Letter: Why do teachers beg, bargain, hold signs?

Editor,

“Fair and equitable salaries!”

These were the resounding words left in the audience’s minds at the packed school board meetings June 25 and July 9 as community members spoke in favor of directing state funding for educator salaries in the manner it was legislated.

The Coupeville School District and Coupeville Ed- ucation Association are in the middle of an unprecedented bargaining session.

The State of Washington passed legislation providing billions of dollars to fully fund basic education with close to $1 billion additional dollars specifically designated for increasing staff salaries.

It’s up to individual districts and bargaining units to develop fair and equitable salary schedules that provide professional salaries for the teachers in that district.

Over the past 16 years that I have worked in the Coupeville School District I’ve had the privilege to take part in building a strong collaborative relationship where the district and teachers’ union found creative ways to compensate teachers within the limited confines of the district’s budget.

This year turned bargaining on its head as the district hired an outside bargainer and, based on his advice, removed school board members from being on the bargaining team for the district. It is hard to collaborate when the other team doesn’t show up.

For the first time since the 1980s, a new salary schedule is possible for the teachers in your school district. For the first time, ever, the state provided ample funding that meets Washington State Constitution’s definition of “making ample provision for the education of all students.”

In the last session, the state Legislature provided funding to raise teacher salaries to the level of professionals.

In Coupeville, the district was provided with an additional $2.18 million to apply towards staff salaries.

Why are schools in our region not directing those funds where the state directed them to go? To quote a recent letter in the Sub Times, “Why do teachers have to beg, bargain and hold signs for these funds?”

The answer is simple, outside interests have divided the bargaining groups into non-collaborative structures.

They have brought in false claims of restrictions on funding, they have tried to divide the collaborative process and they have declared a siege mentality of stringing out bargaining sessions as far as they can.

They are trying to lock this region into a devastatingly low salary increase that would put salaries so far behind neighboring districts that the ability to attract and retain talented staff would be non-existent.

The last bargaining session was on July 2 and we find ourselves in the exact same state as the first bargain sessions in mid June.

Recent attendance at school board meetings highlighted for the board of directors how important fair and equitable salaries are to parents and staff and how not having the district present at the bargaining table was unacceptable.

Due to that community concern the school district reconfigured its bargaining team, which I think will help this process move forward to develop a new salary schedule that will fairly compensate staff.

Instead of working solely with a hired bargainer with no ties to the school district and the business manager, we will now be able to bargain with a district team made up of the superintendent, a school board member, and the hired bargainer and business manager.

This is a major change in the district’s bargaining team and a big step forward in our collaborative process and I want to thank the board of directors and superintendent for this change.

Wilbur Purdue

Coupeville

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