Evergreen teachers latest to approve a strike

Teachers would be on strike next Tuesday unless a deal can be reached over the weekend

VANCOUVER — Clark County’s largest school district is facing a strike starting Tuesday. Evergreen teachers voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to strike if a deal can’t be reached with the school district on raises.

Evergreen teachers rallied earlier this week outside Union High School. They voted Thursday to strike if a deal isn’t reached by next Tuesday. Photo courtesy Evergreen Education Association
Evergreen teachers rallied earlier this week outside Union High School. They voted Thursday to strike if a deal isn’t reached by next Tuesday. Photo courtesy Evergreen Education Association

In a statement the Evergreen Education Association (EEA) said the district, which is offering an average 8.33 percent increase for next year, is withholding some of the $22 million the legislature sent their way as part of the $2.1 billion McCleary funding package.

“This evening our members made it very clear to our bargaining team that because the Supreme Court ordered the state to provide more money to increase teacher salaries our educators should be compensated in a manner as intended by the court ruling,” said Bill Beville, EEA president in an e-mailed statement. “District administrators should recognize that nothing is more important for the district’s priorities than attracting and keeping qualified and caring teachers for our kids. If Evergreen won’t pay competitive, professional salaries, we’ll see great employees move to districts that do.”  

In a competing statement the school district says Evergreen teachers already make the most of any district in southwest Washington, and would continue to do so under their proposal.

“It is disappointing that Evergreen Education Association took this action since there is a valid contract in place,” said district officials. “That contact, without modification, already provides them with an average increase of 6.5%, and in an effort to avert a strike, we have since offered additional compensation of an average of 8.8% which continues to make them the highest paid teachers in the region and higher than any state average in the country.  We are passing through all the state and court-mandated funding allocated for teacher salaries, plus adding a higher percentage out of our remaining local levy funds than other agreements reached across the state.”

The district says, under its proposal, teachers at Evergreen would start at $50,687, while the top end salary would increase to $96,045. The average wage for a teacher in Evergreen would be $79,000.

Evergreen teachers are in a unique position since, unlike most other districts who’ve already voted to strike, they are entering the second year of a three year contract.

So far Vancouver, Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Washougal, Hockinson, Longview, and Evergreen have voted to strike. In Camas, where school would start on September 4, teachers will vote on a possible strike next Monday. So far only Woodland, Kelso, and La Center teachers have reached a new deal.

The Washougal Association of Educators says a state mediator is scheduled to meet with them and the district on Friday, so there is hope a deal could be reached in time to let school start on time. Linda Peterson, head of the Battle Ground Education Association says their state mediated bargaining session is set for this coming Sunday. Vancouver School District in a release on Thursday said they had asked their union to bargain through the weekend if a deal wasn’t reached on Friday, but had yet to hear back. They’re also scheduled to meet on Monday.

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