After days of rallies, negotiations, Kent teachers reach agreement with district

Aug 30, 2018, 8:51 AM | Updated: 11:12 am

Students in Kent returned to school as planned Thursday morning after a teachers’ strike was averted.

The teachers union and district reached a tentative agreement that promises a boost in teacher pay.

RELATED: Why Washington teachers are striking amid new funding

More than 1,100 educators showed up at Kent Meridian High School’s gym Wednesday night, according to the Kent Education Association, with 69 percent of them voting to ratify a tentative agreement with the district, avoiding a likely strike and ensuring the start of classes.

The vote followed days of rallies and negotiations.

According to the Kent Reporter, Kent teachers will receive a 10 percent boost in pay the first year and a 4.5 percent boost the next – a big difference from the 3.1 percent cost of living increase they were initially offered.

Kent had been one of several local school districts negotiating salaries because of the McCleary decision — a Supreme Court ruling that required the state to fully fund education, with nearly a billion dollars earmarked. Some of that money was supposed to go to teachers’ salaries.

According to the union’s Facebook page, the Kent School district will be getting nearly $74 million over the next two years because of that court ruling, but had initially planned to use the money for a rainy day fund and not paying teachers more.

The union said the tentative agreement will help attract and retain teachers in the district.

Other school districts

About 168 school districts in Washington are negotiating with their teachers over salaries. Some districts have agreed to give their educators double digit raises.

Puyallup teachers authorized a strike Wednesday evening — 98 percent voted in favor of the strike. They will walk out September 5 if the district and the union do not reach an agreement.

Tacoma teachers stopped just short of authorizing a strike Wednesday night. They’re unhappy with the school district’s offer of a pay hike of 3.1 percent. District spokesman Dan Voelpel says Tacoma got $50 million from the state, but gave up $46 million in local levy dollars.

A state-appointed mediator is trying to help the two parties come to an agreement and avoid a strike. But teachers say if an agreement isn’t reached, they will vote on whether to authorize a strike early next week. Tacoma schools are scheduled to start classes Thursday, September 6.

Seattle teachers authorized a strike this week. They will begin a strike on September 5, the first day of classes, if an agreement is not reached.

KIRO Radio contributed to this report.

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