After a three-day strike for better wages, the Tukwila School District started up classes for the school year on Sept. 10.
The original start date for school was Sept. 5, but the Tukwila Education Association (TEA) and the Tukwila School District were still in the process of bargaining at that time. Bargaining ended Sept. 7 when the two groups came to a tentative agreement.
Originally, the school district was going to offer the Tukwila teachers a 6.25 percent wage increase for the 2018-19 school year, according to a press release from the district.
But, in the eyes of the teachers and other staff members, that was not a competitive enough salary to keep teachers and to attract new teachers, according to Debbie Aldous, TEA treasurer and Showalter Middle School teacher.
After ratification from the TEA on Sept. 8 and approval from the school board Sept. 9, teachers and paraeducators received a 10 percent wage increase.
This is a one-year contract, Aldous said. So, next summer they will be back to the bargaining table. Aldous said she hopes bargaining won’t be like it was this summer.
This is a “competitive and fair” deal, Aldous said.
“(It) makes us close (in wage increase) to our surrounding districts so we feel like we can retain and attract staff,” Aldous explained.
She also expressed happiness to be back in school with the kids and other teachers.
“I think that it’s good that we are back in school, everybody’s happy to be back with their students,” Aldous said. “School started smoothly. I teach at the middle school and we had our teachers and staff outside on the steps when the buses arrived, singing songs and blowing bubbles and welcoming the students. Everybody was just relieved to be back in school.”
Rhonda Lee, communications officer for the Tukwila School District, said the district is also happy schools are back open.
“We hope that future negotiations aren’t as contentious. We would love for our kids to be everyone’s focal point for everything that we do,” Lee said in an email.
Aldous said she has not heard anything negative about the agreement, but people are happy they were able to get a wage increase for the paraeducators as well.
Some students have even expressed happiness for teachers.
“We were having a conversation in my homeroom today about things over the summer that inspired students, and one of my seventh graders said he was inspired by the teachers striking and how united they were,” she said.
Although bargaining and striking lasted longer than anticipated, Aldous said she felt a great deal of support from the community and students during this time.