Last year, the Washington State Legislature took four related steps that provide for education and ensure future problems are less likely.
- increased employee pay dramatically in state law (teacher average salary goes from $52,260 in 2012 to $72,694 by 2019);
- increased state property taxes to cover the cost;
- removed school boards’ ability to use local property taxes for salaries; and,
- lowered the rate of local property taxes.
This solves the problem of districts using levies for salaries instead of local enrichment priorities. It also frees local school districts from the threat of union strikes over discretionary spending priorities; it restores some equity and reasonableness to wages; and, it restores the state as the sole responsible entity for basic education salaries.
So why would the Washington Education Association object?
Simple. In the past, union executives have been able to pursue their interests by pressuring lawmakers in the budget and pressuring school boards in bargaining, essentially doubling their odds of success.
The WEA wants “local flexibility . . . including the right to negotiate pay at the local level.” The union also wants higher levies at the local level to fund the salary increases they negotiate.
Superintendent Chris Reykdal owes his election to union support. Half of the $350,000 reported as being spent on his election came from unions, with WEA providing a quarter of all money spent on his election.
In a not-unrelated development, Reykdal announced legislation he is requesting to “revise the levy amount” and to provide “local flexibility.”
Senate Bill 6362 is moving through the legislative process and loosens the constraints designed to save school districts from the burden of negotiating supplemental wage increases.
The bill gives Reykdal’s largest single financial backers the thing they seek most of all from elected officials – higher levies and the ability to capture these funds for even higher wage increases.
If Chris Reykdal and the WEA are permitted to break the sideboards created last year to prevent the use of limited funds for snowballing salary demands, the appearance of funding inadequacy will soon return.
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- SPI Sues to End WEA’s Damage to Funding
- Superintendent Dorn Acknowledges Union Abuse of Public Interest
- Grading the teachers union contracts