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Teachers remain on strike across Clark County through at least Labor Day

Most districts say they plan to continue meeting for negotiations throughout the holiday weekend

CLARK COUNTY — As negotiations continue, Clark County school kids will be off at least through Labor Day. Here’s the latest from each district on where things stand.

A child holds a sign in support of Vancouver teachers. Photo courtesy Vancouver Education Association via Facebook
A child holds a sign in support of Vancouver teachers. Photo courtesy Vancouver Education Association via Facebook

Evergreen – Closed through Labor Day

The district says it is open to negotiating with the Evergreen Education Association and a state mediator through the weekend, but will be closed at least through the holiday weekend. The union is urging all of its members to show up for picketing from noon to 1pm on Friday along Northeast 28th Street and 138th Avenue.

As the strike continues, the District announced some updates:

  • The District’s Food Service Program, in conjunction with Chartwells (the District’s food service provider) will be providing lunch from 11:00 a.m.-12 Noon starting today at Crestline Elementary (13003 SE 7th Street);
  • Project Transformation will be at Orchards United Methodist Church (11000 NE Fourth Plain Blvd.), starting today, providing breakfast and lunch to students and families from 9:30 am until 2:00pm. The site is unsupervised.;
  • The Salvation Army will be assisting Project Transformation at Leroy Haagen Park, and passing out several hundred meals to students starting today to compliment the activities happening at the Park which include activities for parents and children from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (Activities are unsupervised, so parents need to accompany children);
  • With school buildings closed, families needing to register students new to the District can do so at the Administrative Service Center’s Tan Complex (13501 NE 28th Street) from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.;
  • The Boundaries Office (located in the Administrative Service Center’s Burgundy Complex) has reopened from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and
  • With sports events starting at McKenzie Stadium tomorrow, Family Athletic Passes (normally sold at high schools) are available at the Community Education office (located in the Administrative Service Center’s Tan Complex) from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 12 Noon to 4:00 p.m. The cost is $85; and
  • If students do not have a 2018-19 ASB card yet, they can use last year’s to access sporting events.

Vancouver – Closed through Labor Day

The district said it is open to continuing negotiations throughout the holiday weekend. Superintendent Steve Webb released the following open letter to the community:

“Dear VPS Community Members,

We recognize that a great deal of concern and confusion exists about the current bargaining situation with our teachers. We want to help you understand the challenging landscape that is causing difficulties in agreeing to a contract with the Vancouver Education Association.

Some are misstating that VPS wants to hold back net new discretionary McCleary funds provided by the state. I want to be clear: In VPS’ most recent publicly announced proposal, every single net new discretionary McCleary dollar, and more, would be invested into teacher compensation.

“The state funding changes are complex, and the legislature is putting us in a no-win position of negotiating fair and competitive teacher salaries while significantly reducing the amount of revenue we can collect to help pay for employee compensation.

“VPS gains more state revenue beginning this year, but we lose a portion of local revenue next year. Our net new McCleary discretionary funding gain is $24.4 million in 2018-19, then it drops to $14 million in 2019-20 and beyond.

“In other words, VPS gains $52.4 million in net new discretionary McCleary funding over the next three years. Our most recent publicly announced proposal to Vancouver Education Association would cost the district $57.7 million over the next three years. Budget-cutting and further spending of our financial reserve, or ending fund balance, would be necessary to pay for the $5.3 million shortfall.

“VEA members would receive a salary increase of nine percent on average from 2017-18 to 2018-19. Over the next three years, starting teachers would receive a 14.8 percent raise, and our most experienced teachers would receive 18.4 percent. Teachers at the top of the salary schedule would earn nearly $100,000 per year. Please see the attached infographic.

The VEA bargaining team chose not to accept our proposal and instead decided to conduct a strike.

“We are committed to bargaining in good faith with VEA every day and night to reach a fair settlement and get our 24,000 students into school as quickly as possible. We encourage you to visit our website (vansd.org/contract-negotiations/) for additional information and regular updates.

“As Vancouver’s superintendent for the past 10 years, I know this is a community that loves its children and a district that appreciates the excellence of its teachers. When the state settled the McCleary lawsuit, I had hoped that we would be celebrating the improved compensation of our talented teachers with the start of this school year. Instead, the state funding model has caused division, not only in VPS but also across our county and our state.

“I hope that the information in this letter helps to clarify our commitment to give teachers a fair offer within our means to sustain those raises in a fiscally responsible manner.”

The Vancouver Education Association says it plans to release a response to Webb’s letter, but had not done so by press time.

Battle Ground – Closed through Labor Day

District officials and union representatives spent six hours with a state negotiator today, but have not yet reached a deal. Superintendent Mark Ross says progress was made.

“We had a productive discussion, and both sides have a better understanding of the way the other looks at the state and local funding,” said Ross. “We look forward to continuing our discussions this weekend and working toward an agreement.”

The district said it will update parents Monday about the status of school for Tuesday, September 4.

Battle Ground did announce today it has reached a three-year deal with the union that represents its classified employees, such as kitchen staff, janitorial, and front office staff. The deal includes a 6.3 percent raise this year, and 3 percent increases each of the next two years. The deal applies to 570 employees in the Battle Ground school district.

Ridgefield – Closed through Labor Day

The district has not met with union reps since Thursday, but said a session with a mediator is scheduled for Saturday. According to a letter by Superintendent Nathan McCann, the district has presented teachers with an offer, but has not received a counter-proposal from the Ridgefield Education Association since August 14. The district promises an update on Monday.

Washougal – Closed through Labor Day

In an update posted today, the district says they have reached a tentative agreement on several key issues, but there remains a gap in terms of salary proposals. Both sides will meet with a mediator again on Friday to work on those remaining issues, which also include class size and additional stipends.

Hockinson – Closed through Labor Day

Both sides say they will continue to meet through the holiday weekend in hopes of reaching a deal by Monday, but major issues remain.

Camas – Strike would begin September 4 if no deal is reached

Both sides agreed to state mediation at a meeting August 26th, which was expected to happen today. At this point no information has been posted about any progress in that meeting, or when another meeting might have been scheduled.

Districts suing teachers?

A number of Education Associations have warned their members that their respective school boards may be gathering information in a bid to seek a court ruling that would force teachers back to work. Technically a strike by any public employee in the state of Washington is illegal, though the law provides no punishment. Districts could seek a court ruling that a strike is causing irreparable harm to children or families. A number of unions have had parents sign statements of support for teachers, and that the strike is not harming their children. Those statements would be used should the districts head to court. So far none has said such a move is imminent.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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