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Legislators drawing lines over teacher pay, school funding

Democrats want to accelerate additions to school support while Republicans raise the possibility of making no budget changes this year.
Rep. Sam Hunt

Rep. Sam Hunt

Sen. Andy Hill's new bill attempts to help the state's homeless and soothe ruffled feathers in Olympia.

Sen. Andy Hill's new bill attempts to help the state's homeless and soothe ruffled feathers in Olympia. John Stang

Despite uncertain prospects, Democrats on Wednesday introduced bills to raise pay for teachers.

Under one proposal, the state would sharply increase its allocation for the beginning annual salary of a rookie teacher, to $52,074 a year. Another bill would restore cost-of-living increases to teachers.

Rep, Chris Reykdal, D-Olympia, introduced the teachers' minimum salary bill, while Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, sponsored the cost-of-living-increase bill. Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, introduced a bill Wednesday to require a minimum wage of $15 an hour for non-teaching school employees. The Senate Democrats recently introduced a bill similar to Hunt's legislation.

Currently, the state allocates $34,048 a year to a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience. Then individual school districts negotiate with their individual unions on how much local money would go to each teacher on top of the state allocation. The state allocations actually follow sliding scales that increase with a teacher's years of experience and extra education.

The language in Reykdal's bill suggests that a compensation task force's analysis showed that Washington's teachers earn roughly $15,000 less than comparable jobs in the non-education world. His bill raises the state allocation for a rookie teacher by about $18,000, but any additional pay would still be up to each district's school board and union.

Gov. Jay Inslee had earlier suggested restoring an annual teachers' cost-of-living increase beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. Washington's voters passed an initiative several years ago to require that cost-of-living increases be given to teachers annually based on a formula using inflation. However, recent legislatures, led entirely or in part by Democrats, has routinely suspended that cost-of-living raise for the past few years as a budget-balancing measure.

Inslee has called for $200 million in extra appropriations this session to pay for the cost-of-living increase and to help the state meet goals set by the Washington Supreme Court to fix student-teacher ratios and other facets by mid-2019. The rough split of the $200 million is estimated at $50 million for the cost-of-living increases and the rest for the Supreme Court-mandated improvements. The Supreme Court recently said the state is financially behind on meeting the obligations of the court's 2012 ruling and has given the Legislature until April 30 to present a catch-up plan.

At a Wednesday press conference, Republican House and Senate leaders said they have not seen Wednesday's Democratic House bills, including the one to raise minimum teachers' salaries, and could not comment on them.

When asked, Republican House and Senate leaders would not say whether they would support oppose cost-of-living increases for teachers, a proposal that has been in play for a couple weeks. However, those leaders appeared very cool to the idea of tackling cost-of-living increases this session. Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said the overall school funding system must be reformed to trim the share that local school districts bear.  Dammeier and Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond and chairman of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, said these education funding issues are too complex to resolve in the current 60-day session.

Also, Hill said there is a possibility that the Senate will offer no supplemental 2014-2015 budget this session, which could have major implications for Inslee's $200 million education proposal.  Hill said any Republican decision on a supplemental budget will probably be made in a couple weeks. This year, the Senate — dominated by a coalition of 24 Republicans and two Democrats — is supposed to unveil the first proposed supplemental budget in the Legislature, while the Democratic-controlled House will follow in week or so. This order alternates each year. Supplemental budgets normally make course corrections and tackle unexpected expenses in the year after the biennial budget is approved. The last biennial budget was passed in 2013 for 2013-2015.

Inslee and legislative Democrats contend that a supplemental budget is needed. So conceivably, a scenarios could surface of Republicans wanting no supplemental budget, and Democrats having to fight to get one — and more funding for schools and teachers.

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 8:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Outlaw all public sector unions. They have corrupted our political and social institutions.

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, and that corruption begats mediocrity.

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Why not just repeal the federal Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 (and following state acts) and go back to straight patronage? Won't have to worry about unions or any of that messy democratic crap.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jan 30, 9:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Won't have to worry about unions or any of that messy democratic crap.

So, pottymouth, the thing I worry about with public sector unions is how they fund PACs for influencing judicial elections. I described some examples of the WEA engaging in that conduct in a comment below.

Big fan of public sector unions, louploup? Post a URL here to a webpage or document that shows how much dues revenue the WEA has hauled in for each of the past 15 or so years. As I'm sure you'll agree, everyone should become better informed about how rich the WEA is, and how much more powerful it is becoming.

crossrip

Posted Fri, Jan 24, 2:35 p.m. Inappropriate

People do not surrender their right to bargain collectively when they accept employment with the government.

We hear all of the time about people who want the government to follow the same rules they impose on others. Why should this be any different?

