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Valley teacher strike narrowly averted in deal over class size, pay raises

The back window of an educator
The back window of an educator's car in the Mount Si parking lot Sunday evening displays picket signs about special education. Snoqualmie Valley teachers were technically on strike Sunday afternoon, but a deal passed putting educators back to work.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Hundreds of Snoqualmie Valley teachers walked into the Mount Si High School auditorium, blue ballots in hand, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, to vote on a new three-year contract. Officially, they were on strike, per an overwhelming majority vote of the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association members from last Tuesday, Sept. 3, but their actions Sunday averted that.

By 8 p.m., the deal was in hand. It passed with 59 percent of the 295 teachers voting to approve the deal, which lays out a 6 percent pay increase from district funds over the next three years (Teachers also receive a 5.7 percent increase from voter-mandated state funds over three years).

The contract also mandates class-size relief triggers for classrooms with more than a maximum number of students: $7 per overload student per day starting in 2013, on up to $9 per student per day in 2016. Triggers range from 26 students for a Kindergarten teacher to 30 students in grades 4 and 5.

The Snoqualmie Valley Education Association’s bargaining team announced just before 4 p.m. Sunday, an hour after the deadline set by members for a strike, that it had reached a tentative contract agreement with the Snoqualmie Valley School District. Teachers had made picket kits at a gathering at the Snoqualmie Fire Station Saturday morning, and some had signs ready to go, in hand or stashed in their cars, in the event of a strike.

At issue were compensation and class sizes, said union president Lisa Radmer.

“There has been no language in our contract at all on elementary class size,” Radmer said. “The union wants to have enforceable language that says you can’t just keep stacking kids into a classroom at the cost of a quality education.”

On Friday, the district presented a proposal that spokeswoman Carolyn Malcolm said they were very optimistic would lead to a settlement, but negotiations continued through the weekend.

Some aspects of the district’s Friday proposal remained unchanged in the final agreement, including a 2 percent salary increase for each of the three years of the contract which, on top of the 1.9 percent annual pay increase restored to the state budget in the legislature’s last session, is an overall increase of 3.9 percent each year.

Under the new contract, the staff base salary schedule ranges from a low of $40,017 for a first-year teacher, to a high of $75,425 for a teacher with an advanced degree and 16 or more years of experience. The range for a teacher with 13 years of experience, the district’s average according to the OSPI district profile, would earn between $45,586 and $69,932, depending on their education level.

Class size caps remained unchanged since Friday, although the rate of overload pay for the students and the method of counting students were adjusted.

School opened as usual in the district on Monday.

 

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