Battle Ground Public Schools’ board of directors approved its contract with the teachers union Tuesday, formally marking the end of weeks of consternation over teachers’ salaries in the region.
By a vote of 3 to 1 at a special meeting, Battle Ground school board members approved the contract. Board Vice President Monty Anderson cast the sole dissenting vote, while President Ken Root recused himself from the conversation.
The board also unanimously rescinded a resolution approved last week to take legal action against the union in order to stop the strike.
Over the weekend, Battle Ground Public Schools became the last district in Southwest Washington to settle with its teachers. Students returned to school Monday after teachers and other certificated staff picketed for 12 days, the longest of 13 teacher strikes this summer.
In Southwest Washington and elsewhere in the state, districts and their teachers unions have been at odds over new money allocated by the Washington Legislature for public schools. Last year, the state approved $7.3 billion in new money for basic education over four years, and this year, added another $1 billion toward teacher salaries.
The legislation stemmed from the 2012 McCleary decision, in which the state Supreme Court ruled the state was failing to meet its constitutional mandate to fund basic education.
Linda Allen, Human Resources director for the district, said the settled contract offers teachers average raises of 14.9 percent. New teachers in the district with no experience will start at an annual salary of $48,593, according to the approved salary schedule, while their most experienced peers will top out at $93,731.
“We used all of the McCleary money and more,” Allen said.
The board also unanimously approved a letter that looked toward a future of reconciliation and moving on from the strike. It also doubled down on the district’s assertion that it will be disproportionately affected by the McCleary legislation compared to other districts in the state. The district’s local levy rate is slated to decline by more than half next year when local levies are capped.
“We are very sorry for the impact that the process had on our students, who perhaps were the most affected,” Root read. “Now that a new contract is in place, the best course of action that we can take is to come together, move forward and heal.”
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