The oft-stated concern, that public sector unions exert too much influence, is simply false. First, public sector unions do no exert any more pressure than other special interest groups like the AARP, the NRA, the AMA, or the Bar Association. Second, public sector unions actually exert less influence than wealthy individuals or business groups. Why is this influence only opposed when it comes from workers?

coolpapa

Posted Fri, Jan 24, 2:52 p.m. Inappropriate

Wrong.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303339504575566481761790288

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Jan 30, 7:22 a.m. Inappropriate

First, public sector unions do no exert any more pressure than other special interest groups like the AARP, the NRA, the AMA, or the Bar Association. Second, public sector unions actually exert less influence than wealthy individuals or business groups. Why is this influence only opposed when it comes from workers?

That's not true. Public sector unions alone are huge players in judicial elections, as one example.

Care to discuss that?

The WEA and the SEIU are big, rich pimps for regressive taxes. They like enlisting Moxie Media in particular for its dirty campaign services (don't pretend you don't know about Moxie Media).

Those interest groups were the big players behind the scenes in supreme court seat races. Take what happened in 2010. Those unions getting rich off public money fund a PACs, and that PAC then shifted money to another PAC to hide the source of the funds. PAC No. 2 then made independent expenditures attacking the justices who didn’t act dishonestly in exactly the ways the unions wanted.

Days before the filing deadline (in June 2010) a lawyer filed the PDC report asserting he would challenge one of the justices. That lawyer did no campaigning (that was never the point). In the month before the primary election about $243,000 from the public employee unions (washed through PACs) was spent attacking the character of the incumbent justice. These were independent expenditures, made in opposition to the incumbent’s reelection candidacy. A PAC called “Impartial Justice” paid for the character attack campaigning. The ads’ themes were that this justice was unethical and should not be reelected because he can’t be trusted to discharge his duties fairly. He was shown in some mailers as a clown in the pocket of “suits” (rich interest groups he supposedly would favor despite the law). Some TV spots throughout the state showed that same image, and put out that same attack message.

Moxie Media was the firm that produced this campaign and put out the mailers and TV spots.

Where did the money come from originally? The political action arms of the WEA and SEIU. Those sources hid behind the “Impartial Justice” PAC, which had obtained the funds from a different PAC, called FAIRPAC.

Some might ask why tax-pimping unions would be laundering money through PACs to throw at supreme court seat races. It is because they want the justices to create law forcing higher taxing and spending to benefit the public sector unions. That is exactly what the justices did in the McCleary decision.

There were similar huge payments in 2008 to candidates for supreme court seats as well by the WEA and the SEIU.

That's different than how other rich special interests and individuals around here operate -- they don't use their deep pockets to get law out of the justices.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jan 30, 8:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Hey "coolpapa" -- you are part of a communications team the WEA is paying for, right?

Post a URL here to a webpage or document that shows how much dues revenue the WEA has hauled in for each of the past 15 or so years. Everyone should become better informed about how rich the WEA is, and how much richer it has become.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Yea. And they have made teaching, which is one soft job, into a lucrative, couch surfing job! Sheesh.

Let's say there is a teacher in the family. What I see - 12 hr days, every day during the school year then evening homework; classrooms of 32 with 25% of these special needs kids, evening and weekend meetings with parents, buy school supplies with personal funds, weekends consistently working at least 10 hrs (but officially paid for 6), extra effort to make sure the kids have interesting lessons/programs/projects, working their butts off to get the kids out for activities - camp - skiing - etc; pay that is withheld during the year and doled out during summer like you can't manage your own finances, working during all breaks, taking workshops over the summer and tweaking curriculum, parents with more issues than the kids, running a yearly auction/fund raiser to keep basic programs, little IT support, little administrative support.

Yea. Overpaid. Sure.

Treker

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 12:01 p.m. Inappropriate

You forgot to mention shilling for the Democrat Party and instilling good grammar in the kids. Whew! You would think they would find better jobs!

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't know any teachers who have the TIME to do anything but their job and sleep.

Treker

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

They don't have time to do ANYTHING but work and sleep? Uh-huh. So why don't they find another job? (and spare me the "altruism" spiel; there is no such thing.)

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 1:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, the ones I know actually enjoy teaching and have a strong commitment to the kids - despite the troubles and meager pay. They certainly aren't in it for the money. I have a lot of respect for them having spent many hours/days as a volunteer, tutor, and mentor. Yea - for free because I care about my community. Not a rare thing from my experience with schools.

Treker

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 2:18 p.m. Inappropriate

And the teachers I know spout the benefits of summer vacation, Christmas vacation, Spring Break and being home by 4. And, oh yes, the kids.

Question: If the pay is so "meager", why do they allow a portion of it to be taken by a union for political use?

