The state Legislature passed the state budget with a provision that state employees, including teachers, will face pay cuts during the next two years.
But how will that work for K-12 teachers and other school district employees? The simple answer is: it’s not fully clear yet.
Just because school districts will be receiving less money the next two school years to pay for salaries, it doesn’t mean the unions representing employees have to agree to pay cuts. As I’ve explained before, salaries are set based on individual school districts, with unions bargaining for pay raises on top of any state raises (for example, on top of the cost of living increases from I-732, the few times it’s actually been funded). So, the state reducing school employee salaries actually just reduces the amount of money districts have to pay those salaries.
I shot a couple emails yesterday to district and teacher union leaders in Bellingham and Ferndale, asking about the impact of this section of the budget. I haven’t heard from the union leaders, but I did receive responses from district officials.
Overall, certificated and classified staff (so basically everyone who works in a school) will receive a 1.9 percent pay cut. There is an exemption for people who make less than $30,000 each year. Administrative staff will face 3 percent pay cuts.
In Bellingham, the pay cuts will result in about $755,000 less in state revenue for the school district. District officials expect it will take a bit to figure out how the pay cuts will work, with union and district representatives having to work together to come up with plans.
In Ferndale, district officials are also starting discussions with the different unions to “interpret their individual contract language and compare it to the language in the bill,” wrote Mark Deebach, executive director of business and support services. Deebach expects it will be a couple weeks before any details are available.
Below is an excerpt from a Tacoma News Tribune story by Debbie Cafazzo about this issue. Click here to read the entire story.
School districts across Washington face a long, hot summer as they try to put into place the employee pay cuts adopted by the state Legislature this week.
The state budget includes reductions in state allocations for paying school employees. Specifically, it calls for cuts of 1.9 percent for teachers and support staff, and 3 percent for school administrative staff, in each of the next two school years.
Tacoma Superintendent Art Jarvis criticized the Legislature for abandoning its commitment to improve teacher salaries.
“The final blow was that they handed it back to the local districts to bargain how to make the cuts,” said the head of Washington’s second-largest school district.
Jarvis said he sensed a “seemingly cavalier approach” from legislators about whether districts would be able to absorb the pay cuts.
“That invites friction at the local bargaining table,” he said.
Lawmakers didn’t mandate how local districts must deal with less funding. Some might be able to absorb it by tapping their savings accounts or spending local levy dollars to keep pay steady.
But most districts had already planned to dip into reserves to pay for other state cuts, including funding that kept class sizes lower. Those districts will have to negotiate pay with their employee unions.