Strike still a possibility for Snoqualmie Valley teachers

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on September 3, 2013 at 6:56 AM

As the start of the school years inches closer, tentative agreements are now on the table for teachers in Seattle Public Schools and the South Kitsap School District, but that's not the case in the Snoqualmie Valley District.

There, teachers and school board members are still battling over compensation and class size continues, and a strike is still a possibility.

"Currently, we don't have a contract," said Tony Manjarrez, a teacher for the Snoqualmie Valley District and a member of the union's bargaining team.  "We fought pretty hard, we've been meeting collectively since April, a little more intensely the last few weeks, but as of now we don't have a contract to offer our membership."

Manjarrez says teachers are asking for a pay and cost of living increase that is comparable to surrounding districts.

"This is an expensive area, our homes are expensive here, and we want to keep teachers that we have in our district, in our district," he said.

Another sticking point is class size in elementary schools.

On Friday, a district spokesperson says the district offered the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association a new proposal, that includes a 4% pay increase over the next three years, and extra compensation for teachers whose class size surpasses a certain level.

The pay increase equates to 1% the first year of the contract, 1% the second year, and 2% the third year.

The superintendent and school board are hopeful that contract will be approved, but the teacher's union won't be voting on it until Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

That's just one day before school is set to begin. 

"I know that this is something that goes on every two to three years, when negotiations go on," said parent Danny Kim.

He says he doesn't know exactly what he'll tell his seven-year-old if school is delayed, but he also understands where the teachers are coming.

"You know, from the teacher's perspective, what they're requesting isn't completely out of the ordinary," he said.

Tuesday's vote by the Snoqualmie Valley teachers will determine whether they'll be back in the classroom on Wednesday, or if they'll decide to strike.

"We're trying really hard, we are trying really, really hard as a membership to make sure kids are in school on Wednesday," said Manjarrez.

Meanwhile, members of the Seattle Education Association will vote on the contract they've tentatively agreed to on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

The South Kitsap Education Association will vote on its tentative contract agreement on September 3rd at 9 a.m. at South Kitsap High School.

Students are set to return to school on September 4th in all three districts, if those contracts are approved.

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