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Teachers rally for new contract

Contract negotiation is still underway between the Snoqualmie Education Association, which represents Valley teachers, and the Snoqualmie Valley School District. Teachers have threatened to strike when school starts Sept. 3 if the district doesn’t meet their demands for compensation increases, but district spokeswoman Carolyn Malcolm said she is “optimistic that settlement can be reached before school starts.”

More mediated bargaining sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Aug. 21 and 22, said Art Galloway, union president.

Talks on Monday, Aug. 18 yielded “some progress with benefits” negotiations, but “when you get down to the financial part of the contract, it gets more difficult,” Galloway said. About 60 union members attended a lunchtime rally during that session, and Galloway said they stressed the importance of increasing teacher salaries to be more competitive with surrounding districts. Valley teachers are the lowest-paid in East King County.

The district, however, is challenged just to fund state-mandated cost of living adjustments for employees, Malcolm has said. This summer, the school board passed a 2008-09 budget whose general operation costs exceeded revenues by more than $1 million. The difference will come from district reserves.

Galloway said the district could “adjust priorities” to increase teacher pay. He voiced concern that educators will leave to earn more in neighboring districts.

“I know people talking about leaving, that say, ‘I would be remiss in not looking at going to Issaquah, where I can have a three to five thousand dollar increase in pay, and drive about 12 miles,” Galloway said.

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