Washougal teachers, district near deal

New superintendent wants to clarify numbers, ensure 15% compensation increase

Representatives from the Washougal teachers’ union and school district have met three times over the past week to nail down a new bargaining agreement.

In a joint statement released July 21, the Washougal Association of Educators (WAE) and the Washougal School District (WSD) said the groups are trying to better understand each other’s issues and come to a solution that satisfies both parties.

The groups so far do not have any agreements in place regarding salary or contract language, Eric Engebretson, WAE president, said.

The union and district hope to have a completed contract before the 2018-19 school year begins.

However, Engebretson said, the process is slow and both sides have a lot of work to do before they can come to any sort of bargaining agreement.

WSD is one of many Washington school districts in the midst of bargaining with local unions that have set salary schedules that utilize a massive increase of state funding for public education.

The state legislature passed a supplemental budget in March that includes $2.1 billion for teacher compensation, according to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s website.

The Washougal School District is receiving an additional $2.5 million from the state, to be used for teacher salaries for the 2018-19 school year, a 26-percent increase from last year, Frank Zahn, former WAE president, told The Post-Record in June.

The district stated in a July 12 bargaining update that district leaders were “excited to put forward a fair, equitable and regionally competitive settlement package for WAE to consider.”

The package included a salary schedule that offered a 15-percent increase in base teacher compensation, which included something known as “time-resources incentive” (TRI) pay.

The offer would utilize state-allocated revenue as well as reserve funds in order to sustain the increase over three years, the district’s statement said.

The proposal would give teachers at the top of the pay scale an increase of $11,718 per year and a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree a $6,218 bump in starting pay.

The WAE released a statement following the bargaining sessions on July 13, claiming the “15 percent raise” wasn’t what it seemed.

“You might hear of a ’15 percent raise’ in pay offered by the district,” the teachers’ union stated. “In reality, WSD is offering WAE a 2.9 percent raise added to the (approximately) 13 percent compensation that teachers currently receive in time, resource and incentive (TRI) funds.”

The TRI pay is for work that teachers do outside of the school day, including grading papers, back-to-school night and extra evening activities.

In former years, teacher compensation packages included a base salary that was set by the state and then additional time resources incentive pay (TRI) for work teachers do outside of a regular school day. In the new package, the separate pay sources have been combined into one salary, new WSD Superintendent Mary Templeton said.

The 2017-18 school year compensated teachers for 170 hours of TRI time, plus the teacher’s base salary, Templeton explained.

The base salary for Washougal teachers covers 180 seven-hour work days per year. TRI would kick in after the base hours have been met, for no more than 170 hours per year.

Templeton, who began in her role as superintendent July 1, said the combining of the base pay and TRI pay was a push by the state to increase equity and competitive pay for teachers statewide.

In the proposal documents, the district combined what teachers made from both the state salary schedule and TRI pay, and then added 15 percent for the final proposed salary, Templeton said.

Zahn said that the union’s calculations totalled an 8.8 percent increase and not 15 percent.

“At this moment in time, I’m not sure where exactly that number is coming from,” Templeton said. “I do know where our 15 percent is coming from, and we will continue, and we have in the past, to offer opportunities to talk.”

The district would like to have additional sessions for the bargaining teams to go over the numbers for clarification, she added.

“If our numbers are not accurate, (if) what we we’re pushing across the table as a proposal is not 15 percent total compensation increase, then I want to know that and I’ll say openly that we’ve made an error,” Templeton said.

She added that, if an error has occurred, the district will publicize it.

“If we’ve erred, then you can anticipate something on our website from me saying that we made a mistake,” Templeton said. “Because what we are excited about is a 15 percent raise, I’m not as excited about an 8.8 percent, I’ll tell you that.”