Central Valley School District teachers vote overwhelmingly to approve now contract

More than 700 teachers packed the University High School gymnasium Friday to overwhelmingly vote to approve a new contract. (Jim Allen / The Spokesman-Review)

Central Valley School District teachers moved swiftly and decisively to approve a new salary contract Friday afternoon.

By 4 p.m., more than 700 teachers had packed the University High School gymnasium. Forty minutes later they walked out with smiles on their faces.

“I think it’s an acceptable number,” said Pam Popp, the librarian at Progress Elementary School. “I think we are off to a rousing start to the school year.”

The new contract won overwhelming approval from teachers, 698 of whom voted “yes” and 10 “no,” for a 98 percent approval.

Wally Watson, president of the Central Valley Education Association, said that unlike other teacher unions in the area, the CVEA did not calculate an average salary raise because increases varied widely by experience and academic standing.

Because many older employees went several years without cost-of-living increases following the recession that began in 2008, they received larger pay hikes.

Pending approval Monday by the Central Valley School District, a teacher with 10 years’ experience and a master’s degree will see a salary increase from $59,213 to $69,457, or 17.2 percent.

The hike is even steeper for top-scale teachers. For educators with 16 or more years of experience and a master’s degree plus 90-plus credits (or a doctorate), pay will go from $78,014 to $95,032 – a jump of 21.7 percent.

The bigger raises at the top end reflect the need to retain highly experienced teachers, Watson said.

Raises are more modest at the bottom of the pay scale. Pay for an entry-level teacher will increase from $41,930 to $43,018, or 3.9 percent.

With five years’ experience and a master’s degree, salary jumps from $54,307 to $58,903, or 8.4 percent.

“As they walked out, I didn’t see any sad faces,” Watson said. “They’re being treated like professionals, and they’re getting a living wage, paying off their student loans and sending their own kids off to college.”

Central Valley is the last major district in Spokane County to ratify a contract in the wake of the landmark McCleary decision that earmarked $2 billion statewide for salary increases to teachers and classified staff.

Central Valley’s share of that money is $6.4 million.

Pay increases ran the gamut in other major districts in Spokane County, from 16 percent at Mead and 13.3 percent in Spokane, to 7 percent at East Valley.

Watson said negotiations were “a little more contentious than in years past, but we got through that and we came to a great deal.”

However, Watson said he was confident the school board would approve the deal.

“Our board is very fiscally responsible, and they would not put something on the table that was not sustainable,” Watson said.