Teachers and other employees in Tacoma Public Schools will receive a 2 percent wage increase, following negotiations with school district employee unions and action last week by the Tacoma School Board.
The board approved a new teacher wage scale that pays beginning teachers a starting salary of $39,473. At the other end of the scale, teachers with at least 20 years of experience and education beyond a master’s degree will earn $77,421. The maximum teaching salary, for teachers with a doctoral degree and 20 years’ experience, will be $78,885.
Those figures include both base salary and extra pay for outside-the-classroom duties that Tacoma calls a professional responsibility stipend, or PRS. (It’s similar to what’s known in many school districts as TRI — for time, responsibility, incentive.) PRS money pays Tacoma teachers for work that includes evening parent conferences, meetings and other tasks.
Teachers who serve as coaches can earn additional stipends.
An estimated 1,980 employees, including professionals such as school nurses and psychologists, will fall under the new teacher salary scale, said Lynne Rosellini, assistant superintendent of human resources.
The 2 percent raises were also given to other district employees, including 107 professional and technical employees and 175 office professionals.
“As we looked at our financial picture, we realized the pent-up demand,” Rosellini said.
She said several employee groups voluntarily agreed to keep working without raises over the past few years, as school districts around the state weathered a budget crisis that resulted in funding cuts.
School Board member Kurt Miller praised employees for forgoing wage increases during the lean years.
Neither school district nor teachers union officials recalled the precise date for the last time teachers received pay increases that boosted the salary schedule across the board. But they agreed it was likely at least five years ago.
Even with the 2 percent increases, said Tacoma Education Association President Adrienne Dale, teachers are falling behind financially due to increases in health insurance premiums.
Rosellini said increased funding from the state made the pay raises feasible.
The Legislature this year restored funding for school employee salaries that it had cut in 2011— 1.9 percent to teachers and 3 percent to other school employees — but did not provide cost-of-living increases. However, the state added funding in other categories — everything from materials and supplies to full-day kindergarten — that eased school district finances and made raises possible.
The Tacoma teachers contract will expire on Aug. 31, 2014. Rosellini said she hopes to negotiate an agreement with the TEA before that deadline.
“We anticipate starting (negotiations) in the spring,” she said.
In 2011, Tacoma teachers staged an eight-day strike when contract negotiations broke down. Dale expressed hope that negotiations will be smoother this time. She noted that there are new people in key administrative positions, including Superintendent Carla Santorno.
“The stakeholders are actually going to be at the table,” she said.Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com @DebbieCafazzo