Superintendent Chris Reykdal released the following statement in response to the ongoing teacher strikes taking place throughout Washington.
The 2018–19 school year is off and running for more than 285 school districts across the state. We look forward to another incredible year of learning and student achievement.
For approximately a dozen districts, school is being delayed as ongoing collective bargaining has not yet settled. It is important for Washingtonians to know the facts about work stoppages as they relate to our public schools:
(1) A student’s right to a basic education will be fully met. While school start dates may be delayed, school districts will make days up in order to ensure a full academic year is provided. Schools will provide at least 180 days of education, and they will meet the instructional requirements of approximately 1,000 hours for each student.
(2) Local school districts are the employers of our teachers and staff. The critical work that is done in collective bargaining is specifically tailored to the unique needs and interests of each local community.
(3) This year (unlike any year before), virtually every school district has been involved in substantial collective bargaining. As the Legislature worked to fund basic education, they made significant changes to how school districts are funded and how educators are compensated:
- The Legislature removed the statewide salary schedule that served as a baseline for almost every district in our state, so each district is now bargaining a unique salary schedule specific to their local community.
- The Legislature no longer provides funding to each school district for the salaries and benefits tied to each specific employee based on their experience and education. Instead, the Legislature now provides a flat amount of funding per teacher to the school district regardless of the teacher’s years of experience or level of education.
- The Legislature increased funding in some areas to address higher costs of living. They provided a “regionalization” factor based on housing values in the surrounding areas. Some neighboring districts are getting different regionalization factors or no factor at all depending on housing values in their area.
- The Legislature paid for new education investments with a statewide property tax and then reduced the amount of funds local school districts can collect in the form of local voter-approved levies. These reductions will take place in January 2019, and they will affect some districts more than others based on how dependent they were on local levies to pay salaries, benefits, and programs prior to this year.
Overall, the Legislature provided new resources to our public K–12 education system, but the new model of distribution leaves some districts with much less opportunity to make additional investments in programs and salary increases. In fact, in some school districts, the combination of new state dollars minus local levy dollars will leave them hard pressed to keep up with inflation over the next three years without additional legislative changes.
My office will release our 2019–21 biennial budget request in the coming weeks where we will recommend ways to improve the new finance model, restore local financial opportunities to school districts, and invest additional dollars to improve student achievement and professional development for teachers across the state. Our efforts to improve school funding and student achievement have only just begun.
Transforming education funding in our state is a complicated and long-term process, and we will all have to exercise patience and understanding through this transition period. Please thank an educator, local superintendent, and a school board member when you see them. They are grappling firsthand with the complex challenge of trying to localize sweeping legislative policy changes. Each one of them cares deeply about our students, and with hard work and compassion, every school district will get to a mutual place of understanding, salary improvements, and sustainable long-term budgets.