In their recent newspaper guest opinion (“Our concerns with K-12 basic education funding,” Aug. 26), four local school district superintendents made many excuses for why they don’t want to invest in significant pay raises for classified and certificated educators. Their excuses are just that: excuses.
Our students deserve better than excuses.
As educators, we put our students at the center of everything we do, both at school and in contract negotiations. We expect our superintendents to do the same, but right now, they’re not.
The superintendents from Spokane, West Valley, East Valley and Central Valley school districts are misguided. Despite their claims, all four school districts have the money to provide much-needed pay raises so we can continue attracting and keeping great teachers and staff for our students.
Along with parents and voters, we believe local school districts must invest in quality teachers and support staff. That’s our goal in contract negotiations, and we know the community supports us. When it comes to educating our children, what could be a higher budget priority than the people who work directly with our students every day?
We already have a teacher shortage in Washington. Without competitive pay, we will lose our great teachers and staff to higher-paying professions and districts. Dozens of school districts have negotiated double-digit percentage pay raises for their teachers. If communities ranging from Prosser to Warden can provide their teachers with significant pay raises, then school leaders here in the Spokane area can do the same. We believe all children deserve to have caring, committed and qualified educators in the classroom and school building.
The fact is, because of the historic McCleary court case, Spokane and other local school districts are getting millions of dollars in additional funding, much of it for educator salaries. Spokane is receiving at least $52 million MORE funding overall in coming years.
Our school districts have the money.
It’s true a new law limits how much districts can collect from voter-approved levies. At the same time, state funding for public schools is going to increase substantially because of the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. The increase in state funding more than makes up for the reduction in local levy funding. School districts in the state are going to have substantially more money in each of the next three school years compared to the past. Billions more. Funding may fluctuate, but districts will have more money overall than they have this year.
Here’s another fact: In the 1,000-word newspaper column by these local superintendents, the word “student” does not appear a single time. That’s indicative of the problem we are facing. Instead of negotiating the competitive pay educators need, these school leaders want to debate funding formulas, levy rates and legislative policies.
Their excuses are a distraction from what really matters. As educators and leaders in our local education associations, we will continue to focus on attracting and keeping great educators for our students. They deserve that.
Katy Henry, president, Spokane Education Association
Wally Watson, president, Central Valley Education Association
Cheri Osmuss, president, West Valley Education Association
Georgina Redmond and Jeanine Coghlan, co-presidents, East Valley Education
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