Will Snoqualmie Valley Schools Open on Time? Possible Strike Vote Looms for Teachers Union

*** Update, September 2, 2013, 5;45PM:  In an interview with KOMO News, SVSD Public Information Coordinator, Carolyn Malcolm, said there is a new contract offer for teachers that will be presented tomorrow evening.  KOMO News reports that “the district’s bargaining team presented teachers with a new proposal on Friday that offers a combined four-percent raise over the the next three years. It also limits class size and gives additional pay to teachers with more students.” Teachers will see the offer on Tuesday. For a negotiation update from SVSD visit their website. ***

When the Snoqualmie Valley Teachers Association (SVEA) almost unanimously rejected the Snoqualmie Valley School District’s contract offer last Tuesday, August 27th, they also set a deadline for a decision about “work action” (i.e. strike or not) for Tuesday, September 3rd – if they had no recommended tentative agreement from its bargaining team at that time.

That time is now just one day away – and the start of the school year less than 48 hours away.

Snoqualmie Valley School District and SVEA bargaining teams negotiated with mediators this past Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  On Saturday,  SVEA President, Lisa Radmer stated, “After 20 hours more of negotiation, now with PERC [Public Employees Relations Commission] mediators, we are no closer to resolution than we were last Tuesday.”  The district said in an update that it offered to meet over the holiday weekend.

A sticking point in the negotiations appears to be elementary school class size.  According to the SVEA website, union members want “clearly defined and enforceable elementary class size language and compensation.”  Currently, only middle and high school class size overloads are covered by contract language.  SVSD says its newest offer to be presented Tuesday sets “targets” for elementary class size, not limits.

Snoqualmie Valley teachers rally at the August 29, 2013 SVSD school board meeting.

Snoqualmie Valley teachers rally at the August 29, 2013 SVSD school board meeting.

The district’s last rejected conceptual contract agreeement presented to teachers included a 1% annual raise, totaling 3% for the 3-year contract – and a $1.7 million compensation increase for teachers over their last expired 2-year contract. **

According to the SVSD website, “While an agreement has not yet been achieved, we appreciate the commitment and experience of those serving on both bargaining teams and believe the group will be able to achieve a settlement soon.”

As of Monday, September 2, 2013 at 12:30PM, neither side has publicized a new contract offer or future scheduled negotiations. There is a SVEA Union General Membership meeting scheduled for 4:30PM, Tuesday, September 3rd to decide the union’s next steps, which will help determine if Snoqualmie Valley schools start on time.  If needed, the next bargaining session is scheduled for Wednesday, September 4th, according to an SVSD update.

On Friday, August 30th, three local districts (including SVSD) were still without teachers’ contracts as the start of school quickly approached. The Seattle School District and its teachers union, along with mediators, worked over the weekend and reached a tentative agreement on Sunday, September 1st. The South Kitsap School District also reached a tentative agreement with teachers Friday night, August 30th.

The SVEA union says it wants the SVSD school board to deal with the contract issues “so that school can start without significant disruptions.”

The Snoqualmie Valley School District said it will continue giving contract updates on its website and through E-News as it becomes available.

The current SVEA Union contract expired on Saturday, August 31, 2013.  Teachers will, though, be in classrooms on Tuesday, September 3rd, before their evening union meeting, preparing for the start of the school year.

** Original story said latest district offer increased the original compensation offered by $1.7 million over the initial offer. The $1.7 million is the amount this contract increases compensation over expiring contract.

 

Comments

  1. A question I have is whether the $1.7 million increase is per year or over the entire team of the three year contract. If it is per year, then it would represent over half of the $2.7 million increase our school district gets from the legislature for the coming school year. On the other hand, if it is only $1.7 million over the next three years, then it is only $0.6 million per year – which is a small fraction of the $2.7 million per year the school district is getting additionally from the State legislature. And it is a very small fraction of the $5.4 million the Supreme Court has mandated for the 2014-2015 school year and the $8.1 million the Supreme Court has mandated for the 2015-2016 school year. My advice to the teachers and the school board would be to try to reach a one year deal if that is possible and see how much money the legislature actually gives us next year OR to add language to the contract that the teachers would get X amount of money for every additional million we get from the legislature over the three year life of the contract. I really would like for my daughter to go to school on Wednesday. But I am afraid that if further compromises are not made, we might be looking at a strike – perhaps the only strike in the entire state. Now is the time for creative thinking on all sides.
    Regards, David Spring, Parent, North Bend

  2. Jack Webber says

    The percent of increase now being offered, for a teacher with around 16+ years, amounts to around $40 or so per month before taxes. (assuming I have my understanding right, which will be clarified in tomorrow’s meeting)
    The real issue is class sizes, which under the current contact, at only the elementary lever, are….catch this…UNLIMITED! That’s right we have NO, nada, not one word in the current contract that addresses elementary class sizes. One of the very few in the entire state which ranks 46th out of 50 states in normal class sizes. This is about students having an equitable learning environment, not greasing teacher’s pockets, which by the way have a hole in them when you consider increased health care costs, the net gain in money comes out around a net loss of -$3.00. This strike, if it is unfortunate enough to happen, will be about elementary class size caps, instructional aides to help keep track of all the 8 year olds in a class with 32 students and a few bucks for the massive overtime each additional student generates. Hopefully it will not come to that, but an alternate plan for daycare this week might be a prudent idea.

    • Danna McCall says

      Sounds like Snoqualmie YMCA is preparing to offer full-day child care starting Wednesday, although I know no one wants a strike. NOt 100% sure on YMCA thing, but could be worth a call for parents.

  3. It is in very poor taste for the SVEA to let all this time pass with no negotiations set until the afternoon of the first day of school. Other districts in our area were able to reach agreements over the weekend, but you can’t do that if you’re not talking. There are too many people affected by the school year to let FIVE days pass without talking. I sure hope the teachers vote to work in good faith tomorrow, rather than affect students, parents, and non-faculty employees at the final hour with a strike. I generally support teachers in these situations, but tactics such as these will erode my support rather quickly.

    • Danna McCall says

      Teachers will be at work tomorrow, Tuesday, September 3rd, preparing for the start of the school year. Their work action decision at tomorrow’s union meeting will determine next steps going forward. Will be interesting to see if the union says why there were no negotiations over the weekend. A lot goes on behind the scenes that I think most of us will probably never know about…. Hoping for a good outcome. I don’t believe anyone wants a strike.

    • It would be worthy to note here the the SVSB refused to meet earlier in the summer to settle this contract dispute instead of waiting until the end of summer. That in itself speaks volumes about their intentions to politicize this and make the teachers, who already give a tremendous amount, appear to be the ones responsible for the timing.

  4. I agree Dana – I hope for a positive outcome as well.
    And I also encourage both sides to remember not only the students (of course), but also the parents, citizens and taxpayers of the community as well. Often, when people are negotiating under stress, decisions are made that normally would not be made under non-stressful circumstances. Quite frankly, it’s my thought that both the teachers union and the school administration owe the students, parents and taxpayers an explanation as to why this is happening now when both sides knew well in advance what the issues were. Hopefully, this will not happen again next year…

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