FWEA members gathered Aug. 30 in the Thomas Jefferson High School gym to ratify the tentative agreement that was negotiated with Federal Way Public Schools. Courtesy photo

FWEA members gathered Aug. 30 in the Thomas Jefferson High School gym to ratify the tentative agreement that was negotiated with Federal Way Public Schools. Courtesy photo

Federal Way teachers await contract approval for pay raise

Salaries will increase 12.5 percent under bargaining agreement

Federal Way teachers are getting a pay raise as the new school year begins.

Federal Way Education Association members and Federal Way Public Schools reached a tentative contract agreement in the early morning hours of Aug. 30, with the FWEA ratifying the proposed bargaining agreement the same day.

Ratification by the FWEA allowed the Federal Way school year to commence on time as students and teachers attended the first day of school as scheduled this week.

The bargaining agreement is still tentative and needs approval by the Federal Way School Board, which will vote on the matter Sept. 11.

If approved by the school board, the average teacher salary in FWPS would be $79,693 for the current school year, compared to the prior 2017-18 salary average of $70,851.

For a teacher with 15 years of experience, and a master’s or a doctorate degree, the salary would increase to $103,650 for the 2018-2019 school year.

Approval of the contract also means that for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no prior teaching experience, the starting salary is $55,003, compared to the prior 2017-18 school year starting salary of $47,617.

According to a document from the school district: “Under the tentative agreement for the 2018-19 school year, this year’s expenditures are 12.5 percent, [including a] 1.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which represents a 22.75 percent commitment toward teacher salaries for 2017-18 and 2018-19.”

Teachers salaries were increased last year for the 2017-18 school year by 10.25 percent, an investment of $16 million a year early, the document states, along with varied salary increases for other support staff.

“These raises were funded from the district’s savings account in anticipation of receiving increased state funding,” according to the district.

Members from both teams commented on the success of a collaborative bargaining process.

The interest-based bargaining process helps reduce contention and opposition at the negotiation table, said David Brower, chief human resources officer for FWPS. Interest-based bargaining has been used by the district and union members for approximately 20 years.

Last year, the current bargaining team members, the cabinet and the executive board were trained in the process of this type of negotiation. This style of negotiation also comes with a set of protocols, such as how to frame sentences, how to discuss topics, and even how to situationally place individuals in the room, said Brower, who was also a member of the FWPS bargaining team.

When it comes to bargaining salaries, people may have an image of a hostile standoff with both sides trading demands, but Brower said that was not the case with the FWEA and FWPS.

“The process was never a situation of ‘what’s the acceptable level of loss?’ from each side, but rather creating win-win outcomes,” Brower said. “Both teams felt the weight of making sure we are using the limited resources we have to match the shared interests and priorities of both parties.”

The idea of raising compensation has been in discussion since Superintendent Tammy Campbell joined the district in 2015. Many teachers spoke about unfair pay at the Federal Way School Board meeting Aug. 28.

“The board and superintendent team have been committed to increasing wages. We’ve talked about it for the last two and a half years,” Campbell said. “I think the important thing for people to know is that the [school board] meeting isn’t the catalyst for us doing this.”

This increase of pay provides stability for teachers and students, while raising the competitiveness of the school district, Campbell said.

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