Bethel School District teachers signed off Thursday night on a new contract, and the two-year deal now heads to the School Board.
Union leaders said they’re optimistic it will be approved by the five-member board.
“Both sides compromised. (The contract) is something we’ll live with and support,” said Tom Cruver, president of the Bethel Education Association, which represents about 1,000 teachers, counselors, school nurses and other certificated workers in the Spanaway-based district.
Bethel schools spokeswoman Krista Carlson said the district is “encouraged by the step the association took” Thursday night.
“We’re very excited Bethel Education Association members ratified the contract,” she said. “We appreciated all they do for students and the community.”
The School Board is expected to vote on the contract at a meeting next week.
Negotiations started in the spring, and the union and district reached a tentative agreement in late June, Cruver said.
He said it was a “tough bargain” because of dwindling resources brought on by deep cuts in public-education funding.
The district agreed to dip into its budget reserves to offset a 1.9 percent cut in state salary funding.
And money will be shuffled within the contract to cut down on employee health care premiums.
But class sizes will be going up. The district, in the face of funding cuts, eliminated the equivalent of more than 30 full-time teaching and other certificated positions in the 2011-12 budget it adopted this month. The general fund budget, which pays for day-to-day operations, including salaries, is about $166.2 million.
Elementary school class sizes will go up by two students and secondary school class sizes will go up by one student for the duration of the contract.
Janet Caldwell, BEA’s treasurer, said union leadership feels like it reached the best deal it could with the district given the economic situation.
Classes are scheduled to start in Bethel schools Sept. 7.
The district is the third-largest in Pierce County, behind Tacoma and Puyallup.
Tacoma Public Schools also is in the midst of bargaining, but has further to go. The district last week requested mediation help from the state Public Employment Relations Commission.
Classes in that district are scheduled to start Sept. 1.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058 sara.schilling@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/street