Spokane teachers picket for pay raises

Spokane teachers picket for pay raises

Spokane Public Schools’ latest offer in salary negotiations did not sit well with local teachers, so they took a stand Thursday outside of the district office.

A group of teachers and families, all dressed in red, picketed for pay raises Thursday afternoon. Educators said they want to attract and keep teachers with higher salaries.

“It’s really about getting a fair wage and competitive salaries so that we have the best educators in our public schools,” said Katy Henry, the president of the Spokane Education Association. “Spokane Public Schools already has the best educators. We want to maintain that.”

The district says though, Spokane teachers are already making above-average salaries. Brian Coddington, a district spokesman, told KXLY4 teachers in Spokane make about $73,000 a year, which is above the state average of about $72,000 a year.

“What’s happening here at Spokane Public Schools is a little bit unique, a little bit different than some of the other districts that are offering the bigger pay increases to get to that statewide average,” Coddington said. “Since we’re already above that statewide average, that’s a little bit different and unique.”

Spokane Public Schools offered teachers a 3.1 percent raise. The state’s supreme court ruling resulted in nearly $30 million for basic education in Spokane, including salaries for custodians, counselors, teachers and other positions. Henry said the union believes the district’s latest offer won’t cut it.

“It is not all of that money,” Henry said. “We want 100 percent of that allocation funding and that 3.1 percent does not come close to that.”

Though the district said it’s not that simple. As a result of the ruling, this year, state funding will be added on top of local levies. Spokane Public Schools said that won’t be the case next year, when state dollars replace local funding. The district, Coddington said, stands to lose $45 million in levy funding next school year.

“If you make a commitment in the first year, based upon that additional money, it’s not sustainable in the following years,” Coddington said.

Spokane teachers are also in the last year of their three-year contract. Both sides told KXLY4 they do not believe the salary talks will end with a strike.

“Oh, I don’t think we’re there yet, for sure,” Henry said. “We still have a lot of room for both sides to work it through mediation.”

Negotiations will continue with a mediator Friday.

“There’s been no discussion about anybody about any kind of a disruption to classes,” Coddington said. “We expect the first day of school to go off without a hitch.”