Snoqualmie Valley Teachers Vote to Strike on Sunday if No Contract; School Year Starts on Time for Now

Snoqualmie Valley teachers overwhelmingly voted yesterday to strike on Sunday, September 8th if they couldn’t reach an agreeable contract deal with the school district by that time.  The vote tally was 291-8 in favor of a Sunday 3PM strike deadline.

Teachers agreed to start the 2013-14 school year under the terms of their 2012-13 contract, according to the SVSD website.

Snoqualmie Valley schools will open on time, Wednesday,  September 4, 2013, and run on normal schedules.

Contract negotiations between the SVEA Teachers’ Union and the Snoqualmie Valley School District will continue today, September 4th, under the direction of a mediator.  The district says more bargaining talks will be scheduled for the following days as needed.

Delaying a possible strike until the weekend gives negotiators more opportunity to settle on a contract without a strike, and the union more organizational time if a strike is needed, according to one  longtime Mount Si High School teacher.  That teacher also commented that many union members were  concerned about parents and daycare arrangements with an immediate strike, although parents may still need to make those arrangements next week.

Reportedly there was some sentiment for a strike on the first day of school, but it was “fairly handily voted down”  by a show of hands during the union’s nearly 2-hour meeting.

School is on Snoqualmie Valley – at least for the first three days of the year.  Check back for updates as they become available.

Over 100  SVSD teachers showed up at 8/28/13 School Board Meeting, rallying for new contract.
Over 100 SVSD teachers showed up at 8/28/13 School Board Meeting, rallying for new contract.

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  • I ran into a couple of my daughter’s former teachers at the QFC yesterday afternoon. They had just come from the contract vote at the high school. According to the teachers, they rejected the school district’s latest offer (which was 1%, 1% then 2% over the next three years – or about $1.7 million plus some very weak language about elementary school class sizes – but no real cap on those class sizes). They also said that a strike beginning Sunday is likely if things do not change.

    My own opinion as a parent is that I do not blame the teachers. In fact, I told them I agree with them. Here is the problem. According to the budget approved by the school board, total revenue is rising from 56.5 million to 59.6 million – an increase of 3.4 million. Total expenses are rising from 56.5 million to 59.6 million – an increase of 3.1 million. Meanwhile certificated salaries – which are the classroom teachers – is only rising from 25.1 million to 26.2 million – an increase of 1.1 million. This is only one third of the total increase in funds. As a percent of the total budget, teacher salaries have FALLEN from 45.6 percent of the budget to 44.0 percent of the budget during the past two years – a real decline of 1.6 percent.

    At the same time, central administration is increasing from 2.9 million to 3.4 million. This is an increase of a half a million dollars. As a percent of the budget, central administration is rising from 5.2 percent to 5.6 percent of the total budget. This huge increase is despite the fact that a June 6 2012 report from the Washington State Auditor concluded that our school district central administration cost was already much higher than any comparable school district.

    In addition, the new budget increases the reserve or end fund balance from 2.8 million to 3.6 million. This is an increase from 5% of the former budget to 6% of the new budget. The administration claims we need to increase the reserve in order to protect our credit rating. However, the school district most comparable to ours, the Tahoma School District has a 3.3 percent end fund balance – AND our school district has never missed a bond payment. So, it is difficult to see why there is any need to increase the reserve.

    But the whole story is much worse. Our Supreme Court mandated that the legislature dramatically increase funding for schools over the next five years. The $3 million increase we saw in the budget this year was simply a 20% down payment on restoring national average funding to our schools over the next five years. Next year, our school district is likely to receive an additional $6 million and the year after that, the school district is likely to receive an additional $9 million. This will still leave our school district far below national average school funding. But the total increase we are likely to receive as a result of the Supreme Court mandate over the next three years is about $18 million ($3 million plus $6 million plus $9 million). Of this $18 million in additional funding, only $2 to $3 million is going towards the teachers proposed 3 year contract. No matter how you look at it, only a small fraction of the dramatic increase in new funding we are expecting during the next three years will be going towards our teachers.

    There is another meeting of administrators and teachers this afternoon. I urge the administration to offer the teachers a contract comparable to other neighboring school districts (2% plus 2% plus 2%) and to agree to real class size limits at our elementary schools. Alternately, if the administration is unwilling to commit funds that have not yet been received, I urge the teachers and administrators to simply agree to a one year contract and then do another contract next year after we see whether the legislature actually complies with the Supreme Court mandate.

    As a parent, I want to avoid a strike. But I also want our teachers to be treated fairly.

    David Spring
    Parent, North Bend

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