This story has been updated to feature the percent increase.
On Monday, Aug. 27 the Renton Education Association voted to ratify its contract with the school district, just two days before the beginning of school on Aug. 29.
The one-year agreement features a starting salary of $53,000 and a maximum salary of $110,398, REA President Cami Kiel said. The contract has an average wage increase of 12.2 percent for certificated staff, according to Washington Education Association.
Teachers attending the meeting said the contract received a 63 percent confirming vote, ratifying it, with 37 percent voting no.
The new contract also made improvements in the workload of REA staff, substitute pay, special education support and behavior supports.
“We are happy that members are receiving increased compensation promised to them under McCleary, and look forward to building upon the progress made during this bargain in our next contract,” Kiel said in an email.
The union surveyed certified staff extensively, and identified salaries and overload levels on teachers as two of five major points staff were asking for in this year’s contract negotiations, said Kent McCleary, teacher at Lindbergh High School.
For the 19 years McCleary’s worked with Renton School District, these negotiations have been fairly collaborative, but this year shocked staff when they started with such a low offer on the salaries, he said. McCleary has been a union school representative in the past, but wasn’t this year.
He said it was great to see beginning teachers get a boost in pay. The veteran teachers also got a raise, but those in the middle had a slightly smaller raise, which caused frustration and concern.
Certified staff were also asking for more paraprofessional aids to help with classes that have students with independent education plan, who needs more help than other kids in the class who will also need help of some kind, McCleary said.
“One of the frustrations expressed at the meeting last night was the district hasn’t given a good contract to (Renton Education Support Professionals) union and we want more help,” he said. “We’re concerned about that as teachers, and we want to support them because they’re a lot of our educational program.”
Members at the meeting also made an amendment to the motion to hold off on ratifying the agreement until classified staff had their contract, but that was voted down.
“I think probably the majority of us understood where that motion was coming from, and sympathized with it, but it wasn’t passed, ultimately,” McCleary said.
Classified staff don’t meet again for negotiations until Thursday, after school begins. Because classified staff are still within a two-year contract that ends in 2019-20, they are not able to strike while negotiations continue. RESP union president Janie White said because of this the district doesn’t seem to be bargaining, but listening to offers being made by the union.
“While REA members celebrate the ratification of their contract, we want to publicly support our classified colleagues in Renton Professional Technical Association, RESP, and Service Employees International Union who are all still bargaining with the district for competitive compensation. The district is choosing to withhold their state allocated salary funding mandated by the Washington Supreme Court to go to educator salaries,” Kiel said.