For the second year in a row, a potential teachers strike could impact the first week of school for 3,000 Tukwila students.
After months of negotiations with the Tukwila School District, the Tukwila Education Association (TEA) announced Tuesday it plans to strike Friday, two days after the school year begins, if the union’s bargaining team and the district cannot reach a compromise.
In a statement, the union called for higher pay across the board and for better contracts for special-education teachers, saying Tukwila teachers are the lowest-paid in the region. The union’s statement does not specify exactly what they’re seeking in the new contracts, and representatives did not respond to messages asking for further details.
Tukwila teachers make between $55,398 and $106,695, depending on years of experience and academic qualifications, according to the district’s salary schedule. The average Tukwila teacher salary in 2018-19 was $84,778, according to state data.
“TEA members do not want Tukwila students to lose the quality, caring teachers and education support professionals they deserve,” said the statement from the union, which represents 281 teachers.
The school district said its budget has been impacted proportionally more than other districts by changes in tax-revenue collection. Many districts in the state projected multimillion dollar shortfalls after lawmakers implemented restrictions on how much school districts could collect from local property taxes, following a ruling in the landmark McCleary v. Washington school-funding case.
“We truly appreciate and will support our staff as much as the Tukwila School District can reasonably sustain,” the district’s statement said.
About 94% of the union voted to authorize the potential strike, according to the Tukwila Education Association (TEA).
“The school board … should give educators and community members realistic spending projections, not worst case scenarios as they presented last year,” TEA President Brian Seigel said in the union’s statement.
Last year, Tukwila and dozens of other districts went on strike after an infusion of money from the state for teacher salaries opened up hundreds of contracts. State Supreme Court justices ordered lawmakers to release those funds to satisfy the McCleary v. Washington ruling.
Tukwila School District saw an influx of funds up to $4 million, but planned to give teachers only the 3.1% cost-of-living raise required under the court ruling for districts where teachers made an average of more than $72,000 a year.
After two weeks of bargaining, the district approved a 10% raise and the teachers union ended the strike.
While teacher contract bargaining has been quieter this year compared to last summer, teachers in Toutle Lake and Kennewick went on strike last month before reaching tentative agreements with their districts.