Prepare for a strike. That is what the Camas School District teachers’ union, the Camas Education Association (CEA), voted to approve. For students, it means, at least at this point, school will not start as scheduled on Tuesday, September 4.
During the bargaining meeting on August 26, Camas School District (CSD) leaders suggested contacting the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to request a mediator. As no agreements have been made so far, the union held a meeting to call for a strike vote at Camas High School. The strike vote passed by 95.7 percent with 393 total votes. The strike will begin on September 4, although informational picketing will begin the morning of August 31.
The strike centers around teacher pay. This year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled two billion dollars should be sent to school districts across the state. It is now up to each district to decide how that money should be implemented for teacher pay, creating new salary schedules for educators. Although the ruling earmarked money for an increase in salaries, different interpretations can be made in the way the new law was written. The CSD and the CEA spent the summer at odds over negotiations.
The disagreement between the District and the CEA centers around how the money is used. “We are asking for most of that to go toward building a new salary schedule that gives teachers a modest bump in income. The state has set some guidelines on what beginning pay and max pay should be, so we are abiding by that as well,” says CEA President Shelley Houle. In order to build a new salary schedule, the union wants eleven to twelve percent raises for Full-Time Equivalent staffing.
Junior Claire Burch agrees with the union. She feels, “The teachers deserve more money for their hard work. They’re doing the right thing by demanding it.”
The District leaders, on the other hand, feel there are many other concerns to focus on regarding the funding. Teacher experience, change in local levy support, and the revenue over time are some of these concerns. CSD Superintendent Dr. Jeff Snell explained, “Our District’s plan with budgeting and negotiations has always focused on three main areas – 1. Sustain current programming and staffing models. 2. Recruit & retain outstanding staff. 3. Grow and innovate staff & programming.”
Obviously, compromise will be an important part of these negotiations. Houle feels a fair compromise can only be achieved “in a collaborative way.” She says an important part of the compromise for Snell would include, “an increase in teacher compensation without having to jeopardize our sustain, recruit & retain, grow & innovate priorities.”
Other districts across Washington already made agreements including Bellevue with a 17.3 percent increase; Cascade with a 15.9 percent increase; and 17 others. Other local districts, including Evergreen and Ridgefield, have voted to approve strikes if agreements are not reached in a timely manner. Teachers in the Washougal School District already passed a strike vote which will start at eight o’clock on August 28. This would have been the first day of school for Washougal.
What Students Need to Know:
- $7.1 billion went Washington state for education funding. $2 billion of that money was to be put towards increased teacher funding.
- The McCleary State Supreme Court case caused the new funding to take place in order for teachers to have “ample funding”.
- The CEA is asking for an 11-12% raise in teacher funding. Although, so far CSD has only offered roughly 4%.
- “If there is a strike, students should expect it to not last long because both sides will want to come to an agreement that gets Camas students in their classrooms as soon as possible” – CEA President Shelley Houle
- Superintendent Snell shares the impact a strike might have: “The biggest impact would be when school starts. No matter when the first day of school is, we are required to have 180 days of school.”
- A mediator has been requested from PERC to help continue the bargaining discussions.
- CEA teachers passed a vote to strike on August 27, at Camas High School.
- The vote passed by 95.7 percent, 376 votes out of 393.
- The strike is set to begin September 4.
Overall, both the District and the teachers’ union are working hard to make sure the new funding benefits the students and the people in the classrooms. Most importantly, the community must stay informed in order to support the decision at hand.
What do you think? Weigh in on the comments below or on the Camasonian Facebook post.
Update: At 7 o’clock on September 2, the CEA shared a tentative agreement had been reached. Voting for the agreement will begin at 5 o’clock on September 3 at Camas High School.