BlueLight

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Now there's a fantasy that would get any teacher excited!@
Leave at 4:00 - oh, I started laughing at that claim. Care-free breaks - no piles of homework to grade for 120 students, no classes to get ready for - oh yea - and the teachers who come in on their own time to help the kids construct and paint sets for their upcoming play, or take their own time and money to lead a group of kids on a trip to D.C., or on, and on, and on.

Brainstorm another rightwing argument genius.

What's the obsession with the teacher's union - oh yea, they have managed to negotiate those exorbitant teacher salaries!! I forgot! Time to turn of Fox already.

Treker

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:03 p.m. Inappropriate

It's always interesting to see teachers attached as lazy, vacation pampered civil servants. I have volunteered in my kids schools for years around my work schedule and I can say for sure those teachers are saints - can you imagine dealing with 30 middle schoolers in one room day-after-day? Now that is scary!!

But seriously - I don't know a harder working group of public employees that teachers. And get real, the pay for the amount of hours put in down right stinks. I give them a heaping of respect - thank you teachers!

Lily32

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:14 p.m. Inappropriate

@Lily, I know many teachers. Most of them do not work as hard as I do, which isn't to say they don't work hard.

However, the work year for teachers is much shorter than my work year, and the concentration of hours they spend is relieved with breaks, all the holidays and a summer off. That's pretty nice compensation if you ask me.

As to working with the kids ... I hope the work is a calling and exciting to the teachers who made a conscious decision to teach. Otherwise, they are not worthy of the title of "teacher".

As with any job: if you don't like it, find something else. Life is short.

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:56 p.m. Inappropriate

I can only go by my experience - which tells me that teachers do work longer hours and harder than most cube professionals. And they love their jobs -mostly.

My main point I guess is that the premise that teachers are overpaid is pure BS.

Lily32

Posted Fri, Jan 24, 2:37 p.m. Inappropriate

There are rewards from teaching that don't appear on the paycheck stub.

Not everyone puts money as their top goal.

coolpapa

Posted Sun, Jan 26, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Good point. The paperwork that comes home from teachers to the parents are filled with grammar and spelling errors.

My reaction? Fingernails on a chalkboard.

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 11:09 a.m. Inappropriate

One correction - meant to say paid for 6hr days on weekdays but working 12 - AND working weekends, no pay.

Treker

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh please. So teachers end up working 50 hours a week for maybe 9 months and 0 hours a week for 3 months. Averages out pretty well.

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:40 p.m. Inappropriate

50 hours? The teachers I know would love those hours - here's a typical one I know. Get in by 7 and get ready, classes until 3 or so, then after school meetings with staff/parents, work on returning phone calls and emails to parents, take care of admin stuff, off to home with grading for a couple hours --- so 10-11 hr days. Plus 10 hrs on the weekend - so more like 70 hr weeks, every week.

OK slacking on the breaks and working only say, 35 hours those weeks. Masters Degree in teaching specialty, 25 yrs experience OOOOH - a whopping salary of $71k. So, annualize that average (conservative) of 65 hr/week for 46 weeks (have to finish up the last week of school after kids gone - grading, and required to be in school week before school starts - so not counting prep going on in summer)

Wow - a stunning salary of $23/hr - annualized to a 40 hr work week would come to $49,391. Dang those teachers sure have it easy Sonny.

WTF do you get 3 months off anyway? School ends late June here, teachers required to work the following week and be in school the week before school starts. My calendar shows that as 6 weeks, eh? 3 months, pfttt.

Oh yea, teachers never work on the spring and winter break - they are off to Miami or Vail!! LOL

Lily32

Posted Sun, Jan 26, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

Lily32,

You forgot to add in the hourly amount that teachers benefit packages add to their 'hourly' pay rate, which are often more than the hourly rate, depending on the pay grade. So a $23/hour example needs benefits added, which may be higher than an additional $23/hour, ie, $46/hour.

As to time off - more time off during the school work year than private employers, plus most of June, all of July, and some schools see all of August off. Rounded to 3 months off.

And why did you find it necessary to swear in abbreviation? This is a discussion, swearing isn't needed.

Posted Sun, Jan 26, 10:33 a.m. Inappropriate

So, commonsense suggests that teachers have off most of June?

Funny, my kids went to school thru June 23rd of last year.
I'm sure the teachers aren't exactly finished on this last day either--many were certainly around for another week cleaning out their classrooms.

jeffro

Posted Fri, Jan 24, 2:38 p.m. Inappropriate

And you know this how?

What is the source of your data?

coolpapa

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:08 p.m. Inappropriate

The teachers salaries + benefits add up to be a healthy salary, equivalent to many people who work 12 months a year, 9 or 12 hours a day. No matter how you shake it, teachers do not work full time 12 months a year.

