It’s a difficult thing to choose to inconvenience others in order to fight for what you think you deserve. That, I think, is what we’re doing. That is what we voted to continue to do tonight.
Here’s why I’m out there and why I think the community should support the delay in the start of the school year:
Washington is 22nd in teacher pay in the nation. Our Gross Domestic Product is ranked 14th, from what I can read on tables created by this site. If my rudimentary understanding of economics is correct, that basically means we are the 14th richest state and paying our teachers the 22nd best. I fight for fair pay for the whole state of Washington by fighting for an extra 2.5% over the next two years. If we get paid more, districts around us can fight to get paid more as well.
Inflation has been reported to me as 6.9%. This article puts it at 7% or more, from what I understand. If we settle for the district offer of 1.5% (the first year) plus the cost-of-living adjustment that has been owed to us since before I started teaching of 5.1% (the first year), we will effectively be making LESS this year than we were last year. If less conservative estimates of inflation are correct, this is including my $200 raise for being one year more experienced (that’s 0.4%, by the way). I fight for pay that does not effectively lower my salary.
There are talks of putting tolls on the bridges crossing Lake Washington. That toll could range from $5 to $10 round trip. For 184 school days, that could be from $920 to $1840 a year. That is 1.8% to 3.7% of my salary (before taxes!). If the district accepts the union offer and the tolls go up, I will still be making less than I was last year to work in the same district. I fight so that the kids I teach get to keep their well-qualified teacher.
Speaking of well-qualified, I spent many hours last year working on a national teaching certification. Every standard I was held to in this certification said that the paramount responsibility of a teacher is to know their student and customize each lesson to each student in the room. Thanks to the hard work of our union barganing team, the district has nearly accepted the proposed language that almost allows me to do that. I fight to make sure that I can teach to the standards that the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards held me to. No one has mentioned that our increased WASL scores might be attributed to the large number of National Board certified teachers in the district…
I think I understand the counter-arguments to many of my points here.
- “You get paid over $50,000 if you accept now.” I get paid well in comparison to many jobs, I understand that. I made more than my father did when he retired and I don’t have the weight of years of heavy loads on my back. However, I don’t make more than my mom does currently in Human Resources. Let me simplify this if I can by asking a question. If you loved your job and your boss said you were getting a pay cut this year, would you fight against that pay cut any way you could?
- “No other job is keeping up with inflation either.” I think the Boeing Machinists may help me out with this one. If your salary is not keeping up with inflation, you should be striking too. To say that no one should fight for better pay because no one is getting better pay without fighting is ludicrous.
- “You choose to work in Bellevue and live in Seattle, so the tolls are your responsibility.” Fair enough. However, what happens to Bellevue when the large number (I’ve heard 50% to 70% figures, but don’t know exactly) of non-Bellevue-resident teachers decide to teach in the city they can afford to live in?
- “This is just about money now, since the curriculum issue is settled.” Well, first the curriculum issue is not settled. It’s close, but still doesn’t guarantee that I can teach like a professional. Secondly, what does it matter that it is just about money? Are teachers exempt from saying that they don’t earn enough? I though that was the general consensus: teachers aren’t paid enough. Okay, let’s do something about that right now.
- “Teachers shouldn’t strike.” Really? Why not? I would expect the people of the region that pioneered the general strike in America to understand the importance of a strike. How it is the last option you have to stand up for yourselves. We voted to strike months before the first day of school. The bargaining team has been fighting since February to get us a fair contract. The district was told exactly what it would take to not get us to strike well before school started. They chose to reject any sort of compromise. They chose to put us out on the line because they thought that we would break. That has yet to be determined.
- “The district can’t afford to pay you.” They’ve said this to us before. They’ve offered no proof that they will not be able to pay us. They have just said that they won’t be able to. They have said that they “have made other choices.” They continually tell us that they do not value the work of teachers. Do you value the work of teachers? If so…
Contact the school board and the superintendent. Let them know that they should tell their bargaining team to accept the BEA offer in order to get kids back in to schools as quickly as possible. Remind them that Bellevue parents have the power to recall the school board should they choose to use it. Remind them that two of them are up for re-election. Let them know that you value teachers. That 1.5% extra is very little to pay for the high quality teachers that Bellevue was once able to attract and that now travel to Everett, Lake Washington, Marysville, etc. to find pay that is commensurate with their skill. They might find this article helpful. The one that showed that in the Marysville School District, after the 49 day strike, levies eventually passed and that the school board and superintendent were replaced.
Folks, it won’t be easy out there anymore. It won’t do any good to yell at us, because we’re not budging any farther. We’ve lowered our money proposal by several percent, we’ve compromised on curriculum, we’ve settled for status quo on health care (when premiums will assuredly rise!). It’s time that the district makes a concession. They’ll only do that if the parents remind them that parents pay their salaries and that parents elected them and that parents value teachers.
Thank you for your support.