After another day of teacher contract negotiations, Vancouver Education Association informed Vancouver Public Schools of VEA’s decision to conduct a strike/work stoppage tomorrow, Aug. 29, on the first scheduled day of school. This afternoon, the district began to inform employees and families that the opening of schools will be delayed until the strike ends.
Although Vancouver schools will not operate tomorrow, back-to-school events and athletics will continue as planned. School offices will be accessible to families who need to register their children or take care of other school-related business. Teachers will not be locked out of the school buildings.
Through several months of positive and constructive negotiations, VPS and VEA attempted to reach settlement on a new contract for teachers. At the bargaining table, VPS and VEA have made progress in negotiating class size, professional development, and planning time for professional learning communities. The bargaining teams have not yet reached agreement on salary. The 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.
“Unfortunately, the complex and inequitable funding system adopted by the legislature in response to the McCleary lawsuit is making the process of bargaining teacher contracts exceptionally difficult for districts throughout the state,” said Superintendent Steve Webb. “The failure of elected leaders in Olympia to avoid pitting unions and districts against each other has been divisive and disruptive to many communities,” Webb said.
“We are meeting our obligation to bargain in good faith,” said Webb. “We’re 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.”
Daily updates on the status of bargaining and school closure are available on the district website.