I don't happen to believe Seattle area teachers are underpaid. Many rural area teachers are underpaid, but that can be offset by much lower housing costs too. Teachers, police, government workers and Boeing machinists would have us all believe they can't feed themselves on their paltry earnings. But add up the benefits they get along with the dollars, and the overall pay isn't shameful at all.

What bothers me most is the constant whining that so many union people seem to do. Why? Do they not really know what other professionals earn?

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:29 p.m. Inappropriate

The only whining I see here is by people who resent public sector workers.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jan 23, 4:42 p.m. Inappropriate

......especially those with GIANT salaries. Teachers as a target, really? That dog ain't runnin'

Treker

Posted Sun, Jan 26, 6:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Neither of you have managed to quote the average teachers salaries with benefits in our area. You just spout how overworked and underpaid the teachers are.

If teachers believe they are overworked and underpaid, why don't they find other work?

Average teacher pay in Seattle is $70,850 for a ten-month work year -- how many of you believe that is not decent pay??

From the Washington Policy Center website (2011 for crying out loud!), here are some facts about teachers. I am not arguing that schools are properly funded, or that teachers are not working hard. I do believe that overall, the pay for teachers, which is inclusive of strong benefits, is fair for a 10 month year. There, I said 10 months, not 9 months, that should make some of you happy.

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/facts/key-facts-about-seattle-public-schools

Key Facts about Seattle Public Schools, By Liv Finne, Director, Center for Education, January, 2011

New research released by Washington Policy Center, an independent, non-partisan research organization based in Seattle, provides key facts about the Seattle School District. Education spending in Washington state is at historic highs, averaging $10,200 per student statewide.

Average teacher pay in Seattle is $70,850 for a ten-month work year. 163 Seattle public school employees receive more than $100,000 a year. The Seattle teachers’ union receives $3.2 million in education funding each year in the form of mandatory member dues.

Yet, because of restrictive work rules and multi-layered bureaucracy, only 59 cents of every education dollar reaches the classroom, and public school students continue to lag in academic achievement. The research shows that more money won’t help public schools, and that policymakers can improve student learning with existing funding. Practical ideas for reform are available in the Center’s study, Eight Practical Ways to Reverse the Decline of Public Schools.

Go directly to the website to read whatever you want. My point is that the average teacher pay is $70,850 for a 10-month work year. That's not life in the poor farm, folks.

Posted Fri, Jan 24, 2:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Voters approved an initiative to provide cost of living salary increases for teachers, but the state legislature has refused to comply.

Voters approved an initiative to fund smaller class sizes, but the state legislature has refused to comply.

Let's not hear about "the will of People" around initiatives approved to reduce taxes or create charter schools until that pressure extends to these initiatives as well.

coolpapa

Posted Fri, Jan 24, 7:21 p.m. Inappropriate

my point?..simple..it has to be because I am..LAST YEAR a school district in our state threw out the unions..we all bleeted about it but, has ANYONE followed up?..we gave them our support and now we can't find them..is that media manipulation?..or our own short sightedness?.. IF WE DO NOT STAY ON THE UNIONS, WITH THE SINGLE MINDED RUTHLESSNESS THE UNION DISPLAYS WE WILL CONTINUE TO FALL FOR THE FLUFF AND DISTRACTION THIS PLANTED MESS IS MEANT TO DEMAND..the union sat my children down in front of one NOW convicted pervert and a another pervert they hid like a bad priest..don't care about money..I care about prison..so what kind of pressure is that district under now?.it is obvious the plan for charter schools is, DELAY..so does that district hold the plan?..I'd like to know?.Oh, wait that's information..sorry that's not what Seattle medias about..

Posted Fri, Jan 24, 10:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Teachers minimum salary bill seems like a good plan. Not sure that 52K is going to happen though, maybe start at 40K which is still about twice minimum wage.

Maybe they should also up the wage progression to a 30K increase over the 15 years, at 2K per year. A Boeing machinist gets a 40K increase over 6 years, which is about a 7K a year wage progression.

What should a teacher with a degree and a license be paid relative to other state employees at various agencies.

Posted Sun, Jan 26, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

toughbretts, minimum wage jobs do not pay benefits towards vacations, retirement, medical etc. Permanent, full time WEA teaching jobs usually provide very expensive benefits.

What makes you believe that a teacher with a degree and a license is paid less than other state employees at various agencies, inclusive of benefits that both receive?

Posted Tue, Jan 28, 8:37 a.m. Inappropriate

And, if you are making minimum wage, the state and federal government benefits as well. Health and dental are covered. So basically it is food, free phone, free internet, utility and housing assistance versus retirement. Probably minimum wage has equal benefits to having a college degree and licensed job with benefits.

Posted Sat, Feb 22, 8:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Why not just throw lobbyists from both the private and public sector in jail and let the politicians do what the voters elected them to do without anyone else in their ears?

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