Washington teachers demand cost of living increases

by: Chris Legeros Updated:

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - As Governor Jay Inslee unveiled his supplemental budget in Olympia, Angel Morton was one of a handful of teachers in the room, wearing a button full of zeroes. They haven't had a cost of living wage increase since 2008.

"It gets very frustrating," Morton said. She is a kindergarten teacher who most recently taught at Grant Elementary in Tacoma. Morton has two daughters in state universities with tuitions that keep rising, "yet my income is holding steady and not able to keep up with those demands, so we're learning to live on less," she said.

Washington voters approved an initiative in 2000 that provided teachers and other school employees with automatic cost of living increases. State lawmakers suspended them when the recession hit. Gov. Jay Inslee said, "that situation is untenable and I fully intend to rectify it next year, in the next biennial budget."

That promise angered the teachers' union, because instead of possibly getting a wage bump next fall, they'll now have to wait until at least 2015.

The president of the Washington Education Association, Kim Mead, said: "All we've had so far is excuses and they keep putting us off."

Morton is disappointed.

"The cars are getting old, the vacations have gone away," she said. "There's just life's little luxuries that we don't get to do because there's not the income to surround that."

The teachers say they'll continue to fight to get cost of living increases next year.

 

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