The state already is boosting teacher pay, even as some teachers earn more than the average working family income in their area.
Families across our state are getting kids ready to go back to school. Yet too many families have to prepare for a different ritual — when a teacher strike hits their local school.
Teacher strikes close schools in Washington with depressing regularity. Reporting by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that a child in Washington is at proportionately greater risk of missing school due to a union walkout here than in any other state.
A number of teacher strikes are looming now, on top of those called by union executives in just the last few years. Union executives in Seattle say they want to call a strike to get a 21 percent pay raise over three years. In Pasco, union leaders say they plan to close schools unless they receive a 9 percent pay increase. In April and May, union leaders around the state called rolling one-day strikes across the state, affecting 65 districts and closing the schools of 573,000 children, affecting more than half of all Washington students.
In recent years, union strikes in Tacoma temporarily closed schools to 30,000 students, closed schools in Bellingham to 10,000 students, closed schools in Kent to 26,000 students, and in Bellevue closed schools to 16,000 students.
As union executives call for new strikes to close schools, it is helpful to know how much teachers make now. On average, public-school teachers in Washington receive just over $83,000 in pay and benefits for a 10-month work year. This amount is scheduled to increase. This year, the Legislature increased school spending by 19 percent. It also provided full funding for two teacher pay raises over the next two years — a 3 percent cost-of-living raise to K-12 employees over the next two years, plus an additional temporary 1.8 percent increase that expires in 2017.
By comparison, the average worker pay with benefits in our state is about $68,300 for a 12-month work year. Most working families do not know whether they will receive a raise this year, let alone what they might receive over two years.
The relatively high level of average teacher pay is good news, both for the public and for children. Most teachers work hard and should be well paid. The work they do is essential to building bright futures for Washington’s children.
This is why strikes are so hurtful to communities, families and children. People work hard to pay their taxes and support local schools. When union executives continually ask for more and seek leverage in contract talks by shutting kids out of school, it weakens the bonds of community that should draw people together.
The community is already working to boost teacher pay, even as many teachers make more than the average family income in their area.”
Strikes divide parents from teachers, and teachers from administrators. Strikes damage the social fabric of school communities, especially when families are returning to school with high hopes for a successful year of learning.
The community is already working to boost teacher pay, even as many teachers make more than the average family income in their area.
The public money is already there. Union executives do not need to disrupt the lives of thousands of students and their families to get teacher pay increases.
Not all children are at risk of school closures. The education of students at religious and other private schools, students at public charter schools, and children who are home-schooled or take online courses are protected from the politics and controversy of union strikes. Strikes are illegal under state law, so in theory all children are protected — now parents, teachers and school board members need to work collaboratively to make this true in practice as well.