In a vote that’s certain to affect other negotiations throughout the region, teachers in the Mead School District voted overwhelmingly Monday night to ratify a new contract that provides them at least a 15 percent salary increase.
“We think it’s a win for our members, but we also think it’s a win for our district, because they’ve demonstrated the commitment that they’ve shown in our education,” said Toby Doolittle, president of the Mead Education Association after his members approved the deal by a vote of 489 to 4.
Mead is the second of 19 districts in Spokane County to settle on a new contract following the influx of state funds stemming from the landmark McCleary court decision.
Earlier on Monday, East Valley teachers ratified a new contract, though its terms have not been disclosed.
Even as the Mead teachers celebrated, negotiators for Spokane Public Schools and the Spokane Education Association met for the third time in four days for mediated talks.
As of 10:45 p.m. Monday, they were still talking.
Regardless of the outcome of Monday’s talks, SEA members will meet Tuesday night at Rogers High School – either to vote on a tentative agreement or consider next steps.
The Mead contract is expected to be approved next month by the school board, ending a “complicated negotiation,” said assistant superintendent Ralph Thayer.
Following a trend that was set on the west side of the state, the new three-year contract provides double-digit raises across the board.
A beginning teacher’s salary – not including benefits – will increase from $41,500 to $48,263. That’s a raise of 16.3 percent.
At the top end of the pay scale, a teacher with at least 16 years of experience, a master’s degree and other qualifications will have their salary jump from $85,000 to $97,823 – an increase of 15.1 percent.
The third-largest school district in the county, Mead serves about 10,500 students in 16 schools. Spokane Public Schools, the second-largest district in the state, enrolls 29,275 students, while Central Valley serves 12,600, while East Valley has about 4,500 students.
The salary hike is important for several reasons, Doolittle said.
“We have a high turnover rate for young educators, because frankly the compensation hasn’t been there,” Doolittle said. “This begins that conversation.”
The conversations are ongoing at the other districts in Spokane County, and Doolittle hopes they’ll move in the same direction as Mead.
“This should not be unique to Mead,” Doolittle said. “We know that Spokane and Central Valley are still negotiating … educators across the region are deserving.”
The McCleary ruling of 2012 determined that the state was underfunding its schools and mandated fully funded education by 2018. About $2 billion was designated, with $27.7 million allocated for Spokane Public Schools.
SEA is seeking $20 million for certificated staff, which includes teachers, psychologists and counselors, and $7.7 million for classified employees.
This story is developing