Richland teachers on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract that includes a 14.3 percent raise in 2018-19 over last year, and a raise of about 22 percent total.
That means Richland teachers won’t strike and classes will start as planned next week.
It also means that just one Tri-City area school district — Pasco — doesn’t yet have a settlement with its teachers over raises.
Pasco district and union officials last met Monday. A state mediator has been assigned and could start working as soon as Thursday.
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The Richland vote, during a teachers union meeting at Richland High, was 557 in favor and six against.
“The turning point was a rally at (a recent school board meeting), where we had teachers, parents and students get up and support staff,” said Ken Hays, president of the Richland Education Association. “We want to thank the community, thank all of our teachers who came out and supported this. It takes a collective action. It’s not just one person, it’s everybody.”
He added that the new contract will “retain and attract teachers.”
In a statement, Richland Superintendent Rick Schulte said, “Our goal was to have an equitable and sustainable contract that will allow us to keep and attract great teachers. We are thrilled our teachers approved the deal we reached with the REA so they can be in the classroom and inspire students.”
The new contract “raises teacher salaries consistent with the state’s changes to education funding, provides for in-school support for students and certificated staff, and builds upon the district’s commitment to ensure teachers have time to hone their craft to improve student outcomes in the classroom,” the district statement said.
Kennewick and Kiona-Benton City teachers also approved agreements with their districts this week.
Ki-Be teachers overwhelmingly signed off on a new one-year contract with a roughly 13.2 percent raise.
Kennewick teachers approved a new one-year salary schedule — covering the last year of teachers’ existing three-year contract — that gives an average raise of 9.3 percent. The specific raise varies teacher to teacher, depending on experience and education.
The contract includes a stipend aimed at attracting and retaining teachers.
Janet Bell, Kennewick Education Association president, said the approval came with reservations because the raise is likely to be the lowest in the Tri-Cities.
“A lot of people wanted to express that when the full open bargain happens next year, they will be looking for Kennewick to be closing that gap of pay,” she said after Monday night’s vote.
Kennewick Superintendent Dave Bond, who’s talked about difficulties posed by a recent overhaul of the state education funding system, said the district will continue to work with legislators to address inequities in the new system.
As an example of the inequities, officials have noted that Richland received an extra allocation meant to make up for varied cost of living around the state, while neighboring Kennewick didn’t get any of the “regionalization” dollars.
Finley School District and its teachers union have settled on a 13 percent raise.
Columbia-Burbank teachers are getting a 12.5 percent raise over two years, with some longevity incentives.