After days of mediated negotiations the Spokane Education Association and Spokane Public Schools came to a tentative contract agreement Thursday afternoon, narrowly avoiding a districtwide strike.
“We are very pleased that we’ve come to an agreement,” said Superintendent Shelley Redinger.
Redinger has seen the tentative one-year contract; however, she said details won’t be released until after union members vote on the deal Tuesday.
Spokane Public Schools board President Jeffrey Bierman said the agreement increases salaries for all union-represented groups; however, some are increased more than others. He also said the agreement would increase instructional time for students and changes parent-teacher conferences, making it easier for working parents to attend conferences.
“I’m really proud of both bargaining teams and how they stuck to it,” he said. “It felt to me that both groups had a lot of the same priorities.”
There will be a union meeting Tuesday at Rogers High School at 6 p.m. The details of the agreement will be presented, discussed and voted on, union President Jenny Rose said. If the agreement isn’t ratified, teachers would start striking Wednesday at 7 a.m.
“From my understanding it’s a very fair and reasonable contract,” Rose said. “I hope our members are happy with it.”
A district news release said the “contract makes progress toward several issues pertinent to building world-class schools, including professional development, workload and compensation.”
Redinger said many of the problems originated at the state level. Specifically, she pointed to how long it took the Legislature to approve a budget. Gov. Jay Inslee finalized the state budget that includes school funding on June 30.
“This was the latest we’ve received a budget, and it’s made it very difficult,” she said. “We have a lot of moving parts in our district.”
The working relationship between the union and the district wasn’t compromised, Redinger said.
“Fortunately, we’ve had a really good relationship with our union,” she said. “Jenny (Rose) and I have a good relationship.”
Rose agreed that the prolonged negotiations won’t affect working relationships between district administrators and the union.
“It was never about them,” she said. “It was always about the school board.”
The main sticking point in negotiations was compensation, especially for instructional assistants and other support staff. Union officials argued that instructional assistants were underpaid and overworked.
Additionally, union leadership was concerned members hadn’t received cost-of-living adjustments in the past six years, Rose said.
Teachers and parents expressed relief at the averted strike. Jan Galves, an instructional assistant with a special education program, is relieved but also wary.
“But we still have to ratify the contract,” she said.
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