Kent Association of Paraeducators members rally outside the Kent School District Office on Aug. 22. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Kent Association of Paraeducators members rally outside the Kent School District Office on Aug. 22. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Kent paraeducators seek support in bid for better pay

Union urges members to gather for bargaining session Wednesday

The Kent Association of Paraeducators (KAP) encourages members who are seeking better pay to gather for the union’s next bargaining session at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Kent School District Office, 12033 SE 256th St.

The KEA, which represents between 500 and 600 members, are in talks with the Kent School District over improved salaries.

“We are asking that everyone wears red to show support,” said Karen Flick, KAP president. “We are also asking that they email (Superintendent Calvin Watts) and the board, saying that paras deserve a fair and competitive wage.”

Kent paraeducators are overlooked, union members said.

At the last bargaining session – before the Kent Education Association (KEA) settled its dispute over pay – the school district offered paras a 3.1 percent, cost-of-living increase, Flick said.

Compared to salaries for paraeducators working in surrounding districts, Kent paras earn 7 percent less than the average starting wage and 10.3 percent less than the ending average wage, according to Flick.

All paras are back at work, Flick said. ESPs (Educational Support Professionals) throughout the state have a no-strike clause in their contracts.

“We are discussing our options,” Flick added. “We really hope that teacher and community involvement can help put pressure on the district. We have had way too many excellent paras resign because of our low pay, and it’s hurting students in the long run.”

Kent teachers and the school district reached a late-hour contract agreement on Aug. 29, avoiding a likely strike on Aug. 30, the official first day of classes.

The KEA, the union representing about 1,500 district teachers, ratified the two-year, tentative agreement at a general membership meeting in the Kent-Meridian High School gymnasium.

Teachers will receive a 10 percent boost in pay the first year, 4.5 percent the next year.

Sixty-nine percent of the 1,149 KEA members in attendance voted in favor of the contract.

The pay dispute centered on new state money the school district received from the McCleary Supreme Court settlement, guaranteeing about $1 billion toward teacher wages.

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