Striking teachers may not get what they want because funding is now based on property values

SEATTLE — While nearly 6,000 teachers in Western Washington demand higher wages, there have already been some very big teacher salary increases in the past few months, especially in the state’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

According to the Washington Education Association, Edmonds teachers will see an increase of 13 to 19 percent; Bellevue, around 17 percent; 21 percent on Bainbridge Island; and, in Seattle, teachers are expected to accept a 10 percent increase.

Just 10 miles from Seattle, however, Tukwila teachers were angered by an offer of only a 3.1 percent raise. Those teachers are now on strike.

According to Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, in a state where school funding is based on property values, there could be many teachers disappointed after bargaining.

“You might be in Tukwila, hoping to get 15 percent, but your property values aren’t anything close to what they are in Seattle. It may not be fair, it’s certainly not equitable but it’s the system we have,” Korsmo told KIRO 7 on Wednesday

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In addition to the $2 billion added to school funding after the McClearly Decision, 2018-19 is also the first school year without a statewide salary schedule that more closely regulates teacher salaries and raises.

Korsmo believes that’s why so many school districts now have teachers demanding salaries similar to those being paid in Edmonds and other districts. “It’s the Wild West,” she said.

“The fact is, though, the money doesn’t support it. The money comes in based on property values in the area, from region to region, community to community. Those things vary wildly.”

Korsmo believes teachers should be paid more, especially in districts with fewer state resources, but she admits that might not be possible in districts where property values are low.

Those districts “are very limited in what they can do to attract and retain teachers because they can’t offer the same rate of pay and, ironically, lower-income school districts happen to be the communities where our kids come to school with fewer resouces,” Korsmo said.

“Those are the schools where our teachers need more resources. They should be paid more. We’ve hamstrung those communities and those kids by the way we’re allocating this money,” Korsmo said about how the state currently distributes school funding.

Click here for a League of Education Voters brief on teacher salaries post-McCleary Decision that contains interactive maps.

The League of Education Voters is hosting a free webinar Thursday at 12:30 pm on the finances behind teacher salary negotiations. People can register here.

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