After members of Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals voted this evening to ratify a new, three-year contract with Vancouver Public Schools, the district released the basic terms of the agreement.

On average, VAESP members will receive total salary improvements of 11.4 percent in the first year, 3 percent in the second year, and 3.1 percent in the third year of the contract for a total of 17.5 percent. The increases include the state’s annual cost-of-living adjustment. The added cost of the contract to the district will be $3.5 million over the first two years, which is $500,000 more than offered in the Dec. 21 tentative agreement on a two-year contract.

“The VPS and VAESP bargaining teams worked very hard to finalize an agreement, and we are grateful for their collaboration,” said Steve Webb, superintendent. “We also appreciate the efforts of the new state mediator who helped this week to clarify the misunderstanding that occurred with our tentative agreement reached last month. In light of the ratified contract, VPS is withdrawing its unfair labor practice claim against VAESP.” That claim was filed with the state Public Employment Relations Commission after the Dec. 21 deal fell apart.

Contract negotiations have been especially challenging this year because Washington state changed its funding system for K-12 education. Although the legislature allocated an additional $2 billion in McCleary money for district employee salaries in 2018-19, it also placed a mandatory cap on local levies (levy swap), thereby reducing districts’ local funding by $1.2 billion. Also, only a portion of the McCleary money was intended for salary improvements; most of it was provided to sustain funding for existing salaries to help offset district revenue lost through the levy swap.

Because of these changes in state funding and contractual commitments, VPS faces a projected shortfall of nearly $12 million in 2019-20. “Unless the legislature fixes the McCleary mess, VPS and many other districts across the state will be forced to cut valued staff positions,” said Webb. He noted that Seattle and Tacoma already have begun to announce budget reductions along with Vancouver.

“We respect our educational support professionals and we believe they should receive fair and competitive wages,” said Webb. “It’s extremely frustrating that the legislature enacted the McCleary solution in a way that has caused unprecedented levels of contention between unions and districts as they’ve negotiated contracts.”

“I encourage our students, parents, teachers, staff and community members to share their concerns about the continued underfunding of K-12 education with our elected leaders in Olympia,” said Webb. “Legislators need to understand the real financial impact of their decisions on our community’s schools.”