Hundreds of teachers to rally for higher pay

Hundreds of teachers in Western Washington school districts will rallied for higher pay Wednesday.

Many of them of them said they're closer to going on strike.

The state legislature approved $776 million to be spent this year for teachers’ salaries as part of fulfilling the McCleary decision by the Supreme Court, but district officials across the area are saying districts could be plunged into further deficit.

After picketing and protests Tuesday, Mukilteo teachers reached a tentative agreement with the district Wednesday afternoon.

“We reached a tentative agreement with the district this afternoon. The agreement sets our year 12 max salary at $112,396 and our beginning salary at $58,481. This is pending ratification by our members at our general membership meeting on August 29th. This agreement was possible due to the engagement and advocacy of our union over the last few months. More details will be released after our membership meeting," Dana Wiebe of the Mukilteo Education Association told KIRO 7's Shelby Miller.

Teachers in the Seattle and Bethel school districts, and bus drivers in the Sumner district, say they'll be rallying for higher pay as well.

“The districts all around us have gotten nice, large raises. My wife and I live in Columbia City. Our rent has gone from $950 to $1,650 in the last seven years and our salaries just haven't allowed us to stay competitive with that,” said James Milne.

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Milne is a fourth-grade teacher at Kimball Elementary School. He grew up in Seattle and lives just blocks from where he works. Milne said he loves his job, but considers switching districts for better pay.

"It's really becoming a burden and making some hard choices of whether or not I want to continue to live and work in a community I love or I go work in Edmonds and make more money,” said Milne.

Seattle Education Association President Phyllis Campano said the district already struggles to fill open spots.

Teacher's unhappiness over pay also extends to south King County as teachers in Kent authorized a strike last week.

While districts received more money for teachers' salaries from the McCleary decision this year, some districts, such as Seattle Schools, say an upcoming cap on property tax levies they can collect could put them in the red after a one-time surplus.

But teachers and staff say the money is enough to go around.

“A 3.1 percent (increase offered by the district) is a slap in the face because we haven’t had a cost of living increase in two years,” said Kent school nurse Margie Heagarty.

Some districts, such as Edmonds, are paying their teachers more, while neighboring ones like Seattle are threatening to cut teacher pay.

Some of the protests or strikes could run right up to the beginning of the school year, potentially causing delays to the start of classes, and teachers in Seattle don't plan to stop fighting until they've reached a deal.

"We could start the school year down a lot of educators, which isn't good for kids. Or we will continue to fight for a competitive, professional wage,” said Campano.

If a deal isn’t made, Campano said bargaining will continue daily through Aug. 27. After that, they may go on strike.