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Published Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in

Mukilteo Teachers Authorize Strike and Pack Another Meeting

They brought their contract beef to school district headquarters for a third time.

By Andrea Brown

MUKILTEO — Amid testy salary talks, Mukilteo teachers Monday took a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Marci Larsen and gave a bargaining committee authority to call a strike if there is no tentative agreement to consider by Aug. 15.

Teachers from across the district met at Kamiak High School after classes were dismissed Monday afternoon for a general membership meeting of their union. Roughly 250 teachers were reported to have taken part.

The district’s teachers will take a second vote of no confidence — this one electronically — so those who did not attend the meeting will have a chance to have their say, according to union leaders.

Mukilteo teachers authorize strike

After the votes, teachers brought their contract beef to school district headquarters. For the third time in a month, they jammed into a meeting room to urge the board to renegotiate the salary portion of their contract.

“We met with them on Friday and we offered a proposal which we thought was pretty generous,” district spokesman Andy Muntz said after Monday’s meeting. He didn’t specify the details.

The flashpoint is the union’s demand to bargain over how the district spends an infusion of state dollars as a result of the McCleary school funding lawsuit. The union wants to renegotiate its contract, which runs through August 2019, to secure the money for salaries. The district has rejected their request.

“The ball is in the district’s court,” Mukilteo Education Association President Dana Wiebe said after the school board meeting. “We just want to bargain. We want professional competitive wages for our teachers. We want to hire the best, we want to keep the best. That’s always been our goal, to get to the table and have some good faith negotiations with the district.”

Larsen is one of Snohomish County’s longest-standing school district superintendents. She has led the district since 2003. The district, which includes schools in Everett, Mukilteo and unincorporated areas, has an enrollment of more than 15,000 students. There were more than 880 teachers in the district during the 2016-2017 school year, according to state records.

Talks have been up and down in recent weeks.

Wiebe said a meeting Friday with the school district’s bargaining team went well, and it seemed that things were on course.

Wiebe said she was perplexed by an email sent later that day by Assistant Superintendent Bruce Hobert. “It basically says that after talking to the board they want to talk to lawyers,” she said of the email.

Salary remains a sticking point for the teachers, along with other issues such as Family Medical Leave Act issues and shared leave.

“We don’t want to reopen the whole contract,” Wiebe said. “We are only looking at the pieces.”

During Monday’s meeting, the school board listened to five teachers, two union presidents, including one from the Lake Washington School District, and a couple of parents, but made no comments.

In the McCleary court case, parents and teachers successfully sued to force the state to amply fund basic education, including wages of school employees. Since the 2012 decision, lawmakers have boosted school funding by roughly $9 billion, including $1 billion this year and $1 billion last year for educator salaries.

Earnings of most Snohomish County teachers are already above the new state benchmarks because their districts use local levy collections to pay higher salaries. Lawmakers capped what districts can raise through their own levies and limited how those dollars are spent.

Some funds will be used to increase state funding to ensure a statewide average salary for teachers to $71,711, for classified staff to $51,437 and for administrators to $106,473. There is also money for a cost-of-living increase for all teachers.

In Mukilteo, a new teacher with a bachelor of arts degree will make $51,856 while an instructor with at least 25 years of experience and a doctorate will earn at least $99,949. Roughly a third of a veteran teacher’s salary now comes from local dollars.

Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.