Tacoma teachers get pay raises, this time with no strike. Smaller K-3 class sizes, too

This time last year, Tacoma teachers dissatisfied with their pay were readying for a strike that would delay the start of school by a week.

This year, negotiations with the district went much smoother.

TEA members voted last week to approve a three-year contract with Tacoma Public Schools. TEA represents all certificated staff, including teachers, counselors, nurses plus office professionals and professional-technical employees.

“Last year was only about compensation and that makes for a very different tone in a bargain,” Tacoma Education Association president Angel Morton told The News Tribune. “This year we were addressing changes to our entire collective bargaining agreement. This calls for open minds, creative thinking, research and team work.”

The three-year agreement includes:

An 11.5 percent pay increase over three years.

A weekly, one-hour late start for students starting in the 2020-21 school year so that staff can have professional development and collaboration time.

A reduction in K-3 class sizes by 1 student per class for this school year and 1 student per class in 2020-2021 school year.

Under the new contract, the base salary for a teacher starting out in Tacoma increases from $54,308 to $55,937 for the 2019-20 school year. Factoring in cost of living increases, that jumps again to a total of $58,454 for 2019-20.

TPS Spokesman Dan Voelpel said the district is thrilled to have a contract in place that keeps salaries competitive with other districts.

“There was a lot more collaboration, I think, a lot more understanding on both sides,” he said about this year’s negotiations.

The wage increases — 3 percent for 2019, 3.5 percent for 2020-21 and 5 percent for 2021-22 — will be paid for in part from reductions. The district is starting the school year with 156 fewer positions, with more anticipated reductions later this year.

As for the planning period next year, the district is currently gathering suggestions for which day of the week would be best for a one-hour later start. Staff would use this time as professional development or collaboration with other teachers.

The district is conducting an online survey to gather thoughts about the schedule of the 2020-21 school year. For more information, visit tacomaschools.org.

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