Dear VPS families:

I am writing this letter to let you know that the general membership of Vancouver Education Association, the union representing teachers, counselors and other education professionals in Vancouver Public Schools, released a ballot to its members yesterday that considers the possibility of an illegal strike, or work stoppage. If VEA leaders decide to enact a strike, it could affect the beginning of this school year, possibly causing a delay in the opening of our schools.

As you may know from recent news coverage, school districts throughout Washington state are facing the challenge of negotiating new or modified contracts with their teachers’ unions and other employee associations. The VPS bargaining team continues to meet with the VEA bargaining team after several months of collaborative and positive talks. However, contract negotiations are especially difficult this year because the state is implementing a new education funding system in response to the McCleary lawsuit.

The legislature allocated $1 billion of additional money statewide to help districts transition to this new system, but it also reduced the amount of funds districts can collect through local levies next year and beyond. The legislature did not significantly change what programs and services constitute basic education. Rather, it shifted more responsibility to the state for funding existing programs and services, including salaries. Simultaneously, over the next two years, the state has legislated a reduction in the amount of local revenue VPS can collect. The media has referred to it as a “levy swap.”

The table below illustrates the new state discretionary revenue and the full effect of the “levy swap” by 2019-20.

Key points

  • VPS and VEA (teachers’ union) are currently bargaining for a new teachers’ contract.
  • The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 29.
  • The start of school could be delayed if an agreement isn’t reached by Aug. 27.
  • For information and updates on the status of bargaining and the start of school, see the contract negotiations webpage.
Fiscal year New discretionary state revenue Loss of levy and levy equalization Net additional discretionary revenue Cost of state-specified 3.1% salary improvements for all staff Net additional discretionary funding after 3.1% improvement for all staff
2018-19 $36.4 million <$12 million> $24.4 million <$6 million> $18.4 million
2019-20 and beyond $36.4 million <$22.4 million> $14 million <$6 million> $8 million

Washington Education Association, or state teachers’ union, is encouraging its local bargaining groups to negotiate wage increases of 15 percent or more. A one-percent increase in teacher salaries costs VPS approximately $1.4 million.

The VPS Board of Directors and leadership team are committed to providing teachers and other district employees with fair and competitive wages, but we must do so in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner. We take very seriously our role as careful stewards of the public’s resources, and a vital part of our job is to ensure that the district doesn’t overspend its budget this school year and in future years.

Information about the district’s budget and the status of contract negotiations is available on the VPS website, where we have created a special page to post regular updates. The website also provides a form for you to send us questions, which we will be glad to answer. I encourage you to visit the website daily to stay informed about the status of contract negotiations. If an illegal strike appears likely to affect the opening of school, we promise to communicate with you about it with full transparency in a timely manner.

Vancouver Public Schools has a proud history of working together with its employee associations for the benefit of the students, families and community we serve. I’m confident that we soon will have a contract with our teachers’ union. We are prepared to negotiate every day and night if necessary to reach a settlement. I appreciate your understanding and patience as we complete this process.


Image: Steve's signature

Steven T. Webb, Ed.D.