality.” Scott, Hanna (2018, August 15). Superintendent asks for patience amid potential teacher strikes, and districts figure out funding. Retrieved from http://mynorthwest.com/1081795/reykdal-teacher-strikes-funding-2018/?

Along with the 21 other school districts, Puyallup is facing all four risk factors:

1. They were already paying average teacher salaries very near, or above the new state average salary allocation.
2. Their average 2018-19 state allocation for teacher salaries is less than the average teacher salary paid for 2017-18.
3. They did not qualify for a four percent experience factor increase for the 2019-20 year.
4. They are losing 50 percent or more of their local voter-approved levy when the new levy thresholds kick in for calendar year 2019.

In Puyallup, the details include the following:

1. The state’s new minimum salary is $43,206. The Puyallup School District is currently providing a beginning compensation of $47,062 for a 187-day contract and includes the following:

• Time, Responsibility, & Incentive (TRI) package. TRI is one way of recognizing the many hours teachers spend outside of their 7.5 hour day grading papers and planning lessons.
• Five Supplemental Days and two Professional Development Days
• Materials stipend to assist with classroom supplies

2. The average 2018-19 state allocation for teacher salaries is $71,711 which is $2,183 less than the average actual total final salary for a teacher in Puyallup which is currently $73,894.

3. Because Puyallup School District’s average teacher experience and advanced degrees is lower than the state-wide ratio, the district did not receive the additional four percent factor increase for the 2019-20 year.

4. The final factor impacting the Puyallup budget is a loss of 58.04 percent levy capacity. According to the OSPI, Puyallup’s total funding increase as of fiscal year 2019-20 will net $14.5 million which provides much less flexibility in providing raises than, for example Lake Washington School District, whose funding increase is $82.6 million.

These factors create inequities across the state leading to variations in salary raises being offered from district to district.

Progress made

“The tone during the 15 weeks of bargaining has been quite positive,” says Chief Human Resources Officer Amie Brandmire. “Members of each team have been mutually respectful and collegial. We have tentatively agreed to many changes in contract language.”

The progress made during negotiations includes new contract language surrounding the following:

• Evaluation of teachers
• Staff and student safety
• Special Education concerns
• Student intervention supports
• Secondary planning time concerns

“We value our teachers and we value our students and families,” says Superintendent Tim Yeomans. “Sustainability is something we are all working on here, not just for the 1,350 people represented by PEA, but for the 2,300 other employees as well. The reality is this is a complex problem and we want to do the very best we can for everybody - teachers, other employees, for our kids.”

The district remains committed to reaching tentative agreement and hopes to return to the bargaining table later this week.