After Spokane Public Schools and the Mead School District agreed this week to large pay raises for their teachers, the teachers union for the Central Valley School District hopes to get a similar deal when representatives sit down with administrators on Labor Day.
The sides have agreed to mediation in case they can’t reach an agreement on new teacher pay before students arrive on Wednesday, said Central Valley Education Association President Wally Watson.
“I applaud those districts for stepping up and giving those teachers a competitive and professional wage for the next year,” Watson said. “I have good faith that the Central Valley School District will step up and provide a competitive and professional wage like surrounding districts.”
But in a letter sent to parents this week, Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small didn’t sound like an agreement was close. He noted the district received $6.4 million in state money from the landmark McCleary decision. By comparison, Spokane Public Schools received about $27.7 million.
As of Wednesday, Central Valley had offered its teachers raises totaling $6.5 million, Small wrote, without disclosing what the average wage increase would be.
“That’s an offer by the district that includes all of the McCleary money designated for certificated salaries,” Small wrote. “While we believe there has been hard work on both sides, the requests from the CVEA far exceed this new McCleary allocation from the state.
“Therefore,” Small continued, “the parties have jointly filed for mediation with the Public Employee Relations Committee (PERC) to assist with this important work.”
Small could not be immediately be reached Friday for comment.
But Watson said he’s hopeful the meeting on Monday will help both sides come to an agreement before it reaches mediation.
“We are the biggest local district that has not settled,” he said. “We are going to meet with the district on Monday in good faith and see if we can come to an agreement.”
After the meeting on Monday, teachers are scheduled to work on Tuesday and students arrive on Wednesday, Watson said.
If no agreement is reached on Monday, Watson said he’s not sure when the case would go to mediation.
“It could be after next week,” he said. Mediators with PERC “are busy with all the other locals that are having problems.”
Spokane Public Schools is the second-largest district in the state and enrolls 29,275 students. Central Valley serves 12,600 and Mead serves 10,500.
If Central Valley doesn’t start to pay its teachers and other school employees more, it will give the other districts an unfair hiring advantage, said Vicki Arnold, a retired CV teacher and former CVEA president.
“The four years I was president, we kept falling further and further behind Mead and Spokane,” Arnold said. “People will go where the money is.”
In his letter, Small noted that Central Valley needs to be competitive with its salaries. But he noted that the Spokane and Mead school districts “receive 6 percent more in state funding.”
“Furthermore,” Small continued, “we have different challenges than other school districts with enrollment growth and the need to open new schools. We feel confident that by working together, we will continue to build upon our commitment to high quality learning and teaching.”
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