Washougal teachers continue strike

Second day of school cancelled after union, district fail to reach agreement

UPDATE: Washougal teachers will continue to strike Wednesday, Aug. 29, and all Washougal School District schools will be closed for a second day. Contract negotiation teams from the teachers union and school district met for several hours Tuesday, Aug. 28, but were unable to come to a tentative agreement. Look for more updates on this story at camaspostrecord.com throughout the week.

The first day of school in Washougal is cancelled, after teachers union and school district representatives failed to find common ground in last-minute negotiations today.

Instead of welcoming students to the 2018-19 school year, Washougal teachers will hit the picket line Tuesday, Aug. 28.

The district intends to allow athletics and activities, covered under a different union contract, to continue as scheduled.

Bargaining representatives from the Washougal School District (WSD) and the Washougal Association of Educators (WAE) met for several hours today, but could not come to an agreement over teacher salary increases.

The Washougal teachers voted Aug. 21 to strike if their union and the district could not reach agreement by 5 p.m. today.

“The district and the association have worked hard to reach an understanding but, unfortunately, we were not able to come to an agreement today,” WSD Superintendent Dr. Mary Templeton said. “We have been excited to offer the biggest raise Washougal teachers have ever received, which would bring our salary into competition with regional districts. We believe our proposal supports our well-deserving teachers, is fair and equitable and is something the Washougal community can sustain over time.”

WAE President Eric Engebretson said 180 out of 205 Washougal teachers represented by the union voted on the Aug. 21 motion to strike, and that the vote had 96 percent approval.

“We will continue to do all of our training as scheduled this week and then by the first day of school, if a tentative agreement is not made we will not show up,” Engebretson told The Post-Record last week.

The union and district, like many in Southwest Washington school districts, have been at odds over how the district intends to allocate money from the state legislature’s “McCleary fix,” which was to remedy a state supreme court decision ordering Washington legislators to fully fund K-12 schools and adequately compensate teachers.

Engebretson said teachers union representatives have been concerned about the district’s answers to questions about how much money is available for salary increases.

“We were concerned because we were told that there is just no more money to be had,” Engebretson said. “Then, after they could not give me a straight answer … they left the table and came back and offered an additional $150,000.”

District leaders says they have been given $14.2 million by the state to pay teachers and have agreed to add another $600,000 from local funds.

According to a press release from the school district, if the strike lasts fewer than four days, the district should not need to change the date for Washougal High School’s graduation.

By law, Washington school districts are required to have 180 days of school.
School will start on the first planned school day after the strike ends. The district will likely have to add days to the school calendar later in the 2018-19 school year.
“We will continue working to reach a contract which is sustainable, provides Washougal educators with competitive compensation and gets us back to the work of educating children,” Templeton said.
This is a developing story. Visit the camaspostrecord.com for updates throughout the week.