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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Washington teachers receive same base pay no matter location

While many rural school districts in the United States struggle to recruit and retain quality teachers, Washington is one of just a few states where a teacher’s base salary is the same in most places, no matter the location, district size or cost of living.

Large districts and those in high-cost or urban areas can supplement that base pay using local levy dollars.

Paying a standard rate “does help quite a bit,” said Betty Warner, a teacher in the Harrington School District. “It’s hard to live on a teacher’s salary in Bellevue. Our cost of living is a little lower in Harrington.”

The tiny Harrington district, in Lincoln County, has 13 teachers, of whom about 80 percent grew up there and returned to teach after obtaining a degree.

Changing that teacher salary schedule has been part of the K-12 conversations in Olympia as legislators work to fund basic education.

“We’ve had this salary schedule for two generations,” said Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane. “It’s not unlike the classroom where you shoot for the midpoint of where your students are. There are some you have to pay more attention to and some need less help, and it works for about the middle 20 percent.”

Teachers working in high-cost areas say teacher pay falls short of basic living expenses, such as housing. The same pay in a rural town provides a decent living.

Legislation in both the Washington House of Representatives and Senate proposed a labor-market study to balance the pay scales, which would take location and cost-of-living into consideration for teachers. Neither bill even got a hearing in their committees of origin, but the Legislature still is looking at ways to address teacher pay.

“We’ve just created a pretty convoluted funding system over the last 35 years,” Ormsby said. “It’s not particularly consistent.”

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