Education

Strike deadline looms as Kennewick teachers, district meet with mediator

Kennewick teachers vote to strike if no agreement by Aug. 26

Rob Woodford, Kennewick Education Association president, tells about the vote by Kennewick teachers to strike if a tentative contract agreement with the board and district is not reached by Aug. 26.
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Rob Woodford, Kennewick Education Association president, tells about the vote by Kennewick teachers to strike if a tentative contract agreement with the board and district is not reached by Aug. 26.

Kennewick teachers and administrators returned to mediation Thursday as Monday’s deadline looms to get a tentative agreement to avoid a strike.

The Kennewick School District and the Kennewick Education Association have been trying to hammer out a new three-year contract since last May.

While they’ve tentatively agreed on more than 40 items, they remain stuck on pay along with several other issues such as health care, class size and classroom safety.

While the district has released all of the written offers and responses through last week, there hasn’t been anything added since a mediator was called in from the Public Employment Relations Commission.

The commission is a state agency that oversees relations between government agencies, such as cities, counties and school districts, and the unions that work for them. One option they offer is mediation.

The mediator is spending Thursday working to bring the sides together, according to union officials. They began meeting at 8 a.m., and it’s unclear how late they will go.

Schools set to open Aug. 27

Kennewick Education Association members agreed Monday that they would strike if an agreement is not reached by Aug. 26 — the day before schools are set to open for a new school year.

Pay is one of the largest dividing factors between the district and the union.

Teachers are arguing they should receive at least as much money as their neighbors in Richland and Pasco.

The district has said many of the teachers are paid about the same but in some areas where there is a difference, officials say it’s not fair to compare them to those districts.

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Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.
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