Tukwila School District teachers rally for pay raises higher than 3.1%

TUKWILA, Wash. – Teachers across the state are rallying Tuesday night for a larger pay raise, including those in Tukwila.

Thanks to the McCleary decision by the state Supreme Court and the Legislature's action, the Tukwila School District is set to receive $5 million. But there’s a big dispute on how those dollars should be spent.  The school district plans to give teachers a 3.1% raise.

“To know my district has the money and we still have to fight for it; it’s exhausting,” said Tukwila Middle School teacher Debbie Aldous.

“They have a different interpretation of McCleary,” said Tukwila School District Interim Superintendent Judith Berry.

Teachers want more than 3.1%, but the interim superintendent says McCleary mandates that school districts that have an average teacher salary of more than $72,000 a year only have to offer the cost-of-living increase at 3.1%.

“They’re looking at the total number of dollars that are given to districts, but we have money for certain things such as enrichment, we need to pay for additional special ed,” said Berry.

Teachers say the district could offer more money but just doesn’t want to.  Instead, they say, the district is using money allocated for teachers to fix their budget shortfalls.

“We do know there’s been four years of mismanagement that has spent down our general fund, which is like a school district’s savings account,” said Aldous.

The superintendent says teachers are simply not taking into account the generous nature of the district over the years.

“Over the past three years, we have given them a total of 24% raises, so we feel even without the mandate from the state we value our teachers,” said Berry.

With two very different views on McCleary’s mandated pay raise for teachers, what’s at stake is these teachers hitting the picket line.  They’re threatening to strike if the district doesn’t give them a better raise like what they’re seeing in other districts.  Ultimately, this bad blood could boil over.

“People are talking, like if neighboring districts settle for higher, why would I not go somewhere else?" asked Aldous.

The district held two separate public comment sessions in their budget meeting Tuesday night, but no final decisions were made.  The teachers union and the district will have a bargaining meeting on August